The Argos are entering Week 2 of the CFL regular season as leaders in the East. By default, and thanks to a bye in week one. The Boatmen, at 0-0, have a half-game lead over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa Redblacks, and their opponent in Thursday night’s home opener, at BMO Field, the Montreal Alouettes. All three Eastern rivals dropped their opening games in Week 1.
The Argos Enter 2022 With Heightened Expectations
A year ago, in a shortened season, Toronto took advantage of being overlooked in the discussion for who would win the East. Fast forward to the present day, And the tables have turned. Some expect Toronto to win the division again. But it won’t come easy.
Even though their two top threats for the East throne, Hamilton and Montreal, lost their opening games in week one. Everyone expects those two teams to be factors in the playoff picture. And last year’s weak link in the East, The Ottawa Redblacks, look like a much better team after a strong showing against the defending CFL Champions, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
There’s a lot of internal pressure on the Argonauts this season. To perform well on the field and at the box office. Toronto’s brain trust feels that it should be better in 2022 than they were in 2021. And they didn’t rest on their laurels last season; the Boatmen made every effort to get better by bringing on board hired guns to propel the Argonauts over that final wave to a Grey Cup Championship.
The measuring stick has changed in the East to include Toronto when they weren’t invited to the party before the 2021 season. They became the host by season’s end, but that spot can be tenuous. Can the Argos live up to expectations and deal with pressure? We are going to find out.
Argos Opening And Closing The 2022 Season With Montreal
The Argos will see plenty of their archrival, the Ti-Cats, this coming season. But it won’t come until August when Toronto and Hamilton play each other four times in five weeks. From Week 9 to Week 13. There’s no doubt that those games could be a determining factor in who stands tall in the East when the smoke clears on the 2022 season.
However, the Argos are opening and closing their season with Montreal. The Boatmen will play the Als in back-to-back weeks to close the regular season. Where both teams will be by the time late October arrives on the calendar remains to be seen. After all, a lot can happen between now and then. But no matter what the team’s records are near Halloween time, the results of those contests could heavily influence the pecking order in the East.
The parity in the East will make it difficult for any team to run away with a division title. 11 or 12 wins could guarantee the top spot in the division.
The Argos, who split their season series with Montreal last year, face a challenging task at home this week. They are confronting an Alouettes team that dominated them 37-16 at the end of the 2021 season with first place on the line. It’s a forgotten moment in 2021 that Montreal took control of the East late in the year from Toronto but faltered down the stretch going 7-7, in part due to injuries and a very tough schedule at the end of the year (Bombers/Riders in three games) to create an opening for the Argonauts to seize the East with nine wins in a shortened season.
The Toronto Argonauts are a very different team than when the dust settled on a bitter East Final loss. The team technically has three new coordinators and some new leaders at the top on their roster like JaGared Davis, Brandon Banks, and Andrew Harris. But it’s doubtful that many of the returning Argos from 2021 and Ryan Dinwiddie have forgotten what Montreal did to them the last time they played.
Montreal is smarting after a brutal 30-27 loss in week one at Calgary, where the Als nearly overcame the adversity of losing arguably their best player, William Stanback, to an ankle injury that could wipe out almost all of his season. The Argos will be happy to avoid Stanback this week after he rushed for over 200 yards against them in their last head-to-head meeting. But Toronto could see him back in an Als uniform come October.
To his credit, Alouettes head coach, Khari Jones, one of Canada’s best play callers, didn’t buckle when he lost Stanback. And Jeshrun Antwi proved more than capable of carrying the load in Stanback’s absence. (7 carries for 98 yards).
Vernon Adams, like Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson, can be a polarizing figure for some. But there’s no denying ‘Big Play’ VA’s immense talent level. When he is on his game, Montreal is extremely formidable on offence. But it was Matthew Shiltz, who is now with Hamilton, who did the Argos in late last year. That’s a testament to Khari Jones.
McLeod Bethel Thompson had his worst game of 2021 against the Alouettes defence late last season, throwing zero majors and four interceptions. Als DC Barron Miles’s defensive scheme flustered MBT heavily. McLeod wasn’t able to set his feet and step into throws. Montreal threw many confusing blitzes at Toronto’s offensive line and Bethel-Thompson. Thursday night’s affair sets up as a redemption game for Toronto’s clear-cut QB1 and the Argos.
The Argos have to start their season on the right note this Thursday. Not just because it’s a home and divisional game, after playing Montreal, Toronto will travel to Canada’s new favored team, BC, next week and then play the Bombers at home before back-to-back games against Saskatchewan. Despite their lofty expectations, things can go south quickly if the Boatmen falter against the Alouettes, facing that sort of schedule to start the year.
Week 2 News And Injury Notes
As reported last week, DB Shaq Richardson will be making his 2022 debut against Montreal. One of the league’s best defensive backs missed training camp and preseason action due to injury. Richardson is off the team’s suspended list and back on the active roster. The Argos secondary will need him against Montreal’s top-tier passing attack.
Jamal Peters, one of the team’s projected starters on the outside at cornerback, has started the week not practicing while nursing a knee injury. With last year’s starters, Crezdon Butler, Jeff Richards, Treston Decoud, and Jalen Collins are gone. (Not a pleasant debut for the latter two in their Elks debuts)
There are very few remaining players from last year’s secondary. Communication in the new Argos secondary in week one could be an issue. Having Shaq Richardson back will help as he gets used to playing with new teammates in a new scheme.
ARGOS INJURY REPORT – MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2022 – WEEK 2, DAY 2
Centre Peter Nicastro is still aways away from getting back into action for Double Blue. He missed the tail end of Toronto’s season in 2021 and all of training camp due to recovery from a knee injury and a delayed surgery. Nicastro will start the year on the team’s injured list. Justin Lawrence is expected to get the nod at Centre until the All-East rookie is ready to return.
Offensive linemen Isiah Cage, Dylan Giffen, and Gregor MacKellar are all dealing with “head injuries” to start the work week. Giffen and MacKellar are expected to start the season as primary backups. But very few players are as crucial to Toronto’s offensive success as Isiah Cage. Toronto has the capability of sliding last year’s starter Dejon Allen to left tackle. But the absence of Cage in the opening game would be a significant one. Fortunately for Toronto, Ryan Dinwiddie told the media on Monday that they feel comfortable that Cage will start on Thursday, barring any setbacks.
The Argonauts were without a handful of players on Sunday/Monday, including receivers Eric Rogers (hamstring), Juwan Brescacin (hip), Dejon Brissett (quad), and Earnest Edwards (quad). Most did not practice or were limited. The bye week gave Toronto time to heal up, but they are not entirely at full strength to start game one preparation. Ryan Dinwiddie told the mead that Rogers is about a week or two away. That he doesn’t feel like rushing him into Thursday’s lineup.
Missing four receivers could be problematic for Toronto. The team has good depth at the position. But operating without Rogers and Brescasin would be eerily similar to last year, where Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and DaVaris Daniels were required to shoulder the load in the passing game. Markeith Ambles and Brandon Banks must be ready to step up immediately.
There’s still no update on Chris Edwards’s suspension to start the season. The All-Star SAM is slated to miss six games, but Toronto hopes the number is reduced to three. Nonetheless, Edwards won’t be available against Montreal, and filling his shoes will be challenging. Robertson Daniel seems like the likely candidate for that role. Edwards can be on the sidelines during games.
Ryan Dinwiddie plans to announce team captains later this week.
Montreal and Toronto’s lineups will look different than when these two teams clashed a year ago at Molson Stadium. The Argos are hoping for a winning result at home.