The 1-2 Argos returned to work Monday morning at Lamport Stadium as the team prepares for the first of two meetings in as many weeks with the 4-1 Saskatchewan Roughriders. The province of Nova Scotia will host its first regular-season CFL game this Saturday afternoon when the Argonauts and Riders make the trip to Wolfville for the 2022 version of ‘Touchdown Atlantic.’ Moncton was home to Touchdown Atlantic games in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2019. The 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Of The Argos
As the Toronto Argonauts prep for their Week 6 and Week 7 showdowns with Saskatchewan. The Boatmen sit atop the East Division by default at 1-2. But as evidenced by the shared results of their Eastern rivals against the West. 1-2 for Toronto can become 1-4 by the time the Argos return home to BMO Field on Sunday, July 31st against Ottawa.
The Argos are the “host” team this Saturday against the Riders before heading to Mosaic Stadium the following Saturday for a rematch. Toronto will be seeing plenty of green in the next two weeks. Will they buck the current trend of East versus West and start to cash in some victories.
Someone has to emerge from the East eventually. In some ways, the current season is starting to resemble 2017, where the division had only two playoff entrants, with neither team, Toronto or Ottawa finishing above .500. In a year where the 9-9 Argos defied the odds and won a CFL championship.
The Eastern teams are off to an awful start despite being in closely contested games. The entire division is a combined 2-13 to start 2022. There’s still a long way to go in an 18-game regular season. But the wins might not start coming until Eastern teams play one another. To that end, the winless 0-4 Ticats and Redblacks meet in the Hammer this Saturday.
East Division Standings
As ludicrous as it may appear on paper. Montreal has a chance to emerge ahead of the Eastern pack in the next two weeks, despite being 1-3. The Alouettes have changed course, firing head coach Khari Jones and defensive coordinator Barron Miles. Former Grey-Cup-winning coach and GM Danny Maccioca is coming down from the press box to pilot his team for the rest of the 2022 season.
The timing of what can arguably be labeled a rash coaching change might be awkward but it could play into Maccioca’s hands and his handpicked Alouettes roster favorably.
The Als are only a half-game behind Toronto, and their upcoming schedule gives them a chance to get on the right path. Montreal has two reeling teams on their docket in weeks 6 and 7. They get the 1-4 Elks at home this Thursday. Edmonton is down to Option C on the Pivot, with Taylor Cornelius reemerging to start after rookie Tre Ford went down to injury in last week’s 49-6 defeat to the unbeaten Stampeders.
Montreal then plays at Ottawa, who lost their starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli for likely two to three months due to a gruesome leg injury sustained in a controversial low hit by Saskatchewan DE Garrett Marino in the Riders 28-13 victory over the Redblacks last Friday.
In sports, sometimes it’s not only about who you play but when you play them. Based on their next two opponents, Montreal could easily be 3-3 by the time week eight rolls around.
Where will Toronto be when they finally meet up with another East opponent at the end of July?
Can A Moral Victory Help Springboard The Argos Forward?
The Argos are coming off their best showing in their early season, a heartbreaking 23-22 loss at home to the still undefeated Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Even though Toronto lost in a demoralizing fashion on a botched extra point, that would’ve likely forced overtime. The Argos’ comeback effort, down three scores against the reigning CFL champs, was in many respects a moral victory.
Toronto, with its revamped coaching staff, and a new cast of leaders, hasn’t quite figured things out. But last Monday was a positive step forward.
However, the Argos can’t afford to take a lax approach and assume that their ship is finally headed in the right direction.
The 4-1 Saskatchewan Roughriders, save for a brief hiccup on a short week in Montreal, have been one of the CFL’s best overall teams in 2022. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding them after what occurred in Week 5 when DE Garrett Marino injured Redblacks QB Jeremiah Masoli. But notwithstanding that low point, the Riders are riding high as a legit contender on the field. Thanks to elite play on both sides of the ball. Saskatchewan has been overlooked in the West because of BC’s emergence, Calgary’s rise back to prominence, and Winnipeg remaining the class of the league.
The Argonauts will be tested heavily in their two head-to-head meetings with the Roughriders these next two Saturdays. A year ago, Saskatchewan outclassed Toronto in a 30-16 loss. The teams are slightly different than they were in 2021. But the end result could be two-fold this time.
Bye Week Benefits
The last time Toronto had a bye was in the new season’s opening week, and they didn’t exactly enter their home opener at full strength. The Double Blue are still feeling the black and blues coming off of their second bye week.
The Argos are nursing injuries to their offensive line, with Peter Nicastro remaining on the shelf due to a 2021 knee injury and a delayed follow-up surgery. LT Isiah Cage, who hasn’t played a game since 2019, missed the first three games due to lingering concussion issues. Despite having time off, Cage’s status is still in doubt. And RT Dejon Allen is battling a knee injury that cut short the last two games he played.
To add to all these concerns, Toronto had issues at Center with Justin Lawrence in their last game. The Argos front office is definitely in the market for reinforcements on their offensive line. But acquiring an easy fix in midstream of the season is easier said than done.
Getting Theren Churchill back, who has been away from the team for family reasons, would aid the Argos’ depth up front. It appears that he is on his way back after being by his wife’s side during the birth of their first child.
WRs Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescasin remain on the six-game injured list, dealing with lower leg problems. Toronto could use both of them; the offense lacks a physical presence at receiver in the pass and run game.
The excellent news for Double Blue is that they are getting CFL All-Star SAM Chris Edwards back into their lineup this week. After his suspension from the East Final incident with unruly fans was reduced from six games to three.
Toronto’s defense had its best showing against Winnipeg. The Argos are hoping that a healthy Shane Ray paired up with JaGared Davis and Shawn Oakman can finally start to live up to its high expectations. But there’s no doubt that Corey Mace’s group will get a significant boost with the return of Edwards to their front seven and secondary.
Toronto needs to be at full strength and has to start hitting its peak coming off their second bye. The Argos don’t have another week off until mid-September. Once they complete their back-to-back outings with the Riders, the Argonauts will play seven of their next eight games against their eastern rivals.
But first things first, the Argonauts can start making waves in the East division by raising their level of play against Saskatchewan in the next two weeks. A moral victory against Winnipeg is an excellent launching point. But Toronto needs to start winning games, or they may sink their chances of repeating as East champs.
A 1-4 start to the season could lead to some changes to their roster. While the Argos wouldn’t be out of the playoff mix ultimately. The results could force Toronto to entertain some painful decisions as the team reaches a potential breaking point. Particularly at the quarterback position.
Of all the players on the team, McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be most under the gun to raise his level of play and the Boatmen above sea level. The next stretch of the games is crucial for him and Double Blue’s outlook in 2022.