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Can McLeod Bethel-Thompson Repeat His Past Success Against Winnipeg In Week 2?

McLeod Bethel-Thompson remains the starting QB for the Toronto Argonauts in week two against Winnipeg. And the Blue Bombers are a team that he has had great success against.

McBeth To The Future For The Toronto Argonauts

In what was a largely forgettable four-win season for the Argos in 2019. The one moment that stood out for Double Blue fans was Toronto’s thrilling come from behind 28-27 victory against Winnipeg two summers ago. The 20 point comeback was probably the go-to game for Argos fans to go back and watch during the CFL’s nearly two-year layoff.

A lot has changed for the Boatmen since 2019. The team has a sea of new faces leading them on the sidelines and the roster. But one of the main players from that exciting contest remains in quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. In the Argos’s incredible 20-0 rally against the eventual CFL champion Blue Bombers, Bethel-Thompson completed 75 percent of his passes (37 of 49) for 343 yards and three touchdowns to lead Toronto to the victory. MBT also chipped in with 44 yards rushing, including a late scramble in the waning seconds that would precede his game-winning touchdown pass to SJ Green in the closing seconds.

No one remembers the meeting that Toronto and Winnipeg had only three weeks earlier in July. It was a game that saw the Bombers jump on the Argos early and steamroll them to a 48-21 victory in Winnipeg. Thanks to two big special teams plays, one a 107-yard kick return for a touchdown by Lucky Whitehead and some early turnovers. Winnipeg cruised to a 31-0 lead and never looked back.

But forgotten in that blowout loss was Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson passing for a career-high 388 yards and three touchdowns. Despite being sacked twice and harassed all game by the Bombers elite pass rush. MBT stood tall and fought throughout the contest. It was overlooked at the time, but Thompson’s success against Richie Hall’s Bombers defence was a sign of things to come. Something that he would repeat a few weeks later in grand fashion.

In two combined games against Winnipeg’s defence last season, McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 731 yards and six touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes.

On Wednesday, when asked by CFLNewsHub about McLeod’s recent success against the Bombers defensive scheme. And whether or not the Argos staff has taken stock of it in this week’s preparation for Friday’s game. Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie admitted that he looked at film from those games but understandably downplayed the potential advantage. Because of the different offence that McLeod now plays in and the changes to Winnipeg’s defence since. Dinwiddie heaped praise on Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall and his flexibility in adjusting his scheme. By pointing out the masterful job that Winnipeg’s unit did in week one, shutting down the high-powered Tiger-Cats offensive attack.

McLeod Bethel Thompson QB1 For The Rest Of 2021?

The Boatmen had many standouts in their opening week victory over the Calgary Stampeders. Still, many can argue that the Toronto Argonauts MVP in week one of the CFL season was quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The veteran pivot completed 73 percent of his passes for 354 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a game-tying two-point conversion. McBeth also rushed for 24 yards in the conquest of Calgary.

A repeat performance and a victory for McBeth in week two against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could cement the veteran signal-caller’s spot as the Boatmen’s starting QB for the rest of the season. Something that Argos coach Ryan Dinwiddie discussed with the media on Wednesday. Nick Arbuckle is healthier than he has been in recent weeks, recovering from a hamstring injury. But Toronto’s head coach is not ready to anoint a permanent starter at quarterback for the team just yet.

And it makes perfect sense that despite Nick Arbuckle’s ties to coach Dinwiddie, from their time together in Calgary, the newly minted coach would stick with McLeod Bethel-Thompson as his starting quarterback for now. Despite it being treated as news to start the week. There was never any question about who would be starting at QB on a short week against the defending Grey Cup Champions.

Based on his stellar performance in week one and the caution being exercised with Nick Arbuckle’s injury. Sticking with McBeth at quarterback is the right call. Bethel-Thompson, the California native and journeyman quarterback, is used to sharing the spotlight. He experienced it as a redshirt freshman at UCLA before transferring to Sacramento State.

The late-blooming quarterback has really come into his own in recent years. He’s a better player now than he was a few years ago. But although he led the CFL in majors in 2019 and is off to a great start in 2021, for whatever reason, he’s never been the chosen one. McBeth has always had to prove himself, and that hasn’t changed even in the late stages of his career.

