Mike Sherman paced the sidelines of a CFL game for the first time during the Montreal Alouettes 27-7 pre-season loss in Ottawa.
The result doesn’t matter much, but there was a lot to be gleaned from Sherman guiding the Als. Let’s get to it.
West coast CFL style
Mike Sherman clearly used a passing attack that was centred around quick rhythm passes. It was most noticeable when Drew Willy was in the game as he made a read and cut it loose in an instant. The Alouettes eight-play drive on the team’s opening series that led to a field goal featured short balls while attacking the middle of the field. Willy’s best throw was a seed across the middle to Eugene Lewis who caught the ball in stride at a seven-yard depth of target and racked up 15 more for a gain of 22. Sherman has used a similar offence with the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins in the NFL.
Based on the way Willy was used and performed, it seems the 31-year-old is the current leader to be Montreal’s starting quarterback to enter the regular season. Willy took one sack and seemed a little spooked in the pocket – one fact CFL personnel men have pointed out since taking a hellacious head hit from Ticats defensive end Adrian Tracy in 2015. That said, Willy did look more comfortable than in recent years with the Alouettes or Toronto Argonauts completing 4-of-6 passes for 53 yards and producing two field goals in two possessions.
Rutherford rock solid
Montreal really liked Canadian and University of Connecticut offensive lineman Trey Rutherford throughout the draft process and landed the 22-year-old with the second overall pick in the 2018 CFL Draft. Rutherford started at left guard and for a rookie seeing pro action for the first time he more than held his own. The Alouettes wanted a player who could make an impact on the field as a rookie with their first-round choice and if Rutherford builds off the performance in Ottawa he’ll earn it quicker than some thought.
There are no ratio rules in the pre-season, but it was clear the Alouettes took a look at various ways to employ the Canadians. Rutherford, Kristian Matte and Philip Blake formed the guard-centre-guard combo up front. Philippe Gagnon did not dress and neither did Ryan Bomben due to injuries, both capable starters.
Prized national free agent signing Jamaal Westerman a definite starter was with his wife as she gave birth. Brother Jabar Westerman and Fabion Foote could be a potential pairing on the interior of the defensive line. 2018 third-round selection, Bo Banner made a couple plays and could provide depth as a Canuck pass rusher behind Westerman while he learns the pro game.
Chris Ackie starting at linebacker might have surprised some but he played well beside Henoc Muamba. Watching those non-imports together could be fun. First-year linebacker Jean-Gabriel Poulin was running around and being his expected physical self. The Alouettes started an all-American secondary, although, Dondre Wright has proven he can make plays at safety after a number of starts in his rookie year last season.
Montreal’s constructed ratio does feature some depth and versatility.
Alouettes being the (recent) Als
There was one glaring occurrence that won’t help the team’s case for being the butt of CFL jokes, especially after a league-worst 3-15 season in 2017.
Montreal was given a penalty for coming out from the locker room at halftime too late, delaying the game. One of the referees had to run back down the tunnel to get the Alouettes out on the field. The look on the face of general manager Kavis Reed was a perfect illustration of disappointment and summed up the feeling around the league regarding the Alouettes.