The Montreal Alouettes opened 2018 with a 27-7 preseason loss in Ottawa against the Redblacks. Despite the loss, it wasn’t all bad from the Als. The regular lineup on offence and defence didn’t play much more than a couple of drives, so there’s plenty of evaluating we can do with some of the lesser known players/newcomers.
Here’s what stood out to me during Thursday night’s clash:
• Drew Willy played less than a quarter. He had good and bad moments, but it was a little disappointing to see him not finish drives, especially when the defence forced a turnover. Still, he hit Eugene Lewis for a big gain on the opening drive. Skipping a pass to Ernest Jackson on second down deep in Ottawa territory is fine in the preseason, but it can’t happen when the games start counting.
• Really tough start to the night for Matthew Shiltz, who I’m still really high on. He took a late hit out of bounds from Ky Hebert on his first play before seeing a snap go over his head (he was forced to take an intentional grounding penalty). His teammates also took quite a few penalties while he was under center. These things are bound to happen with second and third-team players. It’s hard to fault Shiltz for a lot of the things that happened around him.
• Third-stringer Antonio Pipkin is talented, but he still needs a lot more marinating. He’s extremely raw. He didn’t look comfortable in the few minutes he played in last year’s regular-season finale in Hamilton and he never really looked comfortable on Thursday night.
• Newcomer Garrett Fugate played two snaps. He was sacked once and hit near the line of scrimmage the second time. Impossible to evaluate his small body of work.
• Getting back to Lewis, he can be a starter on this team. At the same time, when the starting receivers came out of the game, he stayed in. That might indicate that he hadn’t locked up a starting position going into the game. It looks like the Als will start five American receivers and Lewis has a chance to be one of them.
• Lewis’ biggest competition is Jamaal Robinson, who entered the game after the starters. Robinson was acquired from Hamilton in that Ryan Bomben trade leading up to the draft. The 25-year-old seemed to have good chemistry with Shiltz. Robinson finished the night with five catches for 50 yards.
• Yes, Amir Carlisle fumbled on a great punt return (he was stripped by the kicker), but I liked what he brought to the table as a running back and returner. Now that Brandon Rutley is in B.C., the Alouettes have an opening for a backup American running back. The team won’t dress two Internationals on game days, but they’ll keep one around in case something happens to Tyrell Sutton. He stood out more than any other American running back on Thursday.
• Speaking of Sutton, he didn’t play much, but he looked really, really good. Ran angry. If the Als want to keep themselves in second down and short/medium, they’ll have to make sure Sutton is involved.
• I liked rookie DB Tyquwan Glass when he came into the game. He’s a big body that doesn’t shy away from contact.
• Even though Henoc Muamba didn’t play much, it looks like the Als are going to seriously consider starting two Canadian linebackers. Chris Ackie will likely be the WILL linebacker, Muamba will play in the middle and Anthony Sarao will factor in with the starters, too.
• Veteran Jermaine Robinson looked good at safety, but he’s supposed to stand out in a preseason game. He’s looked very comfortable in camp and I wonder if they’ll make him the backup to Joe Burnett. Branden Dozier, who seemed to be around the ball quite a bit last night, will also be in the mix.
• I caught part of the TSN 690 radio broadcast of the game. I heard analyst Bryan Chiu mention that he liked what he saw from 2018 draft picks Trey Rutherford (guard) and Bo Banner (defensive end). Both guys held their own in their first career game, but expect both to be backups this season if everyone is healthy.
• Let me know who you think stood out in Thursday’s game by leaving a comment below.