Breaking down the Alouettes’ final roster decisions

The Montreal Alouettes were incredibly busy on Saturday. Not only did they have to announce their final roster by 10 p.m. easter time like every other team in the CFL, they also decided to “mutually” part ways with their head coach, Mike Sherman.

I broke down the situation with Sherman in a previous post, so I’m going to tackle the roster moves they made on Saturday night.

In total, the Als released 30 players and added 12 more to their practice squad. Receiver Quan Bray, who hauled in two long passes from Vernon Adams during Thursday’s preseason game against the Ottawa Redblacks, is on the practice roster. So is defensive back Marcellus Pippins, who had a pick-six in Toronto in the first week of the preseason and another interception against the Redblacks last week. Canadian quarterback Hugo Richard also earned a spot on the PR.

Als fans probably noticed that several 2019 CFL Draft picks were released on Saturday night. But receiver Chris Osei-Kusi (Queens), running back Jeshrun Antwi (Calgary), defensive back Cody Cranston (Ottawa), offensive lineman Samuel Thomassin (Laval), and linebacker Benjamin Whiting (Saskatchewan) all have another year of USports eligibility, so expect them to be placed on the suspended list before they all head back to school.

Defensive end Gabriel Knapton, defensive back Jermaine Robinson, and quarterback Jeff Mathews were let go over the weekend. The emergence of rookie defensive lineman Antonio Simmons is probably what pushed Knapton off the roster.

As for Robinson, the team added several defensive backs with a similar profile. Newcomer Jarnor Jones, who played with a physical edge during the preseason, is still on the roster. They also have Marcus Cromartie and Chris Lyles.

As for Mathews, he’s the only one of the four quarterbacks on the roster that wasn’t mobile. Antonio Pipkin, Adams and Matthew Shiltz can all scramble. The team likely wanted to keep three quarterbacks that had a similar profile. I wouldn’t be shocked if the team brought Mathews back at some point though.

I was a little surprised to see the Als cut Canadian defensive back Dondre Wright. The 25-year-old played in 18 games as a rookie in 2017 but suited up in only nine games last year. The emergence of Ty Cranston is what likely pushed him out the door. I’m expecting another CFL team to scoop Wright up in the near future.

Here’s some more quick observations on the team’s final roster:

— All-Star defensive back Ciante Evans didn’t practice with the team in training camp because of a hand injury he suffered during his time in the AAF. It sounds like he could be available to start at half-back in Week 1 against Edmonton.

— Assuming Evans is healthy, expect the starting secondary to be made up of Tommie Campbell, Cromartie, Taylor Loffler (safety), Evans, and rookie Ryan Carter.

— One Als source told me that second-year offensive lineman Trey Rutherford has shown remarkable progress this year. The second overall pick in the 2018 CFL Draft has looked really comfortable at guard and my source added that he may have been the best player in training camp.

— Na’Ty Rodgers, who played some tackle for the Alouettes last season, was cut on Saturday. They tried Rodgers at centre in camp, but decided they were better off without him for now. It sounds like he was beat out by rookie Chris Schleuger, who could be a starter in Week 1 if the Als decide to roll with two American tackles (Tony Washington would be the other one).

— Every CFL team will have to dress one Global player on their active roster this year. For the Als, that will be Mexican offensive lineman Diego Kuhlmann. He’ll likely serve as the team’s seventh offensive lineman on Game Days.

— Canadian receivers Malcolm Carter and Felix Faubert-Lussier are locked in a battle for a starting spot on the roster. Carter, who is 6-foot-7, can be an intriguing red-zone target for the Als this season. As for Faubert-Lussier, I first noticed him last preseason when he was Johnny Manziel’s favourite target during a preseason game between the Ticats and Argos. I thought he had a solid first camp with the Als.

— So here’s who I expect the seven Canadian starters to be: Rutherford, Matte, and Spencer Wilson will likely be starters on the offensive line. One of Carter or Faubert-Lussier will start at receiver, too. On defence, they’ll roll with Henoc Muamba, Bo Lokombo and Taylor Loffler.

— Will Stanback is clearly the starting running back on this team. I don’t see how they can dress two Americans at that position on game day, so don’t be surprised if Jeremiah Johnson doesn’t dress for every game. They have to find a way to run the ball better than they did in the preseason.

— Here’s my last point: Don’t be surprised if some of the players that were cut this weekend end up coming back down the road. Injuries happen all the time in the CFL, so teams will often bring players they cut in training camp back. Look at Ryan Brown last year. Not only did he come back, he’s also become an important part of the defensive line. He’s going to be a starter at defensive tackle this year.

Enjoy the season, everybody!

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