Regardless of the identity of the quarterback, the Alouettes’ offense is doing very well, but in football, what a team does on offense often depends on the defense. That’s why I want to draw attention to the work of Noel Thorpe, defensive coordinator for the Montreal team.
I recently bumped into Thorpe and he’s having fun. He’s having fun this season with the Alouettes, because the players know his game well. These defensive players remind me of a troop of ninjas. They are ready to pounce, to put pressure and thus to make the opposing attack hesitate.
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While an athlete tries to surprise on one play, there is always another to compensate. The players know how to distribute themselves on the pitch. That’s the beauty of Noel Thorpe’s system! And the defensive unit doesn’t just play football, it studies the opposing team’s tendencies. It’s a matter of preparation and clear communication.
In concrete terms, note that the Alouettes have allowed only 155 points in eight games this season, which corresponds to an average of 19.3 points allowed per game. When a defensive unit gives the opponent less than 24 points in a game, they usually give their team a good chance of winning. For the Alouettes, we are talking about an average of less than 20 points allowed.
Alexandre Gagné: a discovery
Beyond attack and defense, there are also special units. At this level, I loved the work of Quebecer Alexandre Gagné, who continually won his battles in this facet of the game, last Friday, at Percival-Molson Stadium, in the 41 to 12 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. For me, Gagné is a real discovery, combining strength and speed. He reminds me of a certain Walter Spencer, who won the Gray Cup twice with the Alouettes, in 2009 and 2010.
Of course, the combination formed by quarterback Caleb Evans and running back Walter Fletcher also impressed against the Roughriders. More mobile, Evans is not the same type of athlete as Cody Fajardo, who stays more in the pocket. We are talking about two different styles.
Puzzle for the opponent
The Alouettes’ coaches will now have to identify the starting quarterback for the next games, including Saturday’s game in Ottawa. No emergency. There is a strategic reason why a team deliberately hides this information.
Meanwhile, the enemy club must be prepared to counter two different styles. The possibility of using Fajardo or Evans – and why not both? – represents a headache for opposing defenses. We’re talking about a two-headed monster. Even Noel Thorpe might be annoyed to have to do such preparation.
Interview by Benoît Rioux