November 14, 2023

Costabile: Five Alouettes to watch in the 110th Grey Cup

Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca

There are plenty of playmakers on the Montreal Alouettes roster that helped them get to the 110th Grey Cup.

We saw it in the Eastern Final last week, with all three phases contributing to their upset win over the Toronto Argonauts.

With that in mind, here are five Alouettes to watch at the big game this Sunday at Tim Hortons Field.

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Cody Fajardo

This is a bit of an obvious one, but Cody Fajardo will need to be at his best against a Bombers defence that will make you pay for any mistake you make.

Fajardo has been to the dance before, but it was in a backup role when he was with the Toronto Argonauts in 2017, a year he and his then Argos hoisted the Grey Cup. Now he’s here as a starter and will lead his team as they eye knocking Winnipeg off of dynasty status.

Over Montreal’s seven-game winning streak, Fajardo hasn’t passed for over 300 yards and only threw more than one touchdown pass in the Eastern Semi-Final against Hamilton (two). He hasn’t needed to dominate a game and instead, he’s relied on the stellar play of his defence (see next point) and special teams in a full team effort. It’ll be interesting to see how he approaches the biggest game of his career so far on Sunday.

Darnell Sankey (shoutout Shawn Lemon)

 

Since signing with the Alouettes in September, Darnell Sankey has thrived in Noel Thorpe’s defence. In six regular season games, the 29-year-old amassed 31 tackles on defence, along with a sack, and interception, and two forced fumbles.

He continued to make his presence felt in the playoffs, leading his team in tackles against the Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Semi-Final with eight and also tallied two sacks and an interception in the win. His interception turned into an Austin Mack touchdown in that game as well.

In last week’s Eastern Final against Toronto, Sankey had six tackles, and interception, and a fumble recovery, picking up a Chad Kelly fumble that was forced by Shawn Lemon. He’ll need to be at his best to slow down the heavy hitters on the Bombers offence including running back Brady Oliveira.

Speaking of Shawn Lemon, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him in this article at all. Lemon’s another excellent mid-season addition to the Als defence, racking up nine sacks in 13 games. He, too, can change the game on a dime and has also proven it in the playoffs so far. He had a pair of sacks against the Tiger-Cats in the Semi-Final, one on Matthew Shiltz and the other on Bo Levi Mitchell. And he had the aforementioned big forced fumble in the Final last week.

James Letcher Jr.

 

James Letcher Jr. has done it all for the Montreal Alouettes this season on special teams after taking over for an injured Chandler Worthy, scoring a return touchdown in three different ways.

He returned a missed field goal in Week 19, after Elks kicker Dean Faithfull missed his attempt. Two weeks later the Als returned from a bye and Letcher found the end zone again, this time returning a punt all the way to the house. The biggest of the returns was last week in the Eastern Final where the five-foot-eight, 175-pounder returned a kickoff 105 yards for a major of his own, stopping Toronto from getting any momentum late in the fourth quarter of the game from a DaVaris Daniels touchdown.

There’s no doubt that Letcher will be integral for the Alouettes in their matchup against the Bombers, not only in providing his offence good field position but also in changing the game on a dime with an electric return that could go all the way.

Marc-Antoine Dequoy

 

Marc-Antoine Dequoy picked off Kelly in the Eastern Final and ran it all the way to the house on the Argos opening possession of the game. Kelly and his Argos never seemed to recover after that moment with the Als safety setting the tone for what was a dominant defensive performance. Talk about a game changer.

That’s nothing new for Dequoy, changing a game on a big play. We’d seen it all season long, as he patrolled the back end of Montreal’s defence. He had two pick sixes in the regular season to go along with another three interceptions – two of those interceptions (one for a touchdown) came against these same Bombers he is playing on Sunday back in Week 14.

Setting the tone against a high-flying Bombers offence will no doubt be part of Jason Maas’ group’s game plan and Dequoy is sure to be a big piece in that.

Tyson Philpot

Since returning from injury in Week 8, Tyson Philpot has been an integral part of Montreal’s offence. He’s been a great compliment to Austin Mack and Tyler Snead, giving Fajardo plenty of options at the wideout position.

Philpot’s been commended for his route running, but it’s his extra effort after the catch that has caught my eye with 291 of his 532 yards on the season coming following a reception. He’s no stranger to stepping up in big games either; the Canadian hauled in 127 yards and a touchdown in Montreal’s Eastern Final loss last season.

With the Bombers defence likely looking to slow down Mack, Montreal’s leading receiver in the regular season, Philpot could find some space to get open on Sunday.

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