The Montreal Alouettes receiving room is going to look a lot different in 2023 than it did the year before. Here’s a recap of personnel changes and what the depth chart may look like.
Roles to Fill
One of the big stories of the offseason is the blockbuster signing of Eugen Lewis to the Edmonton Elks. That’s a massive hole to fill. Lewis was 3rd in the CFL in 2022 in receiving yards with 1,303 yards. Lewis also had 91 receptions and 10 touchdowns.
Montreal also lost its receiver who was 3rd in receiving yards in Jake Wieneke who contributed 589 yards in 2022. Wieneke signed with Saskatchewan on the first day of free agency.
Montreal also lost one of its top Canadian receivers in Hergy Mayala. Mayala had 409 yards receiving in 2022 and was 6th on the team in that metric. Mayala was a 1st round pick for Calgary in 2019. He signed with his hometown Montreal where he played for 1 season. Mayala is signed for 2023 with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL.
Montreal signed Greg Ellingson 1 day after losing Eugene Lewis. Before the 2020 season was canceled as a result of covid-19, Ellingson had 5 straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Ellingson missed a lot of time in the last 2 seasons as a result of injuries. He missed 10 games in 2022 when playing for the Blue Bombers. Despite this, Ellingson still had a receiving yards-per-game rate in each of his last 2 seasons that would have seen him finish over 1,200 yards in an 18-game season.
If the 34-year-old can stay healthy this coming season, Ellingson will be an extremely valuable tool for the Alouettes offense.
The Alouettes signed Canadian receiver, Jake Harty. Harty was a member of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders for the last 2 seasons. Last season hard had 11 receptions and 66 yards in 9 games.
The Montreal Alouettes are putting a serious emphasis on finding receiver talent after losing Eugene Lewis this offseason. As of now, they have signed 10 rookie receivers aging from 23 to 25 years old, many of whom had NFL interest last year. No other team in the CFL is bringing in more rookie receivers than Montreal.
This year’s preseason games are going to be exciting for Montreal fans who enjoy watching talented receivers. The preseason is going to be huge in determining which of these 10 receivers makes the team.
Link to my summary of the 10 rookie receivers.
Depth Chart Prediction
The Montreal Alouettes depth chart could look something like this below if Montreal elects to dress 4 American receivers and 4 Canadian receivers.
The signing of Greg Ellingson also adds some flexibility to what the Alouettes can do regarding the CFL ratio rule. In 2022 the rule was that 7 starters must be Canadian players. In 2023 the rule will be that 8 of the starters must be Canadian, but one of these players can now be fulfilled by a designated Nationalized American. To be considered eligible for the “Nationalized American” designation a player needs to either have 3 years of CFL experience in the same city or 5 total years in the CFL.
If the Montreal Alouettes really like some of the rookie receivers they could elect to designate Ellingson as a Nationalized American to start an additional American receiver. A possible receiver starting lineup with 3 Canadian receivers could look something like this.
There is also the option to use two nationalized Americans to substitute a National starter for up to 49 percent of snaps. Ellingson could be used in a change-up role-playing nearly half the game to open the door to start an additional of the highly talented American rookie receivers.
Here is what it might look like if Montreal elected to dress 2 Canadian receivers and designate Ellingson as a Nationalized American. I would consider this to be an unlikely scenario given the ratio rule, however, the Alouettes do really have a lot of talented rookie American receivers coming into camp so it is not unfeasible.
Please note that there are many talented receivers in the rookie group and we will get a better idea of who is making the team come preseason. The depth chart above shows what it could look like working in 2 of their rookie receivers. I am not going to make predictions of who makes the team and who does not out of that group.
Last year the Alouettes typically would start only 3 American receivers and 4 Canadian receivers. There was a handful of games mid-season where Montreal was dressing 8 receivers.
Montreal’s new head coach, Jason Maas, was the Saskatchewan offensive coordinator whereas Saskatchewan also followed this stratagem of typically starting 3 American receivers and 4 Canadian receivers.
There are many different ways to handle the ratio rule. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers for example would typically start 4 American receivers last year and 3 Canadian receivers most games.
Reggie White started every game he was healthy. Contributed 2 touchdowns and 48 yards a game over 15 games. Currently, I predict him to start this year.
Greg Ellingson at age 34 is still an elite receiver. I predict him to start when healthy.
Tyson Philpot was Montreal’s 2022 first-round draft selection. Showed significant progress throughout the season. Finished the regular season with 459 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the first 15 games, he played in a backup role and saw his target share increase throughout the season.
Philpot finished the year with a monster game in the playoff loss to Montreal in which he had 8 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. I predict Philpot to be a starter and likely the top Canadian so long as he continues to build on his progress from last season.
Cole Spieker was one of 2 players invited to training camp following open tryouts. Spieker did not dress in a game until week 19 in which he was not targeted. In his second game in the CFL, he had 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Spieker missed the next game due to an injury. He contributed 4 catches for 66 yards in the playoff loss to Toronto.
Spieker should be given the opportunity to start given the high production generated during the times he played. It may be challenging to earn the starting position given the fact that he only has 2 games starting under his belt and the number of receivers coming into camp this year.
Spieker had the most yards per game over his two starts at 85.5. Eugene Lewis averaged 78.1 yards per game.
Chandler Worthy was not often the most utilized player on offense last year but his kick and punt returns make him very valuable. In 2022 Worthy returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns.
Jake Harty dressed every game he was healthy for Saskatchewan last year. He played 3 games as a starter and 6 in a backup capacity. In Saskatchewan, he played under offensive Coordinator Jason Maas who is now Montreal’s head coach. I expect Harty to play in a backup position this year. He may have to compete for his spot in the lineup with Kaion Julien-Grant if the Als dress more American receivers.
Kaion Julien-Grant dressed in a backup role in every game except 1 in which he was injured. Contributed to special teams. Caught 2 catches for 8 yards. I predict him to play in a backup role behind a Canadian receiver if the Alouettes dress 4 Canadian receivers. If the Alouettes elect to dress 3 Canadian receivers he may contest for a backup role with Jake Harty.
Kevin Kaya spent most of the year on the practice squad. He played in 5 games in a backup role catching 2 passes for 25 yards. I don’t see the Montreal Carabin product in the lineup in week 1. His chance to make the practice squad is heightened by the fact teams are allowed to have an additional 2 Global players on their practice squad and I see Montreal using this as a way to maximize the number of talented receivers they can carry on their roster.
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