The Montreal Alouettes have had their share of ups and downs this season. Despite all the craziness that has gone on in 2017, they still find themselves just one game out of first place in the East Division.
The Als made a number of big changes in the offseason, and some have worked out and some haven’t.
They head into tonight’s game against the Argos with a 2-4 record, but there’s reason for optimism if you’re a fan of this football team.
Here are five things we’ve learned about the Alouettes through the first third of the season:
–Darian Durant can still perform at a high level
Coming into this season, there were plenty of people (including Chris Jones) that wondered whether or not Durant could still be a franchise quarterback. It took him some time to adjust to this offence and his new teammates, but he’s looked pretty good over the last few games. After throwing for 233, 166 and 245 yards in his first three games of the year, he’s managed to toss for 296, 452 and 348 yards in his last three outings. If Montreal is going to make a serious run at the East Division crown, his decision making will need to get better.
–They can run the ball effectively
Tyrell Sutton has played four games and Brandon Rutley has played twice, but they’ve both been able to be effective in 2017. Sutton continues to run smart and hard. He’s averaged 5.8 yards per carry this season. If the Alouettes can keep him healthy, it looks like they’ll have a dynamic rushing attack. Even without him in the lineup in their last game against Winnipeg, Rutley and Stefan Logan were able to move the ball on the ground. When the Als have slow nights passing the ball, at least they’ll be able to run it effectively enough. Also, I’ll tip my hat to the offensive line. They’ve shown that they can run-block at a high level.
–The rookies on D have done a nice job
Releasing Bear Woods on the second day of training camp was an unpopular move. Although a guy like Woods can’t be replaced, the Als have found a solid middle linebacker in Dominique Tovell. He currently ranks seventh in total tackles in the league. It’s still early in his career, but it definitely looks like he has a high ceiling.
Another rookie that’s impressed is Brandon Dozier. With all the injuries they’ve had in the secondary, the youngster was forced to start at strong-side linebacker while Chip Cox was at defensive back. Dozier has made plays all over the field, including scooping up and scoring a crucial touchdown against the Calgary Stampedes earlier this season. For the first time in a long time, it looks like Montreal has a solid option behind Cox.
Dondre Wright has been a pleasant surprise in the secondary. The 2017 third-round pick has been relied upon on defence more than most people expected in his first year. With the season-ending injury to Chris Ackie, Wright’s snap count will only increase down the stretch.
–The secondary has been stellar
The Alouettes have been relatively healthy through six games, but they’ve had to overcome a lot adversity in the secondary. Ramon Taylor was supposed to be the boundary corner coming into the season, but he hasn’t played because of a mysterious illness. Instead, Jonathon Mincy stepped in and did a remarkable job on that side of the field.
While Mincy was out, they used Donald Unamba at boundary corner and he did a nice job (not nice enough to keep his spot on the roster, but he was quickly scooped up by the Ticats). Travis Hawkins was another player who filled in once injuries hit, and he’s been out with an injury he suffered in the first game of the year.
DB Greg Henderson broke his hand earlier this season, which forced Montreal to move Cox into the secondary. Henderson practiced all week and he’s scheduled to come off the six-game injured list in time for next week’s game in Toronto.
All-in-all, Mincy, Ackie, Wright, Cox, Tyree Hollins, Brandon Stewart and company have done a really nice job.
–Their 2-4 record is a little harsh
Don’t get me wrong, the Alouettes make their share of silly mistakes. Turnovers, penalties and not staying in bounds to keep the clock running have all come back to haunt them this season. Sure, they won their season opener against Saskatchewan because kicker Tyler Crapigna missed a field goal, but they’ve also had some horrible calls go against them in winnable games against Ottawa and Winnipeg. A 3-3 record at this point of the season would probably be “fair” but life and football ain’t fair.
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