As the Argos enter the final quarter of the CFL regular season. There are reasons for concern after an alarming loss at the hands of the Alouettes. Toronto’s worst performance of their entire season.
The good news is that the Argos are 6-4, tied for first place in the East, with three of their last four regular-season games at home. Starting with this coming Saturday at 4 pm ET at BMO Field against the slumping BC Lions (4-6). The Double Blue then travel to Ottawa before playing back-to-back games in the Six against Hamilton and Edmonton. Toronto is undefeated at home this season.
The bad news is that the Argos are coming off their worst loss of the year to Montreal, a crushing defeat, where the Boatmen were not only dominated by the Alouettes. But many of the team’s biggest weaknesses were on full display. What’s left in the wake after Toronto’s 37-16 loss in Montreal is now a three-team race in the East, with the Argos, Als, and Ti-Cats all separated by just one game in the standings.
Montreal currently has the tiebreaker over the Argos because they have outscored Toronto in their two head to head games. (64-46).
And while on paper, the Als’ schedule looks very challenging. With them playing Winnipeg in back-to-back weeks (14/15). However, one must wonder how important those games will be to the 10-1 Bombers, with them having everything sawn up in the Western standings. Outside of those two Bomber games, Montreal hosts the Riders this weekend and then the Redblacks in the final week of the regular season.
Hamilton (5-5) has Edmonton next on the road before hosting BC. Then the Ti-Cats will have an opportunity to avenge their Thanksgiving day loss to Toronto at BMO in week 15 before closing out their regular season at home versus the Riders.
Although, it seems far-fetched at the moment. Because of where they are in the standings and what looks like a favorable schedule on paper. With Toronto facing three teams with losing records on the docket. (BC, Ottawa, & Edmonton). An Argos loss to the Leos this Saturday would not only do damage to Toronto’s divisional hopes, but it could potentially open the door for BC to sneak in as a crossover team in the playoff seeding.
The Lions, after a demoralizing 45-0 drubbing at the hands of the almighty Blue Bombers, look nothing like a playoff contender at the moment. But a triumph over Toronto puts them only one game out of the playoffs.
EAST DIVISION STANDINGS
Usually, the final quarter of a season is where contending teams start to hit their stride. But Toronto still feels like it’s in an identity crisis, and for the first time this year, there’s legit doubt about the team getting better as the season progresses.
Let’s look at some of the areas that cause concern moving forward for Double Blue.
After ten games, there’s still uncertainty as to who should lead the Argonauts at quarterback. The Double Blue have been doubling down on their dual starter strategy all season long at quarterback. As a result, the Argos have lacked consistency on offence. It will not shock many if Nick Arbuckle is back on the pivot soon. After McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s multiple turnover meltdown in Montreal.
The Argos are fifth in the CFL in total offence. Their rushing attack has disappeared in recent weeks. They are currently 7th in the league in that category averaging only 78.6 rushing yards per game.
The Boatmen’s offensive line is a significant cause for concern. Starting RT, Jamal Campbell was put on the team’s six-game injured list with a strained quad muscle. And his presence was missed greatly in Montreal. Trevon Tate’s performance in Montreal left a lot to be desired. The Argos have to find a legit answer at the position in the final quarter of the regular season.
The entire right side of Toronto’s offensive line struggled mightily in Week 12. However, the team hopes to get back one of their best linemen in RG Dariusz Bladek (bicep) this week. Toronto needs him to help reestablish their faltering ground attack.
At wide receiver, Kurleigh Gittens Jr has emerged, coming off two straight 100-yard receiving days. But the absence of Eric Rogers has taken away one of Toronto’s most physical receivers and blockers from their offensive attack. Rogers (hamstring) has missed the team’s last three games, and there is no word yet on if he will be on track to return sooner than his six-game designation. Another key return would be that of Juwan Brescasin. He brings a lot of the same qualities that Rogers possesses. His rehab is coming along well from a knee injury, but he is probably still a week or two away.
