CFL Seems to Be Watching USFL Closely
The Montreal Alouettes have always been at the forefront of luring American talent to the Canadian Football League. Guys like Chad Ochocinco, and Fred Biletnikoff come to mind. It seems like over the years they have been very in tune with football players in the United States and their statuses with their teams.
This particular fact has been on display this season. It’s safe to say that the Alouettes have been watching USFL games closely this offseason. This was evidenced by moves they made to bring in players to compete in 2022.
Former fourth overall pick with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, Ben Holmes, was the first. The man that made the football world say “Who”? He had most recently played in the Indoor Football League. Following his time in college at Division II Tarleton State. He went on to spend the 2021 season playing with the Spring League, and the Arizona Rattlers who would likely have welcomed him back if not for being drafted by the USFL.
Things didn’t go well for him with New Jersey. In fact it went so badly, that he was one of the first prominent players released early in the season due to what was said to be a foot injury at the time.
Shortly after his release, many rumors began to leak out about his work ethic, attitude, and overall performance. Holmes must have heard the reports because so far, since signing with Montreal we haven’t heard a peep about him from the CFL.
That was until he suited up and played less than 8 weeks removed from his release. It was floated that he would miss the majority of the season. While this did prove to be ultimately true, I question the timetable they gave of 6-8 weeks.
Ben Holmes was officially signed by Montreal on May 11th. Roughly 3 weeks before he played in his first CFL preseason game. Assuming that he practiced fairly soon after his arrival he was ahead of schedule on the short end of his rehab by over a week.
Holmes played fairly well in limited time. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 38 yards, and actually led the team in completion percentage. He likely isn’t 100% yet, but knew if he wanted any chance of making the roster he would have to play in the preseason even if it meant risking further injury to his foot. Luckily he came out of the game without reinjuring himself and looks to build on his performance in week 2 in an effort to make the active roster for the 2022 season.
Holmes is a guy who has voiced his desire to never return to arena football during interviews. It would be interesting to see his next move if he doesn’t stick in the CFL.
Matt Mengel was the first specialist drafted by the USFL when the Philadelphia Stars picked the special teams maven. They intended for him to serve as the kicker, punter, and kick-off specialist, saving a roster spot by doing all three jobs.
Mengel has always practiced both positions having actually performed both duties at Long Beach Community College. He later moved on to UCLA where he primarily served as the punter and kick-off specialist.
This is the exact role he looks to fill for the Montreal Alouettes following his release by the Stars. Mengel served in all three capacities for the Stars for 4 weeks. The coaching staff laid down an ultimatum prior to his final week with the team, make kicks or get cut.
With that in mind Mengel focused on kicking all week, and it showed come game time when he carried the Stars to victory. In a win that saw the opposing dual specialist miss a chip shot field goal as time expired, Mengel had scored 14 of 26 points on the board for the Stars.
Going 4 of 5 on field goal attempts, and 2 of 2 on extra points, as well as punting 1 time for 41 yards. He also served as the kick-off specialist. He would go on to be named special teams player of the week for the Stars, AND lose his job in the same week.
This move still doesn’t make sense from an outsider’s perspective. Ultimately the Stars moved on with rookie K/P Luis Aguilar. Almost immediately the Alouettes pounced and signed Mengel to a deal. He was brought in to compete with incumbent punter Joesph Zema. Zema is a great punter, but coming from Australian Rules Football has never attempted a field goal, or kickoff.
With the two punters brought into compete with Zema it would seem the Alouettes want their punter to handle kick-offs. This would allow kicker David Cote to focus on scoring points and not flipping field position. This actually bodes well for Mengel, whose speciality in the USFL was exactly that.
Could we see more players head to the CFL?
I’m curious if losing a couple players to the USFL is what prompted them to look into players that were released by the Alouettes. Ironically, one of the people to congratulate Mengel on winning Special Teams Player of the Week? His new teammate Fabian Guerra Jr.
With just a couple more weeks left of USFL action, I am sure we will see more players make the leap from the USFL to the CFL if they are released, the question is simply who will make the move up North next?