TORONTO -- The Montreal Alouettes’ defence will have quite a different look when it steps on the field to face the Argos on Tuesday, as CFL pre-season Week Two opens at the Rogers Centre.
The Als have just four more quarters of precious game action to fit together the pieces of a defence that, compared to just a few months ago, fans may have trouble recognizing.
Less than 24 hours after the team’s 22-10 pre-season loss to the Blue Bombers, in which it sat most starters, sixth-year linebacker Diamond Ferri and former second-round draft choice and non-import Étienne Boulay were given the axe last Friday afternoon.
In the wake of Anwar Stewart’s off-season release from the Alouettes as well, the moves caught most people off guard.
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"It is a tough business when you choose to release veteran players, especially ones that have been major contributors in the community and in winning Championships," Als General Manager Jim Popp told MontrealAlouettes.com.
Ferri, who finished fourth on the team with 50 tackles last season along with three sacks, has earned a reputation for his versatility after spending time throughout his career at linebacker, safety, running back, special teams, and as a kick-returner.
Boulay, drafted by Montreal 16th overall in 2006, became a key leader and contributed both as a starter and off the bench.
“He loves his teammates, the Alouettes, and the city of Montreal. From the day we drafted him, he has played where we have needed him,” Popp told the Als’ website.
Kyries Hebert, an off-season free agent signing who’s also spent time with the Tiger-Cats, the Bombers, and the Renegades, is expected to take Boulay’s spot, but linebacker Chip Cox’s name has also been linked to the position.
While questions remain on defence, most of last year’s first-team offence returns this season and is expected to start Tuesday’s game after sitting out the opener. The first quarter will be a dress-rehearsal for next week’s regular season opener in Calgary.
After that, the veterans will make way for players battling for roster spots, with major cut-downs looming once pre-season ends. One player the Als will look for more from is third-string quarterback Josh Neiswander, after a disappointing showing against Winnipeg.
"He didn't perform with the efficiency we wanted, but there are 11 other guys on the field,” Trestman told the Canadian Press following the loss. “I don't want my comments to be misinterpreted. He's had a very good camp. I hate to put too much emphasis on his performance tonight."
Meanwhile, less than a week after non-import Brad Sinopoli dazzled a McMahon Stadium gathering by leading the Stamps to an impressive come-back win against Edmonton, the Als will unleash some Canadian content of their own on Tuesday.
Trestman says he’ll look to get a better look at non-imports Kyle Quinlan and Kyle Graves in the fourth quarter, after neither threw a pass against Winnipeg – although Graves, who also kicks at Acadia, did average 32.8 yards on five punts.
For Quinlan, it’ll be his first CFL action since leading McMaster to its first national title last November by completing 35 of 55 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns in the Marauders’ 41-38 double-overtime Vanier Cup win over Laval. The dual-threat quarterback impressively also rushed for 106 yards.
Both Quinlan and Graves are expected to return to their respective universities to finish their degrees and play football following the conclusion of training camp.