07/15/2015 16:39 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 01:12 EDT

Alouettes rookie Cato looking to spread the ball around against tough Ticats

MONTREAL — Rakeem Cato says he doesn't intentionally throw to S.J. Green a lot, it just works out that way.

The Montreal Alouettes rookie quarterback, who will make his third CFL start Thursday night against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Percival Molson Stadium, went to Green often and with great success in a 25-23 loss in Winnipeg last week. Green picked up 180 yards to take the league lead with 285 receiving yards.

"I love all the guys," Cato said this week. "We're trying to become family.

"As far as me having picks (favourites), I think all the receivers are great. It's not a special relationship. The only thing is we're both from Florida and we understand each other that way. But as far as football, S.J. does a great job of understanding the game and he's a great wideout."

Green has more yards than the next two Montreal (1-2) receivers combined, Nik Lewis (138) and Fred Stamps (62).

"Cato's taught to throw the ball to the open man," said Green. "My mentality is to get open as often as I can."

The 23-year-old Cato, who inherited the job when starter Jonathan Crompton and backup Dan Lefevour were both injured in the opening game of the regular season, is confident things will even out as he gets used to the CFL game and settles in as a starter.

The six-foot 180-pound Cato has been impressive in his first two games, completing 42 of 56 passes (75 per cent) for 558 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Throwing to Green, one of the league's top receivers the last seven years, is only natural. But Green has also become a mentor off the field, helping his fellow Floridan adjust to a new league and a new city that Cato compared to Miami because it is "fast."

"Miami is a very fast city," said Green. "It is different, and Montreal's also different and diverse, so there are similarities there, too.

"We do spend time together outside of football and we do talk a lot. Being from the state of Florida, we have a lot of similarities in our upbringing and how we view life, so we can relate to each other and we can communicate. It helps him become more comfortable."

Cato will face a major test in the Tiger-Cats (1-1), who like to bring big pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Hamilton is coming off a bye week after a 52-26 romp over the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on July 4.

The Ticats' Emanuel Davis and Brandon Stewart each returned an interception for a touchdown.

Last week, Cato was picked off twice, including one that was run back for a TD. That and a blocked punt that went for a touchdown was the difference in a game in which Montreal had the advantage on both sides of the ball.

The Montreal special teams will also have their hands full with Brandon Banks, who has returned a punt for a TD in each of Hamilton's first two games.

"Someone asked me how we're going to handle the punt returner and I said 'we're just not going to punt the football,' " said coach Tom Higgins. "That's the choice.

"The reality is you average seven to nine punts a game and you can't punt them all out of bounds. Covering punts is going to be big."

The Alouettes will try to take some pressure off Cato by running the ball, which they have done successfully this season. Tyrell Sutton leads the league with 50 carries for 278 yards and he will have Brandon Rutley as a backup.

The Ticats have surrendered the fewest rushing yards per game at 74.5.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press