Montreal Alouettes Offensive Line Decisions

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Alouettes Offensive Line
OTTAWA, ON - AUGUST 31: Philippe Gagnon (53 -- G) of the Montreal Alouettes in Canadian Football League (CFL) action at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, Canada, August 31, 2018. The Montreal Alouettes defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 21-11. (Photo by Sean Burges/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Alouettes Offensive Line Needs to be Better

The Montreal Alouettes were terrible this season. The Alouettes Offensive Line could not protect Montreal’s young quarterbacks. Over the course of the season, the Alouettes gave up an astounding league-worst 66 sacks! To put this into perspective the next worst team, the Ottawa Redblacks, only surrendered 43 sacks. If the Alouettes are to have a chance at winning General Manager Kavis Reed will need to reinforce the Offensive line. But what can he do?

State of the Union

In order to see what Kavis Reed needs to fix, it is important to assess how the Alouettes offensive line looked at the end of the season. Specifically in the last three games where the team was playing for the future. Here is how the offensive line looked:

* Indicates International Left Tackle Left Guard Centre Right Guard Right Tackle
Sat Oct 20 @ Tor
WASHINGTON, T *
JAMIESON, S.
MATTE, K.
GAGNON, P
RODGERS, N. *
Sun Oct 28 Vs Tor
WASHINGTON, T *
MATTE, K.
B.-JOURDAIN, L
GAGNON, P
RODGERS, N. *
Sat Nov 3 @Ham
WASHINGTON, T *
MATTE, K.
B.-JOURDAIN, L
GAGNON, P
RODGERS, N. *

Left Tackle

Longtime CFL veteran Tony Washington anchored the Alouettes blind side. The Alouettes pressed Washington into service immediately after acquiring him from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Johnny Manziel trade. Washington proved to be a reliable presence and improved the Alouettes pass protection.

However, Washington is a free agent. While Kavis Reed is confident that the Alouettes will be able to conclude a new deal, the Alouettes must explore alternatives. Internally there is one option. The Alouettes selected 26-year-old National Tyler Johnstone in the 2018 supplemental draft. Johnstone oozes potential. However, he suffered a knee injury in August and wasn’t able to play more than one game. The future of the Alouettes blind side rests with Johnstone but it may be more beneficial to focus on bringing in a veteran in order to provide time for Johnstone’s development. One potential option is free agent Joel Figueroa. Figueroa is a six-year veteran who anchored some impressive offensive lines in both BC and Edmonton. While it would probably take a deal that includes above average money for an offensive lineman as well as multi-year term, it is something Reed should explore.

Prediction: Tony Washington resigns a one-year deal. Johnstone acts as depth.

Left Guard

24-year-old National Sean Jamieson and 33-year-old National Kristian Matte split duties at left guard. Matte is a long time Alouette. Drafted by Montreal in the 1st Round of the 2010 CFL Draft, Matte played 117 games total on the Alouettes offensive line. While Matte’s contributions to the organization’s success are tangible, at 33 he is not the long-term solution. Additionally Matte is a free agent.

The Alouettes already have the solution in 22-year-old National Trey Rutherford. Drafted 2nd overall in the 2018 CFL Draft Rutherford has to be considered a cornerstone of the Alouettes rebuild. Rutherford played sporadically throughout the season, ending with 9 games played in total. While he doesn’t have a ton of experience, Rutherford has to be considered the favourite to start next season at left guard.

Prediction: Rutherford starts at Left Guard. Matte is resigned to a one year deal and moves to Centre.

Centre

This is traditionally the territory of longtime Alouette great Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. Drafted by Montreal in the 2008 CFL Draft, Brodeur-Jourdain has amassed 167 games for the Alouettes. A fair amount of these starts were at Centre. Brodeur-Jourdain is a solid and reliable option but he is coming to the end of his career. At the start of 2018, he openly acknowledged this, stating that he was grateful to have the opportunity to attend training camp.

Brodeur-Jourdain is a free agent and it remains to be seen if the Alouettes will resign him. If he doesn’t come back the simple solution is an internal one. Matte is cross-trained as a Centre and played the position at times throughout the 2018 season. While Matte is not a long-term solution he should be able to buy enough time for the Alouettes to either draft or sign another Centre.

Prediction: Brodeur-Jourdain retires and Matte moves to Centre.

Right Guard

Phillipe Gagnon held this spot for 11 games throughout the season. Gagnon is a 26-year-old National who was drafted by Alouettes in the 1st round of the 2016 CFL Draft. While he injured his left knee in 2017, Gagnon demonstrated that he recovered fully in 2018 by providing effective run blocking on the right side.

Gagnon is a free agent but must be considered as a key piece of the Alouettes future. Kavis Reed needs to prioritize Gagnon’s contract and lock him into a multi-year deal. It should be achievable and I suspect Gagnon will be back in 2019

Prediction: Gagnon is signed to a two-year deal and starts at Right Guard.

Right Tackle

23-year-old International Na’ty Rodgers looked good in his late-season debut at right tackle. Rodgers is a product of the University of Houston who signed with the Alouettes in 2018 after being released by Winnipeg in training camp. He’s signed for the 2019 season and will most likely be the starter heading into training camp.

Prediction: Rodgers maintains his grip as the starting right tackle.

The Last Word

The Alouettes Offensive Line is a work in progress. While odds are minimal that the entire line will change over, 2019 could bring some fresh faces to the roster. With 4 2018 starters currently free agents Kavis Reed faces a critical offseason. He must decide how quickly the talented 2018 draft picks Rutherford and Johnstone can be relied upon to start. Additionally, Reed must decide on the future of longtime players Kristian Matte and Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. The future success of the franchise may rest on these decisions.

Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images

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