CFL training camps are now underway and the Montreal Alouettes will have several difficult roster decisions to make over the next couple of weeks. Now that we know the ratio won’t be changing, we can start projecting ahead to what the final squad will look like when training camps ends. Who are the seven Canadian starters the Als will likely utilize in Week 1? Let’s take a look.
• Kristian Matte – Centre: In an ideal world, Matte would shift to his natural position of guard but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The 33-year-old has been durable over his career, as he’s missed just three games over the last six seasons. Matte has established himself as one of the key Canadian cogs on the roster.
• Spencer Wilson – Guard: The Alouettes made it a point to sign the former Calgary Stampeder on the opening day of free agency in February. Wilson is capable of playing all five positions on the offensive line. Expect him to serve as the backup tackle in case injuries strike at some point in 2019. The 31-year-old will get an opportunity to prove himself as an every-week starter on his new team.
• Tyler Johnstone – Tackle: Several teams were interested in acquiring Johnstone in last year’s supplemental draft, but the Als won his rights because they had the highest draft priority. The 26-year-old suited up in Calgary for a game in July, but he sustained a knee injury and he was never able to return. Johnstone has had knee issues throughout his career, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to suit up in all 18 games this year. Still, his upside is undeniable. Adding Wilson in free agency was a wise move considering Johnstone’s long injury history.
• A wide receiver: Yeah, it’s hard to come up with one specific name here. Now that George Johnson is gone, the Als will have a lengthy audition for the starting z receiver spot. Options include: Alexander Morrison, Malcolm Carter, Richmond Nketiah, Felix Faubert-Lussier, Etienne Moissan, Kaion Julien-Grant or Chris Osei-Kusi. This will be one of the more intriguing battles in camp. Whoever wins this spot will also have be an asset on special teams.
• Henoc Muamba – Middle Linebacker: This one is obvious. Muamba was one of the few positives for the Alouettes in 2018. The 30-year-old finished last season with 108 tackles and five quarterback sacks in 18 games. Keeping Muamba healthy will be key for this defence. He’s missed one game over the last two seasons. He’s the leader of the defence and the most valuable part. New defensive coordinator Bob Slowik will need him to have another big year if the unit is going to be successful.
• Bo Lokombo – Weakside Linebacker: The 28-year-old spent the first four years of his career with the B.C. Lions, but he decided to make the move out East during free agency. This spot was occupied by Chris Ackie for most of the season, so starting two Canadian linebackers is nothing new for the Als. Lokombo has played in every game over the last three seasons. He chipped in with 71 defensive tackles last year and he added 16 more on special teams.
• Taylor Loffler – Safety: The Als have decided to transition from an American safety (Brandon Dozier) to a Canadian one this season. Loffler was arguably the biggest free-agent signing the Alouettes made this winter. While with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the 27-year-old was named to the CFL All-Star team three times in his first three seasons. He had three interceptions and 52 tackles in 2018.