Als calling on Avon

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

The Montreal Alouettes have finally figured out something opposing defences have known all along.

The Alouettes yesterday released running back Jarrett Payton, cementing Avon Cobourne as the team's new starting tailback. Payton, the son of NFL great Walter Payton, missed all of training camp with an ankle injury, but it appears the Cobourne era was set to begin anyway.

A couple of key Winnipeg Blue Bomber defenders can't believe it didn't happen sooner. They believe Cobourne has the talent to be a No. 1 tailback in the CFL and are prepared to have their hands full tomorrow night when the Bombers (0-1) meet the Als (1-0) at Molson Stadium.

"I've always thought he was one of their best backs -- honestly," all-star middle linebacker Barrin Simpson said. "Every time he got a chance to start against us he played well, so I was like, 'Keep him on the bench.'

"To me, he's been their best back. Every time I watch film, even last year and the year before, when he got his opportunity he made plays -- and more than their starters."

Cobourne, who is the all-time rushing leader at West Virginia University, joined the Alouettes in 2006 and served as their primary kick returner that season. Last year the Als tried to turn him into a linebacker before letting him carry the ball late in the season when Payton got hurt.

The shift to Cobourne as the team's No. 1 tailback starting happening late last year, and it appears Payton's injury just made the transition quicker and less painful for everyone involved.

"Avon's better," all-star Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said. "I'd rather play against Walter's son than Avon."

Over his first two seasons Cobourne had 40 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns (primarily as a backup), but last week against Hamilton the 29-year-old rattled off 107 yards and a major on 12 carries.

Brown said Cobourne's performance had nothing to do with the fact that the Alouettes were playing the toothless Tiger-Cats, either.

"He looked incredible against Hamilton," Brown said. "In the first game everybody's on, so it's even that much more impressive that he had that kind of a rushing game, when you got your front-line (defensive) guys all tuned up and ready to go.

"That was a very impressive showing he had last week."

And it wasn't only Cobourne who shot out of the gates last week at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Quarterback Anthony Calvillo completed 25 of 37 passes for 293 yards, and receiver Kerry Watkins had six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.

The Alouettes have a new offensive system under first-year head coach Marc Trestman, and Bombers coach Doug Berry liked what he saw of it last week.

"They're utilizing a quick passing game and a very good running game," he said. "They're right in synch with their offence."


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