Neither of the starting quarterbacks will be on the field when the Montreal Alouettes play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the first CFL pre-season game for both teams at Percival Molson Stadium on Thursday night.
Both Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo and Winnipeg’s Buck Pierce will take the night off along with most established veterans as coaches get their first look in game action at the players they’ve been working hard at training camp the past two weeks.
The teams finished tied atop the East Division last season at 10-8, with Winnipeg ranked first because it won the season series between them.
It will be a first game for the Alouettes new defensive co-ordinator Jeff Reinebold, a former Winnipeg head coach.
”I’m excited for the team,” veteran guard Scott Flory said Wednesday. ”We’ve got incredible talent and our coaching staff is amazing.”
The injury-struck Alouettes crashed out in the East semifinal against Hamilton, while the Bombers reached the Grey Cup game only to fall 34-23 to the host B.C. Lions.
The Bombers will start Alex Brink at quarterback with Joey Elliott and Justin Glotz, who is battling for the third-string quarterback job, coming on in relief.
Montreal, which made the surprise decision to cut third-stringer Ricky Santos last week, is expected to go with Adrian McPherson and Josh Neiwswander.
But coaches will be watching the defensive line prospects on both sides.
The Alouettes are rebuilding their line after veterans Anwar Stewart and Eric Wilson were let go. Also, rush end John Bowman was injured during a scrimmage this week and will be out four-to-six weeks, probably missing the first three regular-season games. Tackle Moton Hopkins is out even longer with a blood clot on a lung.
Montreal picked up help in the off-season in veterans Aaron Hunt and Luc Mullinder and have tackle J.P. Bekasiak returning, but there is work available if a newcomer can stand out in the pre-season.
The Bombers defensive line is in the same boat after losing Doug Brown, who retired and is now in broadcasting, and Odell Willis.
But unlike Montreal, which has its offensive line set and healthy, the Bombers will be watching their big men after losing veterans Brendon Labatte and Obby Khan in the off-season and with Glenn January and Andre Douglas injured.
Paul Swiston, a six-foot-nine O-line prospect, will likely get a close look.
Montreal’s offence, which led the league in points scored last season, is mostly intact, except for the retirement of receiver Kerry Watkins and the departure of fullback Kerry Carter.
”The stability on the offensive side of the ball will help us,” said Flory, who won’t play the first exhibition game. ”We’re five years into the same system (under coach Marc Trestman) with a lot of the same guys.
”Some guys left, like (running back) Avon Cobourne, but then Brendan Whitaker came in and did a great job. You have to credit management for that. On the offensive line, all the starting five guys and the sixth and seventh guys are draft picks.”
The Alouettes complete their pre-season schedule with a visit to Toronto June 19 while Winnipeg next plays at home June 20 against Hamilton.
The Bombers open the regular season June 29 with a Grey Cup rematch at B.C., while Montreal visits Calgary on July 1.
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