A champion’s mentality doesn’t change: five thoughts on the Alouettes’ preseason win over Toronto

Photo courtesy: Gary Lavoie/Montreal Alouettes

The Montreal Alouettes were back at Percival-Molson Stadium on Saturday for the first time since they lifted the Grey Cup last November. Although it was only a preseason game, Als fans got a glimpse of the team they will cheer on this season.

The good news for them is that the club’s identity hasn’t changed despite some tweaks to the roster.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

Starters doing their job

It started right away with the defence getting to Argos quarterback Cameron Dukes, forcing the visitors to a quick two-and-out. Noel Thorpe had made it clear during the offseason that his defence’s mentality wasn’t going to change following the Grey Cup win. That showed early on.

Cody Fajardo followed swiftly, leading the offence to an opening touchdown. With the loss of Austin Mack to the NFL, the Alouettes are hoping Canadians Tyson Philpot and Kaion Julien-Grant can step up into even larger roles, along with newcomer Tevin Jones.

Fajardo wasted no time connecting with Philpot, as the receiver made a beautiful catch for a long gain. Later in the drive, facing a third-and-two, the quarterback found Julien-Grant for a touchdown. 

Last year, the offensive chemistry wasn’t well established in camp as Fajardo was adjusting to his receivers. It’s the complete opposite story this year. Decisions are taken quickly and most importantly, players are where they should be.

Fajardo had a second drive where he moved the chains very effectively and ended it with a field goal. That was it for the starting quarterback, as he finished seven-of-eight for 107 yards and one touchdown.

Defending mobile quarterbacks

The only negative part of the game was the Als’ defence allowing a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Toronto quarterback Cameron Dukes was able to escape and find his receivers, capping the drive with a pass to Justin Marshall after scrambling on third-and-two.

The Als had issues last season with mobile quarterbacks. Vernon Adams Jr. had fun in both games he played against his old team and Thorpe’s defence couldn’t control Tre Ford for a whole half. This unit doesn’t have many weaknesses, but this one could get exploited throughout the season. It’s a storyline to follow. 

Except for that drive, the defence was dominant on Saturday night, like it was for the majority of last season. They ended the night with one interception and 2 fumbles recovered.

Rambo and Cantin-Arku making noise

A preseason game allows us to discover new players and two certainly didn’t miss their chance to impress. Charleston Rambo and Geoffrey Cantin-Arku made a clear statement that they can play in the CFL. 

Rambo, a recent addition from the University of Miami, was the most productive receiver for Montreal with 71 yards on four catches. He accumulated of lot of yards after his catches and made a strong case for a spot in the lineup. 

Cantin-Arku was Montreal’s first pick of the 2024 draft and the linebacker was everywhere on the field in his first action for the team. He made four defensive tackles, added another on special teams, and forced a fumble from Argo running back Deonta McMahon after missing his first attempt at tackling him. The Memphis product should have a spot in the lineup when the season opens in Winnipeg on June 6.

Davis Alexander deserves a chance

It’s been three seasons since the Als signed Davis Alexander and every year, it’s the same story: he has a good training camp and ends up being the third-string quarterback.

At this point, we know what Caleb Evans can give, but the potential of Alexander is far more interesting. He deserves a shot to be the second quarterback and play games if Fajardo gets injured. 

Saturday night, he orchestrated a couple of very good drives, especially the one following Cantin-Arku’s forced fumble. He was perfect on that series and ended it with a quarterback sneak into the endzone. Alexander finished the game 10-of-12 for 89 yards in addition to that rushing score.

What’s next?

The Alouettes will visit the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday, May 31. This will be their last preseason game, with final roster cuts to come by midnight on June 1.

Pablo is a CFL and Alouettes analyst based in Montreal.