Top of the Depth Chart: Montreal Alouettes

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Where does the time go? It seems like it was just yesterday that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were poaching as many Toronto Argonauts defensive linemen as they could.

Wasn’t just a finger snap ago that Ottawa took a big swing trading for Dru Brown or everyone was going nuts that Daniel Okpoko fell to the REDBLACKS in the second round of the CFL Draft? Do you realize the preseason kicks off in less than a week? We made it!

The Montreal Alouettes, unlike many Grey Cup Champion, will look fairly like the team that was the last one standing in 2023. Yes, there are some major holes to fill but Danny Maciocia and his team has managed to bring back the majority of the Cup winning core, a rarity in the chaotic world of professional sports where stability is often hard to come by.

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This will not be the most earth-shattering look at the probable Alouettes starting lineup, think of it more as a reminder of just how the 2023 Grey Cup champions were and what to expect for the upcoming season.

Quick reminder, Chris O’Leary cannot get enough of any constructive criticism you may have for my prognostications. He is standing by for all your carefully considered suggestions.

OFFENCE

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QUARTERBACK

I’m curious what the second act will be for Cody Fajardo. A half decade ago it sure felt like he was going to retire a Saskatchewan Roughrider. His contract keeps him in Montreal till the end of the 2025 season and I wonder if winning the Grey Cup will be a springboard for the next half of his career. At age 32, Fajardo still has plenty of football left in him. His 2023 numbers won’t exactly blow you away, but he saved his best for his last game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers which is all that really matters.

RECEIVERS

What a difference a year makes! Last year around this time Tyler Snead was hanging out in the basement of the depth chart, starting the year on the practice squad. Now with the departure of Austin Mack to Atlanta, Snead enters the season with higher expectations after finishing second on the Alouettes in receiving. He will be that dark horse fantasy target that everyone catches up on after a few games.

I would be shocked if Tyson Philpot (last year’s Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian award winner) doesn’t see a big uptick in production after finishing with 523 yards in 13 games. Be honest Montreal fans, how many times have you watched his Cup winning touchdown?

Imagine the kind of year Kaion Julien-Grant can have with an entire season of good health? He started 2023 with a bang averaging 81 yards in his first six games before injuries would derail his season. The arrow is pointing up for a receiver entering his prime in his fifth season with Montreal.

I was debating several names for the final receiver spot juggling between Cole Spieker, Regis Cibasu and Shedler Fervius. With them all being so close I will default to recency bias and pick the player who came up big in the Grey Cup with a 23-yard touchdown early in the third quarter and a game saving 31-yard reception on third-and-five on the team’s final drive.

RUNNING BACK

Walter Fletcher has some massive shoes to fill taking over for William Stanback. A career five-yards-per-carry running back, now is Fletcher’s time to show he can be a true workhorse back and not an overqualified backup.

FULLBACK

Out goes James Tuck and in comes Montreal’s second-round pick from the 2023 CFL Draft David Dallaire. The former Vanier Cup winner with Université Laval will get a chance to become a bigger part of the Alouettes offence. Bold prediction, Dallaire will easily surpass his 2023 output of 20 total yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE

East Division All-Star Nick Callender did not miss a game in 2023 and was often the tip of the spear for the team’s short yardage plays. Pier-Olivier Lestage was Montreal’s nominee for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. The home-grown star had such tough end of season injury luck with a knee injury keeping him out of the post-season. Justin Lawrence meanwhile saw his contract extended through the 2025 season. The three-time Grey Cup champ has been a constant in the middle of the Alouettes attack. Kristian Matte played in all 19 games for the team at the age of 38. A first-round pick back in the 2010 draft is back for his 14th season with Montreal. Jamar McGloster signed till the end of the 2025 season, instead of listing his accomplishments check out this interview he did on the Alouettes website.

DEFENCE

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** denotes Global

DEFENSIVE LINE

A possible ratio busting pass rusher, Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund put up 13 sacks the last two years in Calgary despite not being a full-time contributor for the Stampeders defensive line.