What’s most impressive about Thompson is how he rarely accepts praise for himself. An example of this was during last Saturday’s post-game press conference, the veteran signal-caller, instead of accepting accolades on what he accomplished in a new offence in a short period of time, Bethel-Thompson went out of his way to praise fellow teammate Eric Rogers on his blitz pickup, which led to the Argos tying and then winning the game in Calgary. MBT called it one of the best plays that he’s ever seen.

Argonauts Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson said this about the blitz pick up by Eric Rogers.

Eric Rogers is an amazing football player. That is all on Eric Rogers. He came in where he has to block a front side (line)backer; he scanned all the way back,”

“It was the best play of the game, hands down. For a receiver to make a play like that, at that time, to see the blitz, it was absolutely phenomenal. It was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.”

The spotlight will continue to shine on McLeod Bethel-Thompson this coming Friday night, whether he wants it or not, and if he can continue his recent success with Toronto against Winnipeg. It may stay on him for a while.

Toronto Argonauts Wednesday Practice News And Notes

  • CFL veteran DL Odell Willis has been activated off of the Argos suspended list. Willis was away from the team for personal reasons. Because of the birth of his child. With Cordarro Law on the teams injured list and Shane Ray (finger) and Dewayne Hendrix (ankle) nursing injuries. The return of Willis at DE is excellent timing.
  • As previously reported, the Argonauts had some trouble getting back from Calgary after their win on Saturday night. The team arrived back home later than anticipated. On Monday, the team did not practice. So it’s a very short work week with the Argos flying out to Winnipeg for Friday’s game. The odds are against Toronto winning back to back road games and the oddsmakers have the Double Blue as eight point underdogs on the road.
  • Centre/Guard Phillip Blake is battling through a shoulder injury. He has been limited in practice but Coach Dinwiddie says that Blake wants to battle through the injury and play through it this coming Friday. Blake and rookie Peter Nicastro teamed up in week one to tackle the centre position.
  • Nick Arbuckle will dress again for this week’s game against Bombers. Arbuckle will be available to play if needed.
  • Recently acquired WR Cam Phillips, who missed week one’s contest on the suspended list, has been practicing with the team wearing #89. No word on whether, Phillips will be active for Sunday’s game but it is potentially trending in that direction.
  • Standout DT Drake Nevis is still on the teams injured list (hip) and there is no timetable on when he will be available to make his on field return. The Argos missed Nevis against the run in week one when the Stamps rushed for over 100 yards. In week two, the going will get rougher for the Boatmen’s run defence against arguably the CFL’s best rushing attack led by the Bombers.
  • The Argos also have injury concerns in their secondary. Starting DB Arjen Colquhoun is still limited in practice with a hamstring. He missed week one’s game in Calgary. Robertson Daniel (head) was added to the inury report this week. Jamal Peters is expected to be called up from the practice roster to take his place. Coach Ryan Dinwiddie praised the efforts of CFL newcomer Treston Decoud in his debut last weekend. Decoud will be expected to stand up again against the Winnipeg passing attack.
  • Ryan Dinwiddie’s CFL career comes full circle on Friday. Dinwiddie began his CFL journey as a quarterback for Winnipeg in 2006 , infamously making his first ever start for the Bombers in the Grey Cup in 2007 and 15 years later, he will be on the sidelines as a head coach against Winnipeg. The 40-year old California native always dreamed of coaching in college after his playing days ended. But he met his wife in Canada, his children are Canadian and he can’t envision himself coaching anywhere else but the pros in Canada. Dinwiddie considers himself a Canadian.
  • A common occurence on the CFL schedule is teams playing each other on consecutive weeks during the season. The Argos travel to the Bombers on Friday and then will host Winnipeg in Toronto in week three for their home opener. Ryan Dinwiddie has recent experience of game planning for the same team two weeks in a row and told CFLNewshub that he is comfortable with the process. It’s a unique process of deciding what to carry over from the first game to the rematch a week later. One that will be determined by what works and doesn’t work this coming Friday night.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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