The Montreal Alouettes opened their training camp at Percival Molson Stadium on Monday afternoon. And by the way, Mike Sherman, who was away from the team for rookie mini-camp because he had oral surgery, was back today.
There are always a number of surprises on the first day of camp and the same held true this year.
The offensive line, which had a ton of turnover last season, needs to be a lot better in 2019. I had an idea of what the starting line would look like heading into this year, but there were a couple of things that surprised me when I stepped on to the Molson Stadium field this afternoon.
“It all starts with the offensive line. A group of 5-6 guys who can not only do the job, but also stay together and learn,” offensive coordinator Khari Jones said, per the Alouettes’ website. “That’s the biggest part. We have a solid group of guys in Spencer Wilson, Tony Washington and Kristian Matte. We have to complete it.”
Keep in mind that this is only the first day of training camp, so things will likely change a few times before the start of the regular season.
But here’s how the offensive line lined up on Day 1:
• Left Tackle – Tony Washington – International: This wasn’t surprising at all. The Alouettes acquired Washington from Hamilton as part of the Johnny Manziel trade last season. The 33-year-old suited up in 12 games at left tackle with the Als in 2018 and if he’s healthy that’s where he’ll be all year.
• Left Guard: Kristian Matte – National: The 33-year-old was the Alouettes’ starting centre last year and he did a pretty good job there, but he’s a better guard. If the Als can keep him at left guard, that would give them a solid veteran duo that should do a nice job of protecting the quarterback. Again, it’s entirely possible that he moves back to centre if injuries strike or if they don’t feel they have a capable centre to replace him.
• Centre – Spencer Wilson – National: This was a little surprising to me. I expected Wilson to start at right guard, but part of the reason he was signed was because of his ability to play every position on the offensive line. Don’t be shocked if you see Wilson move around throughout training camp. The fact that the 31-year-old can play all over the line is a huge plus. If ever a tackle goes down, Wilson could slide into that spot, too. If healthy, he’ll be a starter but we don’t know where as of right now.
• Right Guard – Trey Rutherford – National: In my opinion, this was the biggest surprise of the day on the offensive line. I didn’t expect the 2018 first-rounder to be a starter this year, but that’s where he was on Day 1. That doesn’t mean he’ll be part of the starting lineup in Week 1, but a good showing could give him the inside track on the sixth lineman job. It wouldn’t surprise me to see an American at this position or at centre.
• Right Tackle – Tyler Johnstone – National: The Alouettes sacrificed their 2019 first-round pick so that they could select Johnstone in the 2018 supplemental draft. They’re clearly high on his upside, so the fact that he was starting at tackle on Day 1 was a no-brainer. Johnstone suited up in one game for the Als (in Calgary) before he suffered a knee injury. Johnstone has had multiple ACL surgeries on his knee very early in his career. Staying healthy is key for him in 2019.
I expected the Als to roll with three Canadians and two Americans on the line this year. That might still be the case, but it’s clear that they’ll experiment with different combinations early on in camp.