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Preview: Als look to win season-series vs. Ticats on Saturday

A lower-body injury kept Tyson Philpot out for most of training camp and the first five games of the regular season. Last week, the Als decided to pull Philpot off the six-game list one week early. He made his 2023 debut in Sunday’s win over the Stamps, and the timing of his return couldn’t have come at a better time.

On Wednesday, the Alouettes announced that receiver Kaion Julien-Grant wouldn’t be available for this week’s game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. That should open up some targets for all the receivers, including Philpot.

“I had those pre-game jitters before the game. I kind of missed those,” Philpot said of his debut on Sunday. “It’s been a while. Eight weeks off. It just felt good to mean something to the team, to just contribute and to ultimately get the win.”

The 23-year-old wasn’t involved in every offensive snap in his first game, and he didn’t catch a pass, but the fact that he was able to get his feet wet and knock off some rust should allow him to be more productive starting this weekend.

The second-year wideout posted solid numbers during his rookie season. He had 39 receptions for 459 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 12 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown in two postseason games. He could realistically improve those numbers in fewer games this season.

“A personal goal for me (in 2023) is to show that I’m a route-runner,” the former Calgary Dino said. “Last year, I was used a lot in the screen game and kind of just getting the ball in my hands and making the play, which is something I’m more than happy to do. I think I want to show that I can run deep routes and show an ability to get open by beating one guy and going deep.”

The injury situation at wide receiver has forced the Als to make another change to their starting lineup. Look for Quartney Davis to be back in the lineup.

Changes on defence

The Als lost multiple starters on defence during their win over Calgary. Middle linebacker Avery Williams, defensive back Dionte Ruffin and strong side linebacker Najee Murray all went down, which means a few youngsters will get an opportunity to start.

Rookie Bryce Notree, who started against Winnipeg earlier this year, will help fill Williams’ role. The 24-year-old has nine defensive tackles, one on special teams and a quarterback sack in two games this season.

“The biggest thing I learned by watching was just how Avery (Williams) was controlling the defence as a (middle) linebacker,” Notree said. “Especially in this league, (the middle linebacker) is like the quarterback. It’s the same thing in America, but just being in control of the entire unit and getting out the calls and making sure everybody is doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Veteran linebacker Fred Chagnon is listed as the starter at middle linebacker. He’ll also see considerable playing time at that position on Saturday night.

Another rookie, J.R. Reed, will be filling in for Murray, who is expected to be out long term. Reed has suited up in every game for the Als this season, and he’s been a factor on special teams from the day of his arrival.

“I’m just blessed to get this opportunity,” Reed, who has 11 tackles on defence and six more on special teams this season, said. “I’m ready to get out there with my guys. I have been coached up very well. I’m excited to get out there and make plays.

“(The CFL) is a very fast league. You have to be in good condition to play in this league. The field is bigger, that’s what I learned.”

Reggie Stubblefield will also be making his first CFL start on Saturday night for the injured Ruffin. Stubblefield attended training camp with the Als in 2023, but he was released after the second preseason game.

Injuries to Nafees Lyon and Ciante Evans led to the Als bringing him back early in the season.

“I just treated (being cut) as a learning experience,” Stubblefield admitted. “It hurt a lot to get cut by the team after the second preseason game because I thought my body of work in training camp was really, really good. I just learned from it. I’m making sure that every single day, every single opportunity, I don’t take it for granted. I won’t let anybody else outwork me. The emotions are very high for me as far as never wanting to go through that again. I just need to make sure I’m doing my job.”

Former University of Montreal defensive back Tysen-Otis Copeland has been activated from the practice roster. He will be making his first career appearance in the CFL.