The Boatmen experienced some turbulent waters in the first half of their season. But at 4-3, and in first place in the east, there’s reason to believe that even better days could be ahead.
As expected, the new-look Argonauts, with a rookie head coach in Ryan Dinwiddie, went through growing pains and a learning curve. But the bumps in the road went beyond the typical challenges of players and coaches working together for the first time.
In the first half of the Double Blue season, The Argos’ experienced in-season turnover on their defensive staff, losing their coordinator Glen Young and defensive backs coach Joshua Bell. The Boatmen also had to deal with injuries all across the board on their roster. From the quarterback position throughout. Many of the franchise’s high-profile players have either missed considerable time or have yet to debut for the team at all.
The Boatmen’s Expectations
If you measure Toronto of 2021 versus the 2019 version of the Argonauts. Then this season is a smashing success. The Argos have already matched their win totals in 2018 and 2019. (4-14). The fact that the franchise is in contention for the playoffs and their division is a giant leap from where the team has been in recent years.
However, the expectations are extremely high within the Argonauts organization. The team expects to be elite and a championship contender immediately. The moves that they have made before and even during the season are designed to win a Grey Cup in 2021. This is not a rebuilding team that is satisfied with simply being in the playoff mix.
In the first half of their regular season, the team has attempted to carve out and define its identity. To this point, all aspects of Toronto on the field have been very inconsistent. Much like the team’s win-loss record. It’s reflected in the team’s overall stats and rankings after seven games.
Toronto is 6th in the CFL in turnover ratio -8, and the Argos have the third most penalties in the league with 70. (10 per game).
On offense, The Argos are sixth in the league in scoring (20.3 pts per game), fourth in pass yards per game, and fifth in rushing.
On defense, The Boatmen are 6th in points allowed per game (24), fifth in pass yards allowed per game, and have plummeted to 7th in rush yards allowed (98.3), after leading the league in the category up until two weeks ago.
Toronto’s special teams have also been largely inconsistent. The Argos are 6th in FG percentage, 7th in punt average, 8th in net punt average, 1st in kickoff average, 7th in punt return average, and last in the CFL in kick return average (18.6). The team has also allowed two blocked punts. The coverage units have also had their fair share of struggles. Toronto is 6th in opponent punt return avg. (10.3) and 7th in kickoff return average.
If the Argos hope to elevate their status and break away from the middle of the pack. They will need to get better in all of these areas.
Better Days Ahead For The Boatmen
Even though the nature of the Argos season has been up and down, there are reasons to believe that their best is yet to come.
The team is 4-3 and in a first-place tie in the East. But the Boatmen have the potential to be better in the second half of their season. The most significant reason for this possibility is that the team is getting reinforcements on the way to help bolster the roster for the stretch run.
In Week 7, the Argonauts were missing five starters on offense. C/G Philip Blake, QB Nick Arbuckle and WR’s Juwan Brescasin, Eric Rogers, and Daniel Braverman. That’s not to mention players like standout guard Dariusz Bladek, WR’s DeVaris Daniels, and Ricky Collins, who played despite limping into the bye week with several ailments.
The offense has a chance to be better than it was in the first part of the season. The coaching staff and the players have a better handle on the system moving forward. And the injuries to front-line starters created an opportunity for players to emerge like Chandler Worthy and youngsters like Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Damon Jeanpiere. There’s also the possibility of new arrivals like NFL vet Kendall Wright contributing to the mix.
Defensively is where the Boatmen have suffered the most through injury. Not only has star DE Charleston Hughes been banged up. But the team’s front hasn’t had defensive linemen Drake Nevis and Cordarro Law all season. The two veterans came close to debuting for the Argos against Montreal. They are both in line to be ready to go a week from now against Ottawa at home.
Toronto also has DE Shane Ray and DT Kony Ealy on their injured list. Once they get back, they will further strengthen the team’s depth to go along with CFL rookie standouts Shawn Oakman and Eli Harold. If they are at full strength, you could argue that no team in the CFL will be as strong as the Boatmen on their defensive line.
At linebacker, both Cameron Judge and Henoc Muamba are injured. And in the last two weeks, their presence has been significantly missed, particularly against the run. Muamba is nursing a hamstring injury and is expected back soon. Cameron Judge might still be a few weeks away, but the team dodged a bullet when it appeared that his foot injury against Saskatchewan would be season-ending. Dexter McCoil and Vontae Diggs provide incredible depth, but getting Judge and Muamba back will greatly aid this group, as will highly touted rookie Jack Cassar, who has also been injured.
Crezdon Butler has returned to the Argos secondary, and it provided a boost. The team has gotten solid play from CFL newcomers Jamal Peters and Treston Decoud at cornerback. But the improved health of Arjen Coulqhoun and the eventual return of Robertson Daniel will aid the team’s depth overall.
The most significant factor for Toronto’s potential improvement on defense could be Chris Jones. The former Grey Cup-winning GM, head coach, and defensive coordinator has recently arrived on the scene for the Argos as a defensive consultant. Jones is still getting acclimated to his new team and the players. But once he and the players get comfortable with each other. And once reinforcements arrive, Toronto’s defense has a chance to be elite under his imprint.
The Argonauts acting defensive coordinator was brought in with one goal in mind. To win a championship. As Ryan Dinwiddie and Chris Jones, both told the media last week. The Argos are all-in this season. Anything less than being the best would be a disappointment.
By the looks of things, based on what’s coming on board, and if it all breaks right. The Boatmen might be ready to make some serious waves in the second half of their season.
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