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Ascending Argos Face Biggest Challenge Of Their Season in Montreal

The last time the Argos faced the Alouettes, they were 3-3. Toronto was at a crossroads in their season. The Argonauts were coming off a demoralizing loss in Saskatchewan.

In that game, starting quarterback Nick Arbuckle injured his hamstring and hasn’t played since. Toronto’s defence lost linebackers Henoc Muamba and Cameron Judge to injury. The Double Blue was also experiencing an in-season turnover on their defensive coaching staff, losing two of their best assistants in defensive coordinator Glen Young and defensive backs coach Joshua Bell.

Flash forward to Week 12, and the Boatmen have won three straight games to ascend to the top of the East at 6-3. The franchise is coming off their most meaningful regular-season victory in ages by rallying to beat the Ti-Cats in Hamilton.

With five games left in the regular season, the Double Blue are positioned to win their first division crown since 2017.

However, standing in Toronto’s way is the Montreal Alouettes. And the Als are coming into Friday’s game with momentum of their own. Since losing to the Argos 30-27 at BMO Field back in week 8. The Alouettes have won three straight games. And their franchise realizes the importance of this game and how high the stakes are for them. There’s no love lost between the two franchises.

Can The Argos Handle Success?

Winners often say that adversity can be your best friend. But that success is often your worst enemy. How the Argos respond to their new status will be very telling. There was a feeling that the 2021 Argos arrived with their win on Thanksgiving. But a defeat at the hands of the Als would not only put the team back to square one but will also re-open the door for the team they thought they vanquished nearly two weeks ago.

A loss by Toronto in Montreal will not only produce a tie at the top of the East. But coupled with a Hamilton victory against Ottawa this weekend, it will create a three-way race for the division with four weeks left. All three division rivals would be separated by only one game in that scenario.

The Boatmen would love to ride their recent wave of success back home to face the BC Lions at BMO Field on October 30. But a defeat at the hands of the Als on Friday would make Toronto’s journey back to the playoffs a lot more turbulent.

Let’s look at some of the storylines heading into the Argos-Als game this Friday night.

Henoc Muamba Back In Montreal

Henoc Muamba 10 of the Montreal Alouettes during at Croix Bleue Medavie Stadium in Moncton NB Sunday August 25 2019 Photo Johany Jutras CFL

The Argos appear to be receiving a considerable boost this coming Friday. One of the team’s best players and leaders, LB Henoc Muamba (hamstring), has practiced fully in recent days. And barring a setback, it looks like he will be returning to the Boatmen’s defensive lineup against his former team, the Montreal Alouettes.

Since going down to a hamstring injury in Saskatchewan, the reigning Most Outstanding Canadian award winner has been sorely missed in the middle of the Argonauts’ defense. With Muamba, in Toronto’s first five games. The Argos led the CFL in rush defence. Without Muamba and the also injured Cameron Judge (ankle), Toronto has plummeted to 7th in the league in that category.

Henoc Muamba was placed on Toronto’s six-game injured list and missed the team’s last three games. But Toronto’s bye in week 11 has given the CFL standout a chance to recover and return ahead of schedule. There are CFL roster rules concerning the salary cap. that allows players to return earlier from their six-game designation.

Muamba’s return couldn’t come at a better time. Not only does Toronto need him, facing one of the CFL’s best running backs in William Stanback, who shredded the Argos in their last meeting to the tune of 133 yards rushing. But Muamba gets a chance to return to the football home where he achieved the most success of his stellar CFL career.

OT Jamal Campbell Could Miss Pivotal Eastern Showdown

The Toronto Argonauts hoped their bye week would help a banged-up Boatmen roster get healthier for the stretch run. And in some respects, it has, as illustrated by Henoc Muamba’s return. Also, getting RB John White back will help Toronto’s offensive attack greatly. LB Cam Judge and WR Juwan Brescasion are also getting closer to returning to the Argos’ lineup.

However, Toronto could be without two of their best offensive linemen against Montreal in G Dariusz Bladek and RT Jamal Campbell. Bladek, who has had an All-Star-worthy season, has a biceps injury keeping him out of action. Sources indicate that Bladek, who is on the team’s injured list, is expected to return on October 30 when the Argos host the Leos at BMO Field.

Jamal Campbell has struggled with a quad injury and hasn’t been able to practice in recent days. Campbell is scheduled for an MRI to examine the severity of the injury. Campbell would not only be a significant loss to the team on the field but off of it as well. The Toronto native is one of the few players who survived the Argos massive roster purge from the 2019 season.

Provided that Campbell doesn’t play on Friday. The dilemma for Toronto’s staff will be deciding who replaces him in the starting lineup. Shane Richards seems like a logical candidate, and he has played well this year on the interior in place of Philip Blake and Dariusz Bladek. Richards could be called upon to start back at his natural tackle spot, with Theren Churchill or Dylan Giffen stepping in at guard.

Montreal’s defence is coming off of an absurd ten-sack performance against Ottawa. So Richards and company will need to be up to the task in hostile territory if Campbell can’t go. Knowing Campbell’s reputation, if he can tough it out and play. He will. It’s been a while since the veteran has been on a team that has been in playoff contention.

Argos Add Another RB

The Toronto Argonauts have added running back to their stable in former Stanford standout Cameron Scarlett.

Scarlett signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2020 but was waived before the start of the season. He most recently starred in the Spring League and spent time with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year.

Scarlett, who is from Portland, won Stanford’s team MVP award in 2019 when he rushed for 840 yards and seven touchdowns and added 240 receiving yards. Scarlett also returned kickoffs before his senior season, including a sophomore season in which he had 1,008 yards on 39 returns.  

Scarlett has added insurance at RB for Toronto, which has had great success with American rookie DJ Foster. It will take Scarellt some time to get acclimated, but the versatile tailback brings some of the qualities that Foster and White possess with perhaps a bit more power running.

Chris Jones Happy To Be Back Re-Learning The CFL

Argos “defensive consultant” Chris Jones was recently a guest on The Waggle Podcast hosted by Donnovan Bennett.

In the interview, Jones talked about how much he missed the CFL and grew to appreciate its quality that much more after spending time in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. Jones said that “he gained even more respect for the CFL game” while he was away from Canada.

Chris Jones also talks about the rust involved in his re-acclimation with the league, his working relationship with Rich Stubler, and how it has helped him. Jones also goes over Toronto’s roster and some of his observations. Also, his hip-hop playlist, which includes Young Thug. You can check out the interview at this link here.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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