Alfieri’s Day 3 training camp notebook: A rookie receiver with the first-team offence

Alouettes training camp is brought to you by le Salon de jeux de Trois-Rivieres.

The Als practiced under wet and cold conditions on Tuesday. During the first of the two practices, the players suited up in pads for the first time in 2023.

The rainy weather made it difficult for receivers and defensive players to hang on to the ball.

One of the more consistent receivers in camp has been rookie Keshunn Abram. He started camp fourth on the depth chart, but he has been working with the first-team offence over the last two days.

“For a rookie to come in and play with the first unit in the first two days is very difficult,” head coach Jason Maas said. “I don’t think people understand how difficult that is. I commend him for just being able to walk in, listen to a play call, line up and do it and do it fast. When you’re playing with the first unit, everyone knows the offence a little bit better than you do, but he hasn’t looked out of place.”

Abram, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets after the 2022 NFL Draft. He started his college career at Norwest Mississippi Community College before transferring to Kent State.

The 24-year-old has been playing football since he was five years old, but the stretch between his release from the Jets in last year’s training camp to playing for the Alouettes was the longest he’s gone without football.

Abram kept in shape by training twice a day, five days per week. He also moved away from his home city of Memphis, Tennessee to work out in Atlanta, Georgia where there were fewer distractions.

During his senior year at Kent State in 2021, he finished second on the team in receiving yards, with 699, and third on the team in receptions, with 47.

“I’d say, number one, I’m a deep threat,” Abram said of his style of play. “I feel like I have speed, but I can get open too, so I can play as an inside and outside receiver.

“I think the biggest thing that makes you stand out as a receiver is knowing exactly how to line up and how to execute. It’s all about the details. There’s so many (receivers) here with different backgrounds and everybody is talented, everybody has athletic ability. The biggest thing is just being mentally sharp and creating that relationship with the coaches.”

Avery Williams anchors the middle of the defence:

Prior to the start of free agency, the Alouettes were able to land a defensive cornerstone when they inked middle linebacker Avery Williams.

The former Ottawa Redblack has been one of the more productive linebackers in the league since 2018, and the Als will need him to continue to play at a high level in 2023.

Defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe and the 28-year-old have worked together before, as both were in Ottawa during Williams’ first two CFL seasons in 2018 and 2019.

“I’m older (now),” Williams explained. “I’m not that snot-nosed rookie anymore. I’m a seasoned veteran and when (Thorpe) says something, I know exactly what he wants in that moment, so I feel like those are the differences between now and (our time together in Ottawa).”

Although the Als are just three days into their training camp, the defence has already established a blueprint for the way they want to play this season.

“Up front, we just want to be violent,” Williams said of the defence’s identity in 2023. “With the linebackers, we just want to be fast, physical and sound with our technique. With our defensive backs, we have to get the ball, we want to get the ball as much as we can.”

Notes from Day 3:

Canadian receiver Tyson Philpot missed his second consecutive practice with a hamstring injury. He’s considered day-to-day.

Hergy Mayala, who is filling in for Philpot with the first-team offence, made the catch of the day on a deep ball down the left sideline that was thrown by Cody Fajardo.

Defensive backs Wesley Sutton and Dionte Ruffin both looked solid in camp so far, and they both managed to collect interceptions today.