Durant, Jackson, Olafioye added in major shakeup of Alouettes by new GM Reed

MONTREAL — After missing the playoffs for a second straight year, the Montreal Alouettes were due for a shakeup.

What they got was more like an earthquake.

A new general manager, a new quarterback and a load of new players.

“It’s football,” said linebacker Chip Cox, one of the few veterans still with the club. “It’s just what happens.

“When new front office people come in they want different people. That’s what it is.”

Owners Bob and Andrew Wetenhall gave the club its first jolt by firing Jim Popp, the team’s only GM since rejoining the CFL in 1996. Then they handed the job to special teams co-ordinator Kavis Reed on the understanding that he keep Jacques Chapdelaine, who replaced Popp as head coach last September.

Then Reed made three major off-season moves, acquiring veteran quarterback Darian Durant from the Saskatchewan Roughriders, all-star tackle Jovan Olafioye from the B.C. Lions and star receiver Ernest Jackson from the Ottawa Redblacks.

But to rebuild the offence, he took apart one of the CFL’s best defences. Mainstay linebackers Winston Venable and Bear Woods, defensive linemen Alan-Michael Cash and Aaron Lavarius and safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette were let go.

Unproven Anthony Sarao is the new middle linebacker, between aging returnees Cox and Kyries Hebert, while CFL veteran Keith Shologan moves in as defensive tackle. The club’s all-time sacks leader John Bowman is back for a 12th campaign.

While the defence may not be as airtight as in past years, a better attack may keep the ball longer and give them more rest.

“It’ll help the Alouettes having a stable offence,” said Cox. “We’re not looking for the defence’s job to be light.

“If we have to go out and pitch a shutout we’ll do the best the can. It’s football and we’re a team.”

Acquiring Durant was the boldest move. The Alouettes have not had a proven top-level quarterback since Anthony Calvillo retired in 2013, going through more than a dozen pivots since then. Signing veteran Kevin Glenn in 2016 didn’t pan out, but now they’ll try again with Durant.

The 34-year-old spent his first 11 seasons with the Roughriders, winning a Grey Cup in Regina in 2013. He has had injury troubles the last three seasons, including a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon in the 2015 opener, but he played in 15 games last season and passed for nearly 4,000 yards on a last-place team.

Durant turned a knee and was sidelined a week during training camp, but says he’s close to top form for the season opener, which coincidentally will be against Saskatchewan.

“I didn’t feel any effects from it,” said Durant, who easily took to Chapdelaine’s system because the two worked together with the Riders in 2015. “I’m looking forward to another week of rest and getting ready to go.”

The receiving corps lost stalwart S.J. Green but gained Jackson to go with returnees Nik Lewis, B.J. Cunningham, Tiquan Underwood and the currently injured Samuel Giguere.

The offensive line, a rock of consistency when Montreal was a league power in the 2000s, needed major work. It’s been shored up with Americans at both tackle positions — Olafioye and Brian Simmons.

Strong-legged kicker Boris Bede, who endured a nasty field goals slump last season, looks to have his confidence back. And veteran Stefan Logan is back to return kicks.

Chapdelaine, who spent most of his career as an offensive co-ordinator, went 4-2 after taking over last season. Vernon Adams, who went 3-0 down the stretch as the starter, is Durant’s backup for now, although the coach likes newcomer Matt Shiltz and they reportedly may sign former NFL pivot Josh Freeman.

Chapdelaine has kept the offensive co-ordinator job and his son Justin is the new receivers coach. Noel Thorpe is back as defensive co-ordinator with newcomer Bruce Reed handling special teams. Calvillo is now quarterbacks coach and former defensive back Billy Parker is a defensive assistant coach.

Just Posted

Red Deer College waiting for feds to finalize marijuana legalization

Like businesses, Alberta and municipal governments, Red Deer College is waiting for… Continue reading

Class size only part of the problem say Central Alberta teachers

Though the Alberta auditor general’s report points out that classroom sizes continue… Continue reading

Lacombe County promoting crime prevention measures

County pushing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles

Red Deer doctor concerned about patient transfers to rural hospitals

Family physician says the move creates less incentive for expansion at Red Deer hospital

Fire permit season begins in March

Earlier springs in last few years prompted Alberta government to move up fire permit season

WATCH: Red Deer’s River Bend upgrades officially open

River Bend Golf and Recreation Area is the latest venue to be… Continue reading

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Stores make push in scan and go tech, hope shoppers adopt it

NEW YORK — Shoppers at self-checkout lanes scanning all their groceries after… Continue reading

‘Stars seemed to have aligned’ for new Halifax CFL bid, commissioner says

HALIFAX — CFL fans in Halifax have been told the league is… Continue reading

The language of ‘Black Panther’? It’s real. Give it a try.

OTTAWA — The military’s top general has promised to get to the… Continue reading

New execution date set for Georgia’s ‘stocking strangler’

ATLANTA — A man known as the “stocking strangler,” who was convicted… Continue reading

Man says he kicked Chevy Chase in self-defence in dispute

SOUTH NYACK, N.Y. — A New York man says he kicked Chevy… Continue reading

Supporters of Tina Fontaine’s family march in Winnipeg to support her family

WINNIPEG — Hundreds marched through the streets of Winnipeg on Friday in… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month