August 9, 2011

Moffat: Checking in with the Als after six weeks

Rick Moffat

MONTREAL — As the Montreal Alouettes prepare for what could be a 2011 Grey Cup preview against the Edmonton Eskimos, the first six weeks of the CFL season have been revealing.

If Anthony Calvillo were a TV show, he would be PBS special. Methodical and drama-free, he got his passing milestone out of the way without any fanfare in the first quarter by starting 9/9.

Being on the receiving end of TD history didn’t help Eric Deslauriers have a breakout defining moment, but being on the receiving end of the completion mark could signal Brandon London’s emergence. He doesn’t have the flash of Jamel Richardson or S. J. Green, but he’s making solid contributions.

London’s job security was assured with the trade of Dallas Baker, former property of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could not hang onto an active roster spot.

One of GM Jim Popp’s favourite things? Trading a reserve import player for a Canadian who could be a starter or at least will factor into a heavy job-sharing role. Case in point Baker being sent to the Roughriders for Luc Mullinder.

The Als sought to acquire a player who could help them on special teams and had shown steady improvement over eight years in the league, not because Jim Popp wanted to help another member of the Michigan State alumni association.

The Als view Mullinder as someone who can keep his motor running high, after seeing him play well against Montreal, when the Riders bumped the Als from the ranks of the undefeated, sending Montreal into a period of reflection prompted by a second straight week of losing. 

Now Mullinder finds a familiar face in the Als’ locker-room in Kitwana Jones and is learning to appreciate the Als’ insistence on patience as a virtue. Even with Jermaine McElveen out with injury, Moton Hopkins makes his Als’ regular season debut against Edmonton, flipping Anwar Stewart back to his preferred position at end. Mullinder will have to have the cajones to wait his turn.

I had said previously that Brandon Whitaker would NOT win the CFL rushing crown. It now seems the only 2 things that could stop him are his own coaching staff’s gameplanning or getting dinged up over the long haul of an 18 game season.

While some fans are frustrated with Tim Maypray, in Toronto his “be sure” approach outgained Chad Owens, the man some of those same fans insist was the one Popp should not have let get away.

De’Audra Dix may be the Als’ “Dr. Suzuki” nominee since he’s a great recycling project. He’s been solid and most importantly for his longterm security in the Als secondary – physical.

It’s great for the league to have a classic quarterback duel like Ricky Ray versus AC. One day they’ll both pass for 400 yards in a game against one another. Problem for the Als is they’ve been looking for a pass-rush all season long and now they face a quarterback who is immune to being hit anyway.

Isn’t the “prevent” defence supposed to prevent touchdowns? The Als have to hope the final minute drive Cleo Lemon put together in Week 5 is not a warning of something that could happen in a closer game. First-year D-coordinator Tim Tibesar would have been better off blitzing the hell out of his opponent, getting burned for a long gain, and getting the offence back on the field to kill the clock.

Would you have been surprised if the Lions and Riders started the season a combined 10-2, not 2-10? Only as surprised as seeing the Eskimos and Bombers a combined 10-2?  

Before the season kicked off I said this Alouette team was better than last year’s, but in an increasingly competitive division. The Blue Bombers have proven I was only partially right.

It’s an upside down world and as the great Canadian poet Bruce Cockburn once said, the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.