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Grey Cup hero Tyson Philpot sees opportunity to be top receiver with Alouettes

Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Tyson Philpot (6) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second half of football action at the 110th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, November 19, 2023. Canadian wide receiver Philpot has signed a one-year contract extension with the Alouettes. (Chris Young, The Canadian Press) Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Tyson Philpot (6) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second half of football action at the 110th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, November 19, 2023. Canadian wide receiver Philpot has signed a one-year contract extension with the Alouettes. (Chris Young, The Canadian Press)
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Tyson Philpot looks around training camp and sees an opportunity to be the Montreal Alouettes' No. 1 receiving option.

With last year's standout Austin Mack chasing his NFL dream with the Atlanta Falcons, Philpot thinks it could be his turn to step into that role.

"I feel like this is my season," Philpot said. "It's time to make a jump and try and be one of those 1,000-yard receivers and establish myself in this league."

Those words may sound strange coming from the man who capped his season last year by hauling in a Grey Cup-winning touchdown, but Philpot's goal in 2024 is to make an impact over a full campaign.

Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Tyson Philpot (6) celebrates with teammates wide receiver Cole Spieker (17) and wide receiver Austin Mack (81) after scoring a touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second half of football action at the 110th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, November 19, 2023. (Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press)

The 23-year-old from Delta, B.C., had a modest 532 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 13 games as a sophomore last season. He missed the start of the year with a hamstring injury and took weeks to build chemistry with quarterback Cody Fajardo.

This year, Philpot is healthy, armed with an extension through 2025 and eager to fill the void left by Mack.

The defending champion Alouettes host the Toronto Argonauts at Molson Stadium on Saturday to open their pre-season.

"Definitely feel like there's a spot for someone that makes some plays," Philpot said from training camp at the Claude Beaulieu Multisport Centre. "I feel like the coaches see that."

The former University of Calgary Dino says he keeps in touch with Mack and seeks his advice. Mack, who says he's focused on making the Falcons but will keep a close eye on the Alouettes this year, believes Montreal fans should brace themselves for an exciting season from the third-year Philpot.

"Tyson is a phenomenal athlete. Really good with the ball in his hands, I think that's his biggest attribute," Mack said. "But more and more as the season came along he was able to start catching more balls down the field.

"He's a young player so he's going to grow as a pro, and there's big things (coming) for him."

Philpot had hopes of leaping from secondary to core player last year after impressing with 459 receiving yards and 342 yards from kickoff returns his rookie season, only for the training camp injury to slow his progress.

He found his groove later in the season. A nine-reception, 105-yard outing against Toronto in Week 15 sparked a run of five touchdowns in six games to end the regular season.

"Tyson was just snapping," said Mack, a former Ohio State Buckeye. "It was back-to-back games touchdowns, back-to-back games explosive.

"He was making the big play, he was coming through and you could just see the maturity of him and the poise in those big situations. … You see a pro, you see an all-star receiver, you see one of the best in the league."

Philpot added 144 yards on 15 receptions in the playoffs, including a 19-yard go-ahead touchdown catch with 13 seconds remaining in the Grey Cup to lift Montreal over Winnipeg 28-24 at Tim Hortons Field.

Alouettes receivers coach Mike Lionello says he conducted a study for the last nine Alouettes games, including the post-season, and found Philpot has what it takes to be a team's top option.

"Tyson was our leading receiver," Lionello said. "He led in targets, he led in target percentage, he led in receptions and he led in touchdowns.

"He showed he can be a top receiver and the sky's the limit, really. As long as he's out there, which he will be out there, Tyson's gonna dominate."

Despite his late-season success, Philpot says he didn't receive much NFL interest during the off-season. His aspirations are "always to get to the highest level," but he's focused on becoming a great Canadian receiver in the CFL for now.

Philpot spent his entire off-season training in Montreal hoping to become a bigger deep threat for the Alouettes.

"They love to use me in the screen game, just put the ball in my hands," said Philpot, who had 291 yards after catch last season. "But I think establishing myself as a deep threat (is key to improving).

"You're going to see it this year for sure."

There will be a healthy competition for those targets in the Alouettes receivers room.

Mack may be gone, but Tyler Snead, Cole Spieker and Canadian Kaion Julien-Grant are back. Reggie White Jr. -- who had 722 receiving yards in 15 games in 2022 -- returns from a 19-month absence due to knee surgery. The Alouettes also signed veteran Tevin Jones, who caught 882 yards in 17 games for Saskatchewan last season.

The key for Philpot to establish himself, head coach Jason Maas says, is to stay healthy and engaged.

"The expectation is he's just going to continue to contribute to the offence when his number gets called, and it's gonna get called often," Maas said. "But he has to do his part, which is staying healthy and being locked in and being ready to go each and every day.

"He's done nothing but that for us, it's just let's do it for an entire season."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2024.

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