October 2016 – Cato and Adams Jr. – An Embarrassment of Riches

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Something MONUMENTAL happened to the Alouettes in their 19-14 win against Regina. NO. It wasn’t Vernon Adams’ first EVER CFL start, win or touchdown pass. After all, Adams went 11/24 with a touchdown and an interception: a QB rating in the mid-60’s…in the pouring rain. AND it wasn’t the fact that the Alouettes won their 1st game in WEEKS. NEITHER was it that we learned we CAN win…even without Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford.

It would appear that yesterday afternoon marked the end of the line for Jacob Ruby at left tackle. Or perhaps ANYWHERE on this team. Zeke explains:

As the second half began, the Als benched the struggling Ruby. Philip Blake slid over to play left-tackle and Jake Piotrowski entered the game at left guard. 

It should have been my headline: “End of the Line for Ruby”. It could have been my headline. After the 1st half, my CFL buds and I were placing bets on how many sacks the Alouettes would concede by the end of the game. It was up to 6 by the end of the half with PLENTY more to come. I had 9 but I was wrong…because as I mentioned, something happened: the line started looking a WHOLE lot better.

With Piotrowski injured in the 2nd half, here’s the NEW “offensive-lineup”: LT: 68 Philip Blake  LG: 51 Christian Matte  C: 58 Luc Brodeur-Jourdain  RG: 53 Philippe Gagnon  LT: 54 Jeff Perrett. The return of Allstar LBJ at centre, and switching Matte to LG, along with replacing Ruby with Blake at left tackle MAY just do the job. Looked DAMN good on this play! Wonder what took them so long?*

Now I KNOW that in the CFL you’re going to have what, 3 rush ends…max? By the third quarter they’re almost spent, and the rush generally calms right down. But things looked REALLY desperate in the 1st half, with Adams making Houdini look like an amateur escapeologist.

If we assume the O-line problem has gone from desperate to manageable, the next question is what to do about our quarterbacks? As one of those aforementioned CFL buds remarked,”If you’ve got a great defence and a solid O-line, it doesn’t matter who’s quarterback.” It’s worth noting the comment was made by an American, and doesn’t QUITE apply to the CFL game in the same way. Still, a defence like ours coupled with a solid O-line would have seen us making the playoffs this season, of that I have ZERO doubt.

A great deal was made last week about Cato BAILING on contact, on a number of occasions. While Adams scrambled magnificently yesterday, even TSN announcers noticed that as the game progressed, he was less and less likely to take the “easy” running yards ahead of him, preferring to throw the ball, regardless of the wisdom of the choice. It’s worth remembering that THIS was Adams’ first taste of being tackled in the open field by adult human beings. HUGE adult barely human monsters, rather.

After 6 sacks in the 1st half, I can easily understand his reluctance. Give him a full season behind the porous line that has made Kevin Glenn and Rakeem Cato’s lives a gridiron nightmare, and I can see Adams VISIBLY bailing on contact too.

HOW Jacques Chapdelaine managed to pull the trigger on Ruby is obviously a question.* Popp has a LOT of power over which of his pet projects gets to play. An interim coach pulling an olineman, no matter HOW incompetent, is an act of courage…to say the least. UNLESS he got permission beforehand. In any event the move paid off. We won.

Adams is an interesting duck. At 5’11”, 200lbs he resembles no one so much as Darian Durant (5’11”, 212lbs) himself. Same build, a decade younger, Adams will no doubt fill out to the same weight, more or less. NOT the best arm ever, but enough pop to get the job done.

But where Adams so obviously excels is in his scrambling ability. Where Cato has an uncanny talent for making tacklers miss in the open field, with abrupt changes of direction being his main advantage, Adams uses his shorter, stockier body to escape his pursuers in close quarters…a USEFUL talent when your O-line can’t stop a sink, let alone a pass rush.

So here’s my appraisal of the two…with an admittedly TINY and soggy sample size on the Adams side:

Cato has the better arm. His accuracy and arm strength are phenomenal. Adams is the better scrambler. His smaller size and stockier build makes him more elusive in close quarters. BOTH have the tools and can be developed into COMPLETE 2-way quarterbacks. Assuming an adequate O-line…and a defensive squad that’s been nothing less than MAGNIFICENT in the 2 games since the SCRAPPING of the 3-4 on EVERY down…the future looks VERY bright for this team.

Lest we forget what Rakeem Cato can do when given sufficient time:

Complementary quarterback talents are a rare enough occurrence in this league. That DICK-TATORIAL salary cap has many teams focusing on a STARTER, and whatever forlorn QB projects they can muster. But with Kevin Glenn gone, the Alouettes can certainly afford to keep two young talents like Cato and Adams. If the last few years of the “quarterback abattoir” has taught CFL observers ANYTHING…it’s that teams need MORE than just one legitimate pivot. Developing Cato and Adams gives Chapdelaine the chance to create a playbook suited to the skills of BOTH, and then call plays according to the situation, and the minor difference in each’s talents.

