But defending Grey Cup champions leave head coach Jason Maas with more questions than answers with a stacked roster of talent.

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Here’s the thing about CFL exhibition games, especially the opening encounters, when there are far too many players to keep track of — they usually provide more questions than answers for a head coach.

And that’s why the Alouettes pay head coach Jason Maas the big bucks.

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“Choices are what we’re going to have, and we haven’t been shy (saying that) with our guys,” Maas said Saturday night, following Montreal’s 30-13 victory over the Toronto Argonauts at Molson Stadium. “We have close to 100 players and have to get to 45 (on the active roster). It’s going to be difficult to make them. But you want to have tough choices in this business.

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“At the end of the day, (the players) control what they can control. And we have to make the right choices.”

When a team is the defending Grey Cup champions — the mantle the Alouettes can wear at least for the next six months — there are few openings on that roster. This is a team that’s set at most positions.

We know Cody Fajardo, the most valuable player in Montreal’s upset of Winnipeg in the title game, will be the starting quarterback when those teams open the regular season on June 6. But who will be his backup — Caleb Evans or Davis Alexander?

Both played well against the Argonauts. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten Toronto came to Montreal with a largely inexperienced defence, with only two projected starters in the lineup.

Evans, who received the first reps following the departure of Fajardo — limited to two series — completed 10 of 15 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown, which was late in the fourth quarter when he engineered an incredible 12-play, 108-yard drive, albeit against the Argos’ third-string defenders.

Alexander, meanwhile, completed 10 of 12 passes for 89 yards while displaying mobility and a quick release. Mobility has never been Evans’ issue; he always appears primed to run instead of passing. And, while Evans threw the ball well at times, he also has an awkward sidearm delivery while relying on too many throws into the flat. Evans possesses the necessary arm strength to go downfield but, on the one occasion he attempted that, badly overthrew his receiver.

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And, given the way Maas rotated the two, it couldn’t have been easy for either to get into a rhythm.

“You never know, it’s the coach’s decision and it comes from upstairs,” Alexander said. “I feel like I’ve had a really good camp. Today was great, but there’s always things I can improve on. This year, I’ve been as comfortable as ever. It’s the second year in this offence. I feel really good. I think I’ve looked good out there.”

With one remaining exhibition game, next Friday at Ottawa — a match during which most of the starters will be rested before meeting the Blue Bombers on the road — Maas won’t show his hand as yet, but was effusive in his praise of both Evans and Alexander.

“Both did the job,” he said. “Both led scoring drives and efficiently ran the offence. Caleb had that long scoring drive and looked very impressive. Both played well. More importantly, both protected the ball.”

Fajardo might have been limited to the two drives, but both produced points. He took the Alouettes on an 84-yard journey on Montreal’s opening possession, culminating in a 48-yard pass-and-run touchdown to Kaion Julien-Grant. Fajardo’s second series was capped by David Côté’s 50-yard field goal.

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Fajardo completed seven of eight for 107 yards and believes he’s prepared for the season opener.

“When you get into the moment you want to play more,” Fajardo said. “To go out on two drives and score 10 points, I felt like I distributed the ball really well and made good decisions. Really, it was getting hit; that’s what I was most looking forward to.”

While the receiving position also is established, two newcomers have made management’s decisions cloudy. Charleston Rambo caught four passes for 71 yards, while Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, who might have been on the bubble, likely solidified his stock, catching six passes for 54 yards. Both could potentially find spots on the practice roster.

While Walter Fletcher should be the starting tailback, his backup remains to be determined. Mike Weber Jr. had two carries for 22 yards, while Stevie Scott was limited to two yards on a pair of runs. Weber gained 23 yards, then lost one.

There could be more openings on Montreal’s defence.

Among the newcomers, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc and defensive-back Bryce Cosby both displayed good cover skills. Cosby also produced a quarterback sack. LeBlanc, who has 52 NFL games on his resumé — the majority with Philadelphia — will be hard to overlook.

Another player who stood out was rookie middle-linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku, the Als’ first-round (ninth overall) draft choice this season. Cantin-Arku had four defensive tackles, one on special teams, forced a fumble and received extensive playing time following the departure of Darnell Sankey and always appeared around the ball. He looked like a seasoned pro.

“I’m happy, but there’s so much more I can do,” Cantin-Arku said. “Every game I’m trying to be better. I want to make sure I show up even more next week. There’s still work to be done for sure.”



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