April 12, 2024

How will Alouettes replace Shawn Lemon?

PHOTO Pascal Ratthe

Earlier this week, veteran defensive end Shawn Lemon announced his retirement from professional football. Lemon made an immediate impact from the first game he played in late July. He finished the year with nine sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a touchdown in only 13 games. But now that that production is gone, who will replace him?

At the midway point of last season, the Alouettes changed their ratio on defence. They went from starting two American defensive ends to moving Canadian Lwal Uguak into the starting lineup. Uguak has signed with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Alouettes are confident that free agent signing Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, who is Canadian, can occupy the spot vacated by Uguak.

“He’s a player I really like,” general manager Danny Maciocia said during his appearance on the PodcAls this week.

“He was drafted in the first round by Calgary the same year that we didn’t have a first-round pick. He was a player I watched a lot. All our scouts liked him a lot. Now we had the opportunity to go get him. If you look at the last two seasons, he accumulated 12 sacks and he was able to put pressure on the opposing quarterback often.”

According to Maciocia, veteran Avery Ellis will help fill the void left by Lemon, but a couple of the young defensive ends on the roster will also have a shot at earning some extra playing time.

“We brought back certain players from last year and some new guys to compete at that position,” the Als GM said. “After three weeks of training camp and two preseason games, we’ll have a better idea of who will play along the defensive line for us.

“It’s possible that we’ll be signing another defensive end or two before the start of camp. The ultimate goal for us is to bring a high level of competition so that we can give the coaches an opportunity to choose the best team that can compete and win week after week.”

Maciocia clarified that the defensive ends he may add ahead of training camp would likely be young players from outside the league. But as we saw last year with mid-season additions like Lemon and linebacker Darnell Sankey, things could change depending on how 2024 goes.

So, who are some of the candidates that could see a lot of playing time on defence this season? Let’s take a look.

T.D. Moultry and Kivon Bennett, who were both part of the Alouettes organization last year, are back. Moultry played in two games in 2024. He forced a fumble in a win over Ottawa, which Lemon recovered and returned for a touchdown. The former Auburn Tiger is just 26 years old.

Bennett, meanwhile, is the son of five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Cornelius Bennett. The 25-year-old began the season on the practice roster but didn’t suit up in any games last season. The Als felt strongly enough about him to bring him back this year.

This winter, the Alouettes signed Justin Ademilola and his twin brother, Jayson, who is a defensive tackle. Justin finished his final year at Notre Dame in 2022 with 39 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a fumble recovery in seven starts.

Fellow CFL rookie Jacorey Johns will also get a shot to make some plays this preseason. Johns played 43 games at Wake Forest and was part of the Detroit Lions minicamp.

As we saw last season, with the right defensive ends, this defence can be ferocious. Lemon and Uguak helped take the unit to another level, and now it will be up to a new combination of players to take on those responsibilities.

Training camp opens in Saint-Jérôme on May 12th. Practices will be open to the public. A detailed schedule will be shared in the coming weeks.