Toronto hasn’t been at full strength on offence all season. And perhaps that’s a legitimate reason for their struggles with the Argos’ having 18 players on injured reserve. Couple that with the team’s see-saw act at quarterback, and what you have is an offensive attack that is very inconsistent. Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff need to get the best out of their roster for the Boatmen to steady their ship and get back on course.
A more significant issue is on the other side of the ball. Toronto’s defence has faltered mightily in recent weeks. Their bend but don’t break style finally broke in Montreal.
The Argos defence has been run over since former defensive coordinator Glen Young, and defensive backs coach Joshua Bell departed. The team went from first in the league against the run to seventh. In a manner of five weeks.
The Argos pass defence has also plummeted. Toronto is ranked eighth in the CFL, allowing 276 yards passing per contest. Getting Jamal Peters back in the lineup will help. But the entire secondary hasn’t played as well since Joshua Bell left the building. The lack of a consistent pass rush hasn’t helped matters either.
“Defensive consultant” Chris Jones has had a tough task, entering the picture in mid-stream, and trying to make things work. But one of the most respected defensive minds in recent memory has had difficulties marrying his concepts with his adopted personnel.
One of the Argos’ biggest star players is not performing up to his name recognition or reputation.
Whether it be age or injury, or both, Charleston Hughes has not been the same player who led the CFL with 16 sacks in 2019. For the Boatmen, Hughes has played seven games and has only two sacks. He’s 12th on the team in tackles. What’s more alarming is that he has made no plays of any impact since donning the double blue.
Drake Nevis is another high-profile addition who would’ve been a great help to Toronto, specifically their run defense. Unfortunately, because of a myriad of different injuries, Nevis is on the six-game injured list again has only played one game this season.
With the Argos lacking a true run-stopping DT. Teams have been able to run the ball roughshod against them. Easier said than done, but if there is an area that Toronto should address before the trade deadline, besides perhaps right tackle, its goal should be to find a genuine run stopper at defensive tackle. Shawn Oakman has held up well on the interior, but he’s more of a tweener.
Because of injuries, Toronto has utilized so many different personnel groups on their defensive line. Players like Cordarro Law, Shane Ray, and Kony Ealy have been in and mostly out of the team’s weekly lineup. The linebacker position has encountered some of the same issues. Henoc Muamba is back. Cameron Judge is inching closer to returning from a foot injury, and his partner in crime, Muamba, needs him to help fend off blocks. Montreal neutralized Muamba by singling him out in Week 12.
Opposing teams have exploited the Argos’ weaknesses, and a quick fix doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
To that end, Toronto has made several additions on defense in the last few weeks as they look to shore up the team’s depth due to recent injuries. On Monday, they announced the signings of Canadian defenders DB Dondre Wright and DL Benoit Martin.
Wright could be a potential replacement for the injured Arjen Colquhoun. The veteran Canadian defensive back hurt his left leg on special teams with three minutes left in the opening quarter against the Als and needed to be carted off on a stretcher. He will miss the rest of the season.
Can The Argos Bounce Back?
“It’s just one loss.” The problem with that mindset is it discounts the way Toronto lost in Week 12. Often in sports, victories conceal a team’s flaws. While losses bring all of them back to light. Losing to Montreal in their stadium wasn’t a sin; after all, the Als are playing outstanding football, winners of four straight now.
However, the issue is how Toronto lost. In their most important game of the season, coming off of a bye week. The Boatmen were outclassed. They did not look like a team that deserved to be in 1st place.
Many will chalk up the Boatmen’s 21 point loss to them being on the road. And many feel that Toronto will, by default, based on their schedule and being at home will easily right their ship and make the playoffs or even win the division.
Perhaps, but as proven in Montreal, the Argos’ are not good enough to rest on their laurels. Because they haven’t proven that they are legit contenders yet, they are in a position to do it. But until they do, the franchise is in pretender mode.
To automatically assume that Toronto will be ok because they are back at home against a struggling team in BC is a recipe for failure. Because not that much separates the Lions from the Argos. The Argonauts are currently 3.5 point favorites in Week 13 against the Lions. But Toronto has to earn their way in and play better than they did last week. They can’t take anything for granted. If they do, they will deserve to lose, as they did in Montreal.
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