The Calgary connection continues with the 300-pound Derek Wiggan in the middle of the line. Despite being in the middle of all that violence you have to admire the durability of a defensive tackle who, by my count has only missed five games since the start of the 2016 season.

Dylan Wynn won a Grey Cup with Toronto, earned two CFL East Division All-Star spots with Hamilton and is now plying his trade with his third different Eastern Division team in the last seven years.

I’m cheating by moving Mustafa Johnson from tackle to the edge of the defensive line. According to Pro Football Focus Johnson put up the best pass rush numbers among all defensive tackles with 13 more credited pressures than any other defender at that position. The 2023 East Division All-Star will be the centre piece of the Alouettes defence.

LINEBACKERS

Tyrice Beverette had a banner year in 2024 with career highs in tackles (89), sacks (seven) while scoring two touchdowns as well.

How many football players have captured two championships in the same year? In May Darnell Sankey won the XFL title than hooked up with Montreal in September and was a huge part of their playoff run. Let’s take a step back for a moment and marvel at Sankey’s impact with Montreal in such a short period of time. The Alouettes are his third team in three years, four if you are counting the Arlington Renegades of the XFL. In the playoffs he led the team with 22 tackles, had two interceptions and three sacks. One of those sacks was on Zach Collaros late in the fourth quarter which helped set up the Fajardo game winning touchdown to Philpot.

It didn’t take long for Alouettes rookie Reggie Stubblefield to become a fixture on the Alouettes defence after joining the team in late June. The Alouettes Most Outstanding Rookie Award nominee led all defenders with 11 tackles in the Eastern Final and beat Jermarcus Hardrick for a fourth quarter sack in the Grey Cup.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

You have to love the stability and youth that Montreal has all over the secondary. Dionté Ruffin started every playoff game for the Alouettes.

A second straight productive season earned Wesley Sutton another East Division All-Star award. Sutton scored his first career touchdown on a 71-yard interception return off of Matthew Shiltz.

I’m going to cheat a bit with Marc-Antoine Dequoy. Here’s what I wrote last year about his 101-yard interception return touchdown against the Argonauts in the Eastern Final: “It is overly simplistic to proclaim the East was won on that Marc-Antoine Dequoy interception touchdown on the Toronto Argonauts opening drive, but it’s hard not to think that. Toronto was marching down with ease and then suddenly one brilliant play by the 2023 CFL All-Star changed everything. It happened so swiftly Argonauts fans had to quickly pivot away from complaining about traffic getting to BMO Field to griping about the lack of ball security from Chad Kelly.”

Doing this exercise is a reminder about how many talented young players are all over this roster. Kabion Ento is yet another rookie player who had a significant impact on Noel Thorpe’s defence. Ento went from breaking up passes against Shiltz in the Eastern Semi-Finals to scoring a touchdown in the Eastern Final to a leaping end zone interception in the Grey Cup while covering Kenny Lawler.

Big surprise to see the team let go of Kordell Rodgers on Wednesday’s roster moves. For the other halfback spot let’s go with Sankey’s Arlington Renegades teammate Cre’Von LeBlanc who signed with the team just over a month ago. LeBlanc bounced around the NFL for five years with the majority of that time spent with the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

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KICKER

David Côté‘s regular season numbers were down from his first two years, but he was more than dependable in the playoffs.

PUNTER

Proof you can find talent in every corner out there, the former Australian Rules Football player and sixth overall pick in the 2021 CFL Global Draft Joseph Zema is entering his fourth year with the team.

RETURNER

Another star from the 2023 Eastern Final, James Letcher Jr. stepped in for the injured Chandler Worthy and Montreal’s return game did not skip a beat. Let me repeat that, Letcher replaced the player who was runner up in 2022 for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player of the Year in September and Montreal’s special teams was just as dangerous.

LONG SNAPPER

Long snappers may not get the spotlight they deserve but clearly Maciocia knows how valuable Louis-Philippe Bourassa is after giving him a contract extension through the 2026 season.

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