May 26, 2024

Recap: What stood out for Alouettes in preseason opener?

Yes, Saturday’s game was only a preseason contest, but the Alouettes looked good. The offensive starters performed well and several young players on offence and defence stood out, which is exactly what you’re looking for from a team during their exhibition calendar.

The Canadian receivers shine:

It didn’t take long for a pair of Canadian receivers to stand out on Saturday night. On the opening drive of the night for the Alouettes, quarterback Cody Fajardo hit Tyson Philpot for a spectacular 23-yard gain. Just a few plays later, Fajardo completed a deep shot to Kaion Julien-Grant for a 48-yard major. Julien-Grant was able to push ahead for the final few yards despite plenty of contact from the Argos secondary.

Both receivers missed a significant amount of time with injuries in 2023, but they still showed their high-end ability last season. If they stay healthy this season, don’t be surprised if they each come close to the 1,000-yard mark. They’re that good.

“I think we have two 1,000-yard receivers, as long as they stay healthy,” Fajardo said after the game. “Those guys showed up today, and they’ve had a really good camp. I’ve been excited about the way they have come in and understood the offence.”

Davis Alexander’s brilliant drive:

Third-year pivot Davis Alexander was the third quarterback to see reps in this game after Fajardo and Caleb Evans, and he didn’t look rusty at all. On his opening drive, he finished 6-for-6 as he completed passes to Jose Barbon (twice), Charleston Rambo (twice), Tyjon Lindsey and Jeshrun Antwi. Alexander concluded the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

“I’m continuing to feel more comfortable,” Alexander said. “We had a great first drive. I led the boys down the field, and I was able to punch it in myself. I just wanted to keep moving the ball and keep getting some completions.”

During an interview on the Alouettes pre-game Podcast earlier in the week, the 25-year-old admitted that he wasn’t happy with his training camp last year. He mentioned that it took him a while to get comfortable with Jason Maas’ offence. He now feels like he understands the playbook fully, and it showed against the Argonauts.

Caleb Evans magic:

Caleb Evans can improvise as well as any quarterback in the CFL, and he showed that during Saturday night’s game. In the second half, he scrambled to his left before heading all the way back to the right side. He eventually found Jose Barbon in the back of the end zone. It was a spectacular play and one that only someone with a special ability could make.

“Earlier, we were going the other way, and I could see (Barbon), but I saw him late, so I ran and didn’t get the first down,” Evans explained. “We came on the sideline, and I told him to be ready for it next time because if the defensive back comes up, (Barbon) just had to go up top. On that play, we had a roll out to the left. I couldn’t see him. Their defensive end crashed up and I saw (Barbon) that time, and I wasn’t going to miss him twice.”

The 25-year-old also had a team-high 32 yards rushing on three attempts. He finished the game 10-for-15 for 94 yards and one touchdown.

Charleston Rambo is a young playmaker:

Rookie receiver Charleston Rambo is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He used his speed and play-making ability to get open and to churn out yards after the catch, too. The 24-year-old had a game-high 71 yards receiving on four catches.

He started his college career at Oklahoma before moving to the University of Miami for his final season back in 2021. During that one year at Miami, he amassed an impressive 1,172 yards receiving in just 12 games.

The defence forces turnovers:

Veteran defensive back Nafees Lyon made his return to lineup on Saturday night after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Lyon was injured in the first game of last season and never returned to the lineup.

The 27-year-old picked off a Cameron Dukes pass and returned it deep into Argos territory. The Als ended up kicking a field goal on the ensuing drive.

A pair of 2024 draft picks also combined to get the Alouettes the ball back, as linebacker and first-round pick Geoff Cantin-Arku stripped Argos running back Deonta McMahon while safety and third-round pick Arthur Hamlin recovered the football. Alexander ended up scoring his one-yard touchdown on the following drive.

“I missed the initial tackle because the angle I took to the ball-carrier wasn’t correct,” Cantin-Arku admitted after the game. “I turned around and kept going. You can never give up on the play. I came back and caught him from behind and I punched the ball out. I’m happy with the play I made.”

The Alouettes finished with 10 points off turnovers in the opening half.

In total, the defence finished with four turnovers on Saturday night.

David Côté in mid-season form:

Getting off to a good start is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for a kicker. David Côté had an impressive first half, as he converted two field goals and two extra points in the opening 30 minutes.

His first kick of the night was a 50-yard kick that split the uprights with room to spare. This was as perfect a start as the veteran could’ve asked for heading into 2024.

The former Rouge et Or kicker also made all of his kicks with a new holder, as fullback David Dallaire stepped into that role on Saturday night.

The Alouettes will be back in action next Friday night for their final preseason game of 2024, as they’ll take on the Redblacks in Ottawa.