When Anthony Calvillo, the face of the Montreal Alouettes rode off into the sunset, everyone knew the Als would need somebody else to step into the spotlight. But former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson? Ochocinco? Nobody saw that one coming.
However, sure enough, No. 85 came to camp, said all the right things, and made it through the Alouettes’ last round of cuts last week. He’s still the same Ochocinco we all grew to either love or hate when he was reeling off Pro Bowl seasons south of the board and that’s at least a good portion of this move to bring home in – whether the Als admit it or not.
He’s an engaging figure in a team that’s very much searching for an identity. The big question is whether he will be little more than a glorified cheerleader or a major offensive weapon.
So far, the reviews have been good. Johnson is in shape and still has dangerous speed which could make him dangerous in the up-tempo CFL game. By all accounts he’s been an excellent teammate and fits in with the Alouettes’ locker room well. Johnson also wants to erase the image he left the football community with after he was released by the Miami Dolphins following a domestic violence charge.
But at 36 years old, he’ll be the oldest receiver in the CFL when his Alouettes visit the Calgary Stampeders as 7.5-point underdogs Saturday. He won’t be the focus of Montreal’s offence, though he’ll have to contribute. At least right now, that doesn’t seem to be a concern for Montreal’s coaching staff.
“He’s an extremely hard worker who goes about his job in a professional manner,” Montreal GM Jim Popp told reporters of Johnson. “You wouldn’t know he has been the star receiver. There’s a reason why he’s an all-pro. They don’t just walk on the field without a great work ethic.”
That sentiment has been echoed by his teammates as well. While Johnson is certainly the biggest name on the roster, it’s actually former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith who will likely be the difference for the Als. If he can transition from backup to starter now that he has his feet wet in the CFL game, Montreal has a chance to get back to the playoffs.
However, if Smith isn’t getting the ball out on time and moving the chains not even Chad Johnson or Ochocinco may be able to save the new-look Alouettes.
Montreal is priced as the sixth favorite to win the Grey Cup at +800 in Sports Interaction’s CFL Futures Odds.