Erratic Als confident of turnaround
As he prepares for the second half of his first regular season as a general manager, Kavis Reed believes there’s time to reverse the Alouettes’ inconsistent trend. And Reed firmly believes quarterback Darian Durant and head coach Jacques Chapdelaine will lead the resurgence.
“I believe wholeheartedly coach Chapdelaine is, and will be, a very good head coach. Absolutely with Montreal,” Reed said. “We knew going into this there would be opportunities to have lulls and some turbulence. His personality lends itself to someone who stays the course, doesn’t get too high or low. He understands problem solving.
“I have the utmost confidence in him. I know everyone says you don’t want to give a vote of confidence to everyone, but this is sincere,” Reed added. “His football intellect, his understanding of problem solving, gives me every confidence this team’s going to be right there at the end.”
The Als launch the second half of their schedule Thursday night (7:30 p.m., TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, TSN5, RDS, TSN Radio 690) when they host the Ottawa Redblacks at Molson Stadium. The teams meet in two of the next three weeks, both in Montreal, and the defending Grey Cup champions have already defeated the Als once this season.
Montreal’s on a two-game losing streak, while the Redblacks have won their last two. The teams are separated by one point in the weak East Division, where only the top two teams will qualify for the playoffs. The Als hold a game in hand on Ottawa.
There was a feeling of optimism surrounding the Als not so long ago. Chapdelaine went 4-2 after replacing Jim Popp last season. Then the team acquired Durant in a trade last winter from Saskatchewan. He was supposed to bring productivity to a team that has gone through a carousel of pivots since Anthony Calvillo.
A year later, the Als most certainly are a more competitive team but should Montreal miss the playoffs, that would be a third successive season.
Durant has passed for 2,386 yards and 13 touchdowns, but also has been intercepted 10 times. He and the Als have particularly struggled in the first quarter. “The person throwing the ball’s always going to be blamed,” Reed said. “But are we running the right routes at the right depth? Is the timing correct? Is the protection there? All these things that are around make good quarterback play.
“We would have hoped his efficiency would be better, that his play would be better. We also understand there’s a lot of things around it that create those inefficiencies.”
Reed said he never anticipated the team being this erratic or inconsistent. They’ve taken too many penalties and continue making critical mistakes at inopportune times. Montreal is minus-6 in turnovers, with only six fumble recoveries and three interceptions. The Als have committed five fumbles and the aforementioned 10 interceptions.
But geography remains on their side, as no team has taken control of the division. Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal each have six losses. The Als had hoped to establish themselves in August, but will escape with no better than a 2-2 record. They can only hope September’s more kind. But three of their four games are on the road, where they’ve yet to win.
“We all know in CFL history ... the team that fixes it in September has an opportunity to be successful and play in the final game of our calendar,” Reed said.
No Als player has said they must win both games against Ottawa, but falling three points behind the Redblacks, compounded with losing the season series, would mean Montreal must hope for an Argonauts collapse. Hamilton (0-8) no longer figures in the equation.
The Als, in other words, still control their destiny. But time’s running out.
“This is the time of the season, after Labour Day, where there’s no more mulligans. No more doovers. You have to make sure you take care of business,” Durant said. “This is a very important time for our team and a very important game. We realize the significance of it. We’ll be ready to go.”
When these teams met on July 19 in Ottawa, the Redblacks prevailed, 24-19. But the Als threatened late, marching to the home team’s eight-yard line before a third-down quarterback sneak by backup Vernon Adams, since traded to Saskatchewan, proved futile.
Still there were some positive signs that night. Durant passed for a season-high 452 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Both Ernest Jackson and B.J. Cunningham produced 100 yards in receptions.
“We need to start the second half of the season with a bang,” said tailback Tyrell Sutton, who returns to the starting roster after a one-game injury absence. “We’re a resilient team. We haven’t lost (more than one game) by more than a touchdown. We just took (Winnipeg) that’s 7-2 to double overtime. And we should have beaten them both times.
“We’re right there, on the cusp of turning the table.”
Notes — Tailback Brandon Rutley has been placed on the disabled list by Montreal, while guard Matt Vonk is the latest to go on the sixgame injured list (knee) . ... Rookie Matt Shiltz will dress for the first time, albeit as the third-string QB. He replaces Jacory Harris, on the one-game IR.