The Argonauts season is at a crossroads. Toronto at 2-2 is currently in a three-way tie for 1st in the East. However, their prospects for contending this year could hinge on how they respond to Hamilton at home this coming Friday.
The Argonauts didn’t practice on Wednesday, instead opting to conduct a walkthrough as they prepare for a quick turnaround from Monday’s LDC loss to the Tiger-Cats. The Boatmen are trying to rebound from what was a difficult defeat at the hands of their most hated rival.
Today in the media scrum after the walkthrough. Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the press that his team was served some humble pie. And Dinwiddie laid a lot of the blame on his shoulders for how undisciplined his team was in Monday’s game. The rookie head coach was upset that his talking point to the players from last week didn’t hit home.
Ryan Dinwiddie and DC Glen Young told the media today how anxious the team was to get back to work after Monday’s result. And Dindwiddie informed CFLNewshub, that he and his staff definitely feel a great sense of urgency and recognize the importance of Friday’s game.
As expected, Ryan Dinwiddie announced that Nick Arbuckle would be his starting quarterback on Friday. There was never any doubt, but Sean Bowen of Argonauts.ca wisely asked the question that everyone knew the answer to but needed to know anyway. Dinwiddie told the media that Arbuckle wasn’t the issue for his team in Monday’s loss.
There’s no rest for the weary and Toronto has several different issues to deal with heading into their pivotal rematch with Hamilton at BMO Field. Let’s take a look at them.
Argos Offensive Line/Philip Blake’s availability
Starting Center Philip Blake has battled through a myriad of different injuries all season long. This past Monday, Blake nearly missed the LDC due to COVID protocols. Against Hamilton, Blake left the game with another injury and his availability for Friday’s game is uncertain, according to coach Ryan Dinwiddie. The team should know more about his status tomorrow but with such a quick turnaround. Blake’s prospects for playing are not looking good.
The Argonauts offensive line had its fair of struggles against the Tiger-Cats in week 5. And not having Dariusz Bladek and Blake available to practice last week certainly contributed to the team’s offensive issues. Rookie Peter Nicastro, who has started all four Argos games, has had a good season, but he struggled on Monday, sliding over to Center when Blake went down.
Considering that Blake could miss the Hamilton rematch. It’s very likely, that Nicastro will get the start at Center, with Shane Richards or Dylan Giffen replacing the rookie at guard. The Argos dressed only seven offensive linemen in Week 5 and might have to call up Terry Poole or Theren Churchill from their practice roster to provide depth.
Argos Pass Rush Problems
Throughout the first four games of Toronto’s season. There’s no doubt that their defense has been their best and most consistent unit on the team.
However, the Boatmen have struggled to generate a pass rush without having to blitz. And the risk-reward aspect to this has led to opposing offenses hitting big plays down the field in the passing game.
The Argonauts’ defense is second to last in the CFL in sacks, with only six through four games. They have also given up the second most td passes.
Charleston Hughes, a surefire CFL Hall of Famer has zero sacks on the year after leading the CFL with 16 in 2019.
Shawn Oakman and Robbie Smith both registered sacks in Monday’s game and have been solid against the run but those were the first sacks that the defensive line has accumulated this season.
In defense of defensive coordinator Glen Young, Rich Stubler and the entire Argos staff. Part of the lack of a pass rush has to do with utilizing a three man line and it’s part scheme.
After all, The Argos are missing several key players on their defensive front. Cordarro Law, Drake Nevis, Shane Ray and Kony Ealy. They are all currently on the six-game injured list. No updates were provided by Coach Young today on the availability of those players in the future. But there is no doubt that getting these linemen back would greatly assist The Boatmen’s defense.
Perhaps playing at home this Friday will give the Argos pass rush an assist. They need it.
Special Teams Issues
Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie singled out his special teams as the most disappointing aspect from watching film of the Hamilton game. The unit accounted for seven penalties and gave up a 67-yard punt return for a major.
The performance of Toronto’s special teams units have produced mixed results in the first four games. Boris Bede has been terrific this season, punting and kicking field goals. But outside of the team’s performance against Winnipeg. There have been too many inconsistencies in mental and physical errors on specials.
One of the areas that could also use a boost is Toronto’s return game. On Monday, the Argos averaged 0.8 yards on five punt returns. That’s not a typo.
Toronto may have some in-house solutions to spruce things up on punt returns but some of the team’s most dynamic options like RB Trey Williams may not be ready for the call yet. Ryan Dinwiddie told the press today that they will look at other options but with a short work week. Wholesale changes are not in store.
Incidentally, Ricky Collins, who missed last week’s game due to COVID protocols, was also returning kicks earlier in the year. His playing status for Friday is unknown.
On Wednesday, Toronto announced the signing of former BC Lions linebacker Noah Robinson Jr. to their practice roster. Robinson could be a future option to bolster the Argos coverage units in the future.
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