Alouettes search for answers to early defensive woes

It’s been a tough start to the CFL season for the Montreal Alouettes defence but coach Marc Trestman feels it will get better. The once-feared defence has surrendered nearly 35 points per game while forging a 2-2 record to start the season.

MONTREAL — It’s been a tough start to the CFL season for the Montreal Alouettes defence but coach Marc Trestman feels it will get better.

The once-feared defence has surrendered nearly 35 points per game while forging a 2-2 record to start the season. The club is coming off a 39-24 loss in Hamilton on Saturday.

The changes began when the team got back together on Tuesday to begin preparations for a visit on Friday night from quarterback Ricky Ray and the Toronto Argonauts.

Aaron Hunt, the biggest name among their off-season free agent signings, was released, although Trestman was quick to note that the former B.C. Lion was not being made the scapegoat.

“It was strictly a football decision,” he said. “As I told the players, we don’t make decisions on maliciousness or threatening anybody.

“Aaron Hunt was class guy. He was good for our locker room. He was good people. Aaron Hunt isn’t the reason we lost the game last week either. We evaluated it and felt we wanted to move some of the younger guys in and see what they can do.”

Newcomer Michael Cash is to take over Hunt’s spot at defensive tackle beside veteran J.P. Bekasiak. They also have tackles Ventrell Jenkins and Luc Mullinder on hand.

Hunt signed with Montreal after winning a Grey Cup and being named a CFL all-star for a second time with B.C. in 2011, when he had seven sacks. He averaged one tackle per game and had no sacks in four starts in Montreal, but will likley be attractive to other teams seeking a defensive lineman.

The Alouettes released another free agent, former Edmonton Eskimo Mark Restelli, after training camp. Others like linebacker Rod Davis and safety Kyries Hebert have become regulars on the team.

The signings were part of major personnel changes on defence that ushered out veterans like rush end Anwar Stewart, tackle Eric Wilson, linebackers Diamond Ferri and Ramon Guzman, cornerback Mark Estelle and safety Etienne Boulay.

Trestman said it was too early to judge if there were too many changes at once.

“I look at other teams and there’s as many changes as there is here,” he said. “We have no excuses.

“We feel we have good football in place. We feel we have good players. We feel we’re better. We really do.” The club was also weakened at defensive tackle before the season started with an injury to veteran Moton Hopkins.

And they are adjusting to a new defensive co-ordinator in Jeff Rhinebold, last seen in the CFL as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1998. They have a first-year linebackers coach in Matt Sheldon.

Hebert feels it is a matter of time before the defence finds its game.

“At times you can feel the growing pains and at other times you see us coming together,” he said. “Consistency is the important thing, and we’re working on that every week.

So far, the Alouettes have allowed the most first downs (108) and have allowed the most completions (102) with the highest average gain per pass (9.5 yards) in the eight-team league. They have also allowed a league-high seven rushing touchdowns, although they are tied with Winnipeg for fewest average yards allowed on rushing plays (4.3).

Trestman feels the Alouettes have fixed their early-season woes on special teams, even if the Ticats broke a long one on a missed field goal last week. He said two players owned up to leaving a lane open on that play.

He was encouraged by longer returns from rookie Trent Guy and better overall kick coverage.

And while the offence has moved in fits and starts, veteran Anthony Calvillo is in his usual spot atop CFL quarterbacking stats with 1,316 passing yards, 10 TDs and only three interceptions. That despite playing since the opening week with a badly swollen left (non-throwing) shoulder.

The 39-year-old was upbeat that he can now lift the injured arm to about chest-high, whereas last week he mostly kept it by his side.

”After each game it got a whole lot better,” he said. ”Even last game I was able to move it around a little more.

”So the range is coming back, which I’m excited about because last week I expected it to get better and it didn’t. It’s not where it needs to be, but there’s been a big improvement in the last few days.”

Trestman said there was no talk of a piece of showboating by Hamilton’s Chris Williams, who turned and ran backwards toward the end zone on a return, only to be stopped at the one by Brian Ridgeway.

”He came right up to me after the game and apologized for his actions, which says something about him,” Trestman said of Williams. ”People should know that. He’s a terrific young player. Hopefully he won’t do it again. He’s given a lesson to a lot of young guys running for touchdowns.”

He also praised Ridgeway for a heads-up play. Montreal took a penalty on the play that would have been added onto the kickoff if Williams wasn’t stopped, likely leaving the Alouettes in weaker field position.

Just Posted

Candles, flowers, messages of support at scene of Toronto van attack

TORONTO — Candles, flowers and messages of support are being left this… Continue reading

Trudeau calls van attack ‘horrific and senseless,’ says no apparent terror link

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a Toronto man’s deadly rampage… Continue reading

Restaurant Brands announces ‘Working Together’ plan to improve Tim Hortons

OAKVILLE, Ont. — Restaurant Brands International Inc. announced a plan to improve… Continue reading

AP-NORC poll: Privacy debacle prompts social-media changes

NEW YORK — If you’ve made changes to how you use social… Continue reading

Get Into My Car … Amazon begins delivery to vehicles

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon latest perk … free delivery to your car.… Continue reading

WATCH: Central Alberta dancers take over Red Deer College with their moves

Danceworks Central Alberta Dance Festival is now in its 38th year

Habana, World Cup winner & Springbok record-holder, retiring

Bryan Habana, the lightning-fast South Africa wing and World Cup winner with… Continue reading

Canadians head home after U-17 soccer tournament called off due to violence

Canada coach Bev Priestman was preparing her team for a game Sunday… Continue reading

TV’s ‘Homeland’ feels challenge of competing with real world

WASHINGTON — Members of the cast of TV’s “Homeland” call it “spy… Continue reading

Opioid treatment gap in Medicare: methadone clinics

One in three older Americans with Medicare drug coverage is prescribed opioid… Continue reading

‘RFK Funeral Train’ show: Kennedy’s final journey in photos

SAN FRANCISCO — The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 50 years… Continue reading

Ten dead, 15 injured in van incident authorities call an horrific attack

TORONTO — The death toll rose to at least 10 late Monday… Continue reading

Andersen leads Maple Leafs in win over Bruins to force Game 7

Maple Leafs 3 Bruins 1 (Best of seven game series tied at… Continue reading

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

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