The Alouettes almost escaped Calgary with a victory last week, but a Rene Paredes field goal with under one minute remaining in the game dropped Montreal to 0-1 in 2022.
This week, the Als will hit the road again. This time, they’ll take on the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field. The Argos had a bye week in Week 1, so they have yet to take the field for real this season.
In 2021, these two teams split their season series, 1-1. The Als lost by three points in Toronto in late September, but they took care of the Argos at Molson Stadium less than a month later. That loss against the Argos was a turning point for the team.
That defeat put the Als at 2-4 on the season. They fired defensive line coach Todd Howard, replaced him with Greg Quick and added Byron Archambault to the coaching staff. The Alouettes ended up rattling off four wins in a row and we’re in first place in the East Division at one point.
This will be the first head-to-head clash between two East Division opponents in 2022. Last week, all three teams in the East started the season out West and they all lost. It’s early, but this is a big one.
Here are my five pre-game thoughts ahead of this matchup:
No William Stanback for a while:
The team got some unfortunate news on Sunday, as they announced that star running back William Stanback would be undergoing ankle surgery on Tuesday to repair a fracture.
Head coach Khari Jones didn’t give an exact timeline for Stanback’s return, but they’re hoping he’ll be able to suit up again at some point in 2022.
He had scored the Als’ first touchdown on the season earlier in the first half against Calgary.
The Als are one of the few teams in the CFL that like to ground and pound on offence, so not having their number one tailback is going to be an interesting challenge for them to overcome.
The 27-year-old lead the CFL in rushing last season and he was also named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player.
In two games without Stanback last season, the Als managed to go 2-0.
Next man up!
Who will replace Stanback?
The next men up are Jeshrun Antwi, Chandler Worthy and Shane Simpson.
Antwi is a second-year player that had a nice showing in Calgary in the opener. Not only did he finish with 98 yards rushing on seven carries, but he also rumbled for an impressive 70-yard scamper in the opening half. That was the longest offensive play of the game for Montreal.
The Canadian tailback had a solid training camp for the Als, and he seems to be much more comfortable at the pro level in 2022.
It’ll be interesting to see how the carries are split starting on Thursday night.
“I feel like I’m ready to get the majority of the carries,” Antwi told MontrealAlouettes.com. “I’ve been in this offensive system for some time now, so I’m sound in protection and sound in offensive philosophies.
“Based on the conversations I’ve had, I’m ready to play the whole game without coming out unless I need to, and I’m ready for that.”
Shane Simpson signed with the Alouettes on Sunday. He attended training camp with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but was released before the start of the season.
The 24-year-old spent his first four years in college with the Towson Tigers in Maryland before finishing up his career with the University of Virginia Cavaliers.
Simpson is the only healthy American running back on the roster right now.
Chandler Worthy revenge game:
Starting kick-returner Mario Alford (abdomen) exited the Calgary game in the first half and never returned.
The veteran was limited to five games last season because of a lower-body injury, and the team struggled to find a capable returner in his absence. This time, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Chandler Worthy, who started training camp as an Argo, was released by Toronto on May 29th. Just a couple of days later, he was picked up by the Als.
The 28-year-old had his best CFL season in 2021, as he finished with 203 receiving yards, 455 punt return yards and 613 more on kickoffs.
Here’s a little snippet of what he’s able to do as a returner:
You know he’s going to want to make a statement in his first game of the season, especially because it’s coming against his former team.
Worthy also took some reps at running back this week.
Discipline is key:
We haven’t really spoken about it much because the Als lost the game, but they were extremely disciplined in the opener.
Overall, they had three penalties for 30 yards. The offence was charged with an offside penalty for five yards and the defence got two penalties for 25 yards (one was a very soft roughing the passer call on Avery Ellis).
After last season’s struggles on special teams, it was impressive to see Archambault’s unit not pick up a single flag all night long. That’s especially key because of the new “no yards” rule, which awards the returning team 15 yards when the kicking team doesn’t give the returner a five-yard halo (whether the ball hits the ground or not).
To win games in the CFL, especially on the road, you need to be as clean as you can. In that respect, the Als did their job last Thursday.
They’ll have to do that again in Week 2 and beyond.
As mentioned above, the Argos are the only team that hasn’t played in a game yet this season, so it’s hard to get a gauge on how good they’ll be. Last year, they finished with a record of 9-5, which was good enough to put them in first place in the East Division.
Several of their key players will be back in 2022, including staring quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The 33-year-old was sixth in the league in passing yards last season and he had a touchdown to interception ratio of 12/11.
The Argos added some CFL veterans to their group. Former All-Stars Brandon Banks (Hamilton), Ja’Gared Davis (Hamilton) and Andrew Harris (Winnipeg) all signed as free agents over the winter.
If you’re looking for some familiar faces, former Als players on the Argos roster include Henoc Muamba, Boris Bede, Brandon Calver, Fabion Foote, Philip Blake, Benoit Marion and Eli Mencer.