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Anthony Calvillo returns: great news for Als, not everyone else

If you heard screams of joy from Montreal and shudders of terror from every other CFL city Monday afternoon, there's a natural explanation; Alouettes' quarterback Anthony Calvillo, professional football's all-time leading passer, the East Division's 2011 nominee for most outstanding player, the choice of his peers as a league all-star and the CFL's top quarterback in just about every statistical category last season, announced that he'll be returning for at least one more campaign. That's fantastic news for Montreal fans, as their offence should return most of the key pieces from this year's dominant campaign (where they scored a league-leading 515 points, an average of 28.6 per game). There are other issues the Alouettes will have to address, but they aren't thanks to the quarterback or even the offensive side of the ball; in Montreal's East semifinal loss to Hamilton, the Alouettes still scored 44 points and Calvillo had one of his greatest games of the season, completing 30 of 42 passes (71.4 per cent) for 513 yards and three touchdowns with a single interception. Looking at those numbers, having Calvillo under centre again seems like an awfully good thing for Montreal.

There obviously are some age-related concerns around Calvillo (seen above), as he'll be turning 40 during the 2012 CFL season, but it's worth pointing out that many players have been able to shine in this league in their later years. The CFL tends to favour experience over youth thanks to the differences in the game that make it difficult for young players to adapt to, and that's especially true at quarterback; American signal callers have to completely relearn many coverage and route concepts north of the border thanks to the extra man on each side, the larger field and the expanded usage of pre-snap motion.

Calvillo's been around this league long enough that that's all second nature to him by now. There isn't much he hasn't seen in terms of defensive looks, and there isn't much he can't pick apart. With a tremendous offensive line, a fantastic corps of receivers that includes 2011 CFL receiving yards leader Jamel Richardson and the always-dangerous S.J. Green, and a dependable running game featuring 2011 CFL rushing yards leader Brandon Whitaker, Calvillo should be thoroughly poised for another season of dominance.

It's worth pointing out that Calvillo's game is particularly well-suited to fending off the advances of time, too. He has a strong arm and a knack for fitting the ball into perfect windows when necessary, but the vast majority of his throws are quick, precise hits designed to pick apart a secondary. He's an expert at quickly reading a defence and exploiting its vulnerabilities, and that (together with his dominant offensive line) means he doesn't get hit very much. He also doesn't rush all that much, which provides even less chances for opponents to get shots in on him. Damon Allen famously played until he was 44, and he played a much more aggressive and physically-punishing strength-based style. Given Calvillo's game and its reliance on cerebral thinking and quick throws, there's no reason he can't excel for several more years if he wants to. That's great news for Montreal fans, but it's frightening for everyone else.

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