Usually, despite months of an offseason, teams bring a little bit of the previous season with them into the next. But with the 2020 season being canceled due to the pandemic, that won’t necessarily be the case. Many of these teams lost key players during the shut down, others signed to different teams.
Enter the 2021 Montreal Alouettes.
The last time this team took the field they finished 2nd in the East with a 10-8 record. The team made and hosted a playoff for the 1st time since 2014, but lost to Edmonton 39-27.
Since that season, numerous guys have either signed elsewhere, or retired. A big loss to their offensive production is retired RB Jeremiah Johnson. His 6 YPC and the way he attacked the passing game will be hard to replace.
To try to do so, they signed former Auburn RB Cameron Artis-Payne. Artis-Payne last played for the Dallas Renegades of the XFL, a team whose offense isn’t much different from that of the Alouettes.
Renegades OC Hal Mumme runs the Air Raid system, which uses the passing game to set up the run game, and Artis-Payne is capable of dominating behind returning start William Stanbeck.
QB Vernon Adams returns after being the team’s MOP in 2019. He has proved over the last few years to be the most consistent QB the Alouettes have had recently, with an uncanny ability to lead the team when the pressure is really turned up. I see no reason why he won’t do it again, and he is my pick to repeat as Montreal’s best offensive player, and becomes the CFL’s MOP.
Alouettes’ leading tackler from 2019 N DL Henoc Muamba is now with the Toronto Argonauts. Their franchise and 2019 sack leader N DE John Bowman is currently a free agent, so defensively they have a lot of production to replace.
Veterans A DE Antonio Simmons, A DB Greg Reid, and A DB Patrick Levels highlight this defensive squad, and take it upon themselves to be the leaders of this side of the ball.
Rookie A DB Adarius Pickett has also impressed during training camp, so look for this team to improve their secondary across this year.
While Hamilton is an easy favorite, and will be formidable this year, the schedule and the strength of Montreal makes them my early favorite to win the East.
The Alouettes have a Week 1 bye, which could make it harder for them to overcome eventual attrition late in the year, not having a game while everyone else plays affords them a benefit in scouting their opponents early on.
Montreal opens the season on August 14th on the road against an early favorite Edmonton Elks. Their home opener will be in Week 4 when they welcome the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.