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Looking Ahead To The Toronto Argonauts Home Opener Against Winnipeg

The Toronto Argonauts are off from practice today. The Argos will return to practice at Lamport Stadium on Tuesday, presumably with a new starting quarterback at the helm as the team will prepare for its home opener on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. The Boatmen will welcome their week two opponent, the defending Grey Cup Champion Blue Bombers, in a rematch from last Friday’s 20-7 loss in Winnipeg.

Let’s look at some of the topics and questions surrounding Toronto as they get ready for a rematch with Winnipeg in week 3 of the CFL season.

Toronto Argonauts Week 3 Starting Quarterback Nick Arbuckle

As of Monday morning, Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie hasn’t officially announced his starting quarterback in week 3. But all indications are that Nick Arbuckle will get his first start on the pivot for the Boatmen this Saturday.

Some analysts like Ben Grant from Xs and Argos have raised the possibility of coach Dinwiddie not announcing his starting quarterback until later in the week. Perhaps as a competitive advantage. It’s a possibility. I am sure that longtime columnist Frank Zicarelli from the Toronto Sun and others on the Argonauts media beat will ask Dinwiddie who his starting quarterback will be against Winnipeg during tomorrow’s media scrum after practice. That’s unless a starter is officially announced by the team beforehand.

The truth is that Nick Arbuckle would’ve been the team’s week one starter if not for his hamstring injury during training camp. The Boatmen were fortunate to have McLeod Bethel-Thompson waiting in the wings, but the job was always going to be Arbuckle’s to lose when camp started unless he had a poor outing in July. Simply because of Arbuckle’s experience in the system and his working relationship with Ryan Dinwiddie in Calgary.

What a difference a week makes. A week ago, MBT was one of the Argos heroes after bringing his team back down two scores and beating Calgary on the road. But even after week one’s performance, there were hints last week from coach Dinwiddie that there were plays on offence where Bethel-Thompson didn’t capitalize on during the opening game.

It seemed like coachspeak at the time, but the coach’s eye usually doesn’t lie. And in week two against Winnipeg, there were two significant wide-open throws that Bethel-Thompson missed that would’ve led to scores. The last one, a horrible overthrow on a pump and go to DeVaris Daniels, the misfire led to McBeth’s benching and Arbuckle relieving him in the lineup.

On paper, Nick Arbuckle is Toronto’s quarterback of the present and future. And despite leading the CFL in passing touchdowns in 2019, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, at 33 years old, is the veteran stop-gap insurance option.

There’s a lot of pressure on Nick Arbuckle to prove that he can be a top-flight CFL quarterback. The 27-year-old Georgia State standout is largely unproven. In 2019, he started seven games in relief of Bo Levi Mitchell and played well. As a starter for the Stamps, Arbuckle completed 174 of 238 passes (73.1%) for 2,103 yards, with 11 TDs against five interceptions. He also rushed 27 times for 76 yards and four TDs.

Nick Arbuckle can make all the throws, and he has good mobility. In college, he played in an RPO-styled offense, and last Friday, the Argos made good use of that skillset on the 30-yard td run by John White. It’s an added dimension to the Boatmen’s offensive attack that MBT doesn’t bring. Arbuckle is in a system and is working with a coach and receivers he knows very well.

However, for all the high-profile moves Toronto made in the offseason. If Nick Arbuckle can’t get Toronto’s passing game going at the level it needs, the Argonauts will not contend for the playoffs this season. It’s go-time for the young veteran CFL quarterback. And his first real test begins on Saturday against the Blue Bombers at home.

Argonauts Injuries/Depth Concerns

The Argonauts have only played two games, but the injuries are already starting to add up on both sides of the ball. As a result, the team’s depth is going to be challenged in the coming weeks.

As for press time, there is still no official word on Juwan Brescasin’s late-game injury against Winnipeg. Fans and players alike have gone to social media to voice their support and concern for the talented Ontario native. Brescasin responded warmly to all the love he has been receiving.

At first glance, the injury appeared to be very serious, but there’s some hope that it isn’t season-ending. Despite the team’s depth at the position, losing Brescasin for a lengthy period of time would be a blow for Toronto on the field and in the locker room.

In the meantime, DeVaris Daniels, Eric Rogers, and Ricky Collins Jr. will have to pick up the load on offence. Daniel Braverman, who currently leads the team in receptions with 13, could also see more targets. It would be nice for Kurleigh Gittens and Llevi Noel to get more involved in the passing attack. A recent acquisition, XFL standout Cam Phillips is currently on the Argos practice roster. There’s an adjustment period involved for all American rookie receivers in the CFL, but it’s possible that he could work his way into the lineup.

The Argonauts have more pressing issues on their offensive line. LT Dejon Allen went down with an injury in week two. The Argos slid Phil Blake over to the blindside while Shane Richards slid into the interior. Blake is already banged up, nursing a shoulder injury, and it showed during the Winnipeg game. In July, Terry Poole, who Toronto acquired from Winnipeg in the Alden Darby trade, has been on the injured list. Poole could be called into left tackle duty against Willie Jefferson on Saturday. Welcome to the CFL rookie.

On the defensive side of the ball. Toronto played without their projected starting cornerbacks in Arjen Colqhoun and Robertson Daniel. To their credit, Jamal Peters and Treston Decoud have played well in their absence. Peters, the Mississippi State alum, was challenged heavily in week two but stood up fairly well. Intercepting Zach Collaros in the end zone, nearly intercepting him a second time and registering nine tackles. The return of Arjen Colqhoun would be a welcome sight for the secondary and a boost to the Argos depth.

The Boatmen’s defensive line is a big concern moving forward. The team is already without Drake Nevis, who is on the six-game injured list with a hip injury. Last week, starting DT Kony Ealy went down and was ruled out immediately. In week one, the Argos also lost DE Shane Ray to a finger injury, and Cordarro Law is also on the six-game injured list.

Much like the situation in the secondary, the replacements for these players have held their own. CFL rookie Shawn Oakman had five tackles last week and helped the Argos slow down the vaunted Bombers rushing attack to 53 yards. Sam Acheampong had a solid outing as well in week two in the trenches. The Argonauts will need these players to raise their level of play again against Winnipeg on Saturday. Odell Willis has returned to the team, and he could make his Argos debut on Saturday.

The week two loss to Winnipeg was considered by many to be a moral victory because the Argos hung in there and still had a chance late against arguably the CFL’s best team. But if Toronto wants to compete and have a chance against the champs at home on Saturday. They will have to play better than they did in week two.

Preparing to play a team for the second time in two weeks is a common occurrence for CFL teams, but how the Argos coaching staff regroups and prepares for the Bombers using their knowledge from the first meeting will be of utmost importance.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Tress

    August 17, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Toronto needs some added hype to fill seats at BMO. Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow should be brought in to create some excitement.

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