Think Condredge Holloway and Tom Clements winning the 1974 Grey Cup for Ottawa. BOTH were great scramblers, Clements arguably with the better arm, Holloway with a leg up on the running. I have NEVER seen a more potent 1-2 quarterback punch, with the possible exception of Warren Moon and Tom Wilkinson. And they won 5 Cups in a row.

Clements-Holloway.JPG

That’s right folks. I’m calling for an old-school quarterback PLATOON. Without a veteran presence, Adams is surely going to have his ups and downs. So has Cato…obviously. With NEITHER commanding nor DESERVING a starter’s salary in this league, Popp needs to divide the pot and keep both. We NEED to develop both.

Is it a reasonable expectation? As with my call for the return of the “classic” tight end position to bolster CFL O-lines and protect the QB, change NEVER comes easily to a league as steeped in tradition as the CFL. NEVER that is, until the rules committee comes up with yet another BONEHEADED idea. Conventional wisdom says teams in this league can’t afford to platoon two quarterbacks of equal calibre. BUT this team is WELL past being healed by ANYTHING conventional. If Chapdelaine and crew are going to dig themselves out of this, they’re going to need to think OUTSIDE the box.

START by platooning Cato and Adams Jr. It’s the ONE way of repairing the broken “quarterback succession” on this team…WITHOUT crippling it with YET ANOTHER mediocre veteran quarterback’s backbreaking salary.

With our stellar defence, and an adequate O-line, Cato and Adams could take us all the way to GLORY…sooner than we think

And at this stage of a TRULY hideous season, isn’t THAT a pleasant thought?

UPDATE: *I’ve been such a FOOL! Here I was, plotting for the Alouettes to use some creative thinking, maybe set up a PLATOON situation with Cato and Adams, one youngster taking the wheel and spelling the other, when he naturally faltered. Mistakes ARE part of being young, like the song says.

A fool because I forgot the REAL purpose of this team: to be the personal playground for the ambitions of one JIM POPP. THIS is tonight’s bill of fare, from the Popp Zone:

Did it occur to ANYONE to wonder why, after ONLY one half of getting pummeled in EXACTLY the same way that Rakeem Cato and Kevin Glenn before him, Vernon Adams Jr. is suddenly the beneficiary of a revamped offensive line? I’m not going to dig up the stats, but by the time he was traded, Kevin Glenn led the league in being sacked. And we all know how much Cato’s had to run for his very existence over the last few weeks. But STILL…Jacob Ruby stayed at left tackle, and the O-line remained essentially intact.

I think announcers take GREAT pleasure in reminding us JUST HOW MUCH the Alouettes paid for Vernon Adams. I get it. We all hate Jim Popp. But in egging him on, we’re kind of bringing out the WORST in his character. So when Vernon Adams gets the same treatment EVERY OTHER  Alouettes QB has gotten…suddenly Chapdelaine has the green light to sit Ruby and switch guys around?

The ONLY conclusion is that up to this point…the decision was Popp’s and his alone. It’s hard to imagine Calvillo or Chapdelaine being content to leave their QB’s unprotected, week after pathetic week. NEITHER of them can be unaware that ANY offence is GROUNDED…wins or loses by how well their line does. And yet the change ONLY came one half into Adams’ 1st start EVER.

Chappers has made a LOT of noise about all players being equal…NONE greater than the team. I wonder if Rakeem Cato feels he’s been treated equally? After all…the 3 things that have hampered his young career: incompetent OC’s, toxic or incompetent receivers and a POROUS O-line…have suddenly been ENTIRELY removed from Adams’ career path.

THE MORE I THINK ABOUT IT, THE MORE IT SMELLS LIKE A SETUP!!!

I’m NOT going to say, “forget what I said about the potential for a GLORIOUS future, platooning QB talents like Cato and Adams.”

But if I’m honest with myself, it’s probably unlikely under Jim Popp. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it stands little chance against a motivated and ambitious Popp-Fuhrer..

That’ll cost us building for a Cup. Probably set the team back several years…assuming the fans hold out that long. There’s every chance Popp will run this team into the ground before he’s finished. As I recently posted on RDS, “will we EVER be free of Jim Popp toxic manipulations??”

If/When the team goes under, I guess I’ll have to find something else to write about.

Bummer.

*Isn’t it funny. This is the 1st chance I’ve had to re-watch a game all season. I have to admit, when I watch the game live I tend to concentrate on the quarterback and receivers, whoever’s carrying the ball. I was obsessed with the ball as a player, used to call it my “engine”. 

I’m close to halftime in my “re-viewing”…and I’ve been focusing on the offensive line. I invite you to do the same. Jacob Ruby is a JOKE. If THIS is what Glenn and Cato have suffered through all season NO WONDER the Alouettes’ offence has been so pathetic. NEVER in my experience has one man done so little, and yet SO MUCH to obliterate his team’s chances. Jim Popp has MUCH to answer for this season. Jacob Ruby is the #1 question.  

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