Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Alouettes Shouldn't Sell Themselves Short at QB

The biggest question mark regarding the Montreal Alouettes last off-season was that surrounding their Quarterback situation, where fans wondered and hoped that GM Jim Popp had found Anthony Calvillo's successor in Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State University.

It would seem as though one year later, Alouettes fans find themselves in the exact same situation as the season prior; hoping another Quarterback who had a promising finish to his rookie season will take the next step in year 2 and replace Calvillo, with that new supposed successor now being former Tennessee Volunteer Jonathon Crompton.

As we all know, the Troy Smith era ended horribly. Smith, who was the unquestioned starter heading into training camp and the regular season, led Montreal to a 1-5 start while displaying terrible accuracy and high-school level decision-making. He was eventually benched in favour of Alex Brink (who was later passed over in favour of Crompton), and was released by week 17 after spending weeks burried on the 6-game injured list.

This time around, the Alouettes won't be making the same mistake they made with Smith; or at least I hope/ don't think they will.

GM Jim Popp decided to bring in some competition for Crompton in Free Agency, rather than naming him "The Guy" before the season like his team did with Smith one year prior.

The Alouettes inked former Tiger-Cat backup QB Dan LeFevour, who showed lots of potential during 4 starts with Hamilton in 2014 before suffering a torn ligament in his knee, to a one year contract. Popp isn't letting Crompton get too comfortable heading into his second season with the Als, a new approach the club seems to be taking with their Quarterback situation that I completely agree with.

Now I am by no means saying Jonathon Crompton will be a bust like Troy Smith. And while I'm also not necessarily sold on him either, I do believe he can be a serviceable Quarterback in this league, which compared to Troy Smith, is a huge improvement. 

So why should the Alouettes display what would seem like a lack of faith in Crompton, who has a playoff win under his belt, by making it an open QB competition in training camp come June? 

In short, I think the ceiling of Dan LeFevour's potential is higher than that of Crompton. 

We seem to have uncovered a lot on Jonathon Crompton during his 11 games with the Alouettes. Crompton seems like what coaches call a game-manager: which is a Quarterback who, despite relatively poor individual statistics such as passing yards and touchdowns, manages to perform well enough to win games. Game-managers often benefit from strong defences and rushing attacks on their team, or in Crompton's case, great play from a great receiving corps.

Crompton relied heavily on his big receivers to make plays for him, something that isn't always a bad idea when you have elite targets such as Duron Carter and SJ Green on the receiving end. However, this gutsy play-style Crompton displayed tends to be an unsustainable approach in football, and I don't expect Crompton to "revolutionize" the position with his top target Duron Carter gone to the NFL in 2015. 

In year one with the Alouettes, Crompton finished with an eye-opening 8-2 record, along with a huge blow-out playoff win over the BC Lions to boot. While a large majority of the those wins were mainly because of Montreal's great defensive play, Crompton undeniably did his part in turning the Alouettes season around. 

In essentially 11 starts, Crompton finished the year with 2,482 yards passing, 11 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, a 58.1 completion percentage and a Quarterback Rating of 85.2; below average, but serviceable stats for a starting QB. 

While it seems unfair to label Crompton as a "game-manager" so early into his career, it's who he has always been ever since his college days as a Tennessee Volunteer. Crompton never passed for more than 2,800 yards in a season with the Vols, and operated a run-heavy offence that saw the majority of Crompton's big plays come off play-action. 

A full training camp with Montreal and a new offensive coordinator in Turk Schonert will undoubtably help #18 out, and a competition with Dan LeFevour may even bring out the best of him. 

LeFevour, meanwhile, played tremendous for the Tiger-Cats in four starts while starting QB Zach Collaros was out with a concussion. 

Despite his 1-3 record that can primarily be blamed on poor defence and far too many penalties on all three sides of the ball, the former Central Michigan Star played very well, throwing for 1,276 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, a 67.8 completion percentage and QB rating of 92; which amount to an average of 319 passing and 78.5 rushing yards per game. 

Speaking of rushing yards, LeFevour's legs and presence in the ground game are one of the many differences between him and Crompton. In fact, it's safe to say the two 2010 NFL draft selections are basically complete opposites judging by their play styles. 

LeFevour is anything but a game-manager. As shown by his stats with the Tiger-Cats and while at Central Michigan University, LeFevour has always been the centre piece of the offence. While at CMU, LeFevour was a four year starter who put on a show; typically throwing around 3,300 yards per season and 27 touchdowns with an impressive 66.4 career completion percentage. He also had 2,948 career rushing yards and 47 touchdowns. Scarily, the former 6th round NFL draft pick's stats are nearly identical to those he posted with Hamilton. 

LeFevour's knee injury is one concern  regarding the third year pivot. Fortunately, he has no history of injuries and frankly, it's not 1985; modern medicine and technology has recovering from major knee injuries quicker and better than ever- unless of course your name is Robert Griffin III or Derrick Rose. 

LeFevour may also not seem like a perfect fit for Turk Schonert's offensive system. While I would expect the system to be slightly adjusted to LeFevour's mobility if he was named the starter, I would also like to point out that he has never had trouble as a drop-back passer before in his career. Not only that, but he'll be playing behind one of the league's best offensive lines, a huge bonus for the development of both LeFevour and Crompton. 

It may seem un-loyal to Crompton, who is 9-3 as a starter, to not have him number one on the depth chart on day one of training camp, but the Alouettes really can't afford to make the same mistake they made with Troy Smith in handing him the starting job. 

As I mentioned earlier, Crompton is already far better than Smith and won't be a bust like the former Buckeye, but the Alouettes should be careful with naming him the starter after only starting half the season. If Crompton truly is the better Quarterback, he'll prove it in the pre-season. Unlike last year, Coach Tom Higgins has the luxury of having two young talented Quarterback's and should give them both a chance to be "The Guy." 

If LeFevour isn't given a fair shot with split 50/50 reps in practice, the Als may be selling themselves short and wasting his talent, if in fact he is a better option at Quarterback than Jonathon Crompton. 

Dan deserves an opportunity to be "The Man" for Montreal, and should be given every opportunity to be successful and help the team. The Als have made it clear through Free Agency that they are going all out on a Grey Cup run in 2015, and should probably make sure they have their best option behind centre if they wish to make an appearance at Investors Group Field come late November. 

The best way to do that is with an open competition in training camp. 

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