The Argos have unfinished business in 2022. Toronto came ever so close to competing for the Grey Cup in 2021. In an effort to make it over that final wave, the Boatmen have brought on board some of the CFL’s best big-game performers.
RB Andrew Harris, WR Brandon Banks, and DE JaGared Davis will be making their on-field debuts in Double Blue this Friday. They are expected to play a good portion of the first half against Hamilton in the preseason finale.
Even if it is just an exhibition setting, it will be unique and exciting to see the legendary Andrew Harris and two Ti-Cats terrors in Banks and Davis in Argos’ uniforms. But make no mistake, the three high-profile stars have arrived in Toronto to make an impact when the games matter most.
Banks, Harris and Davis have all sung the same song since arriving in the Six. They are with the Argos to help them get over the hump and win a championship. The Argonauts football club has signed the trio as a reactionary move to what transpired to them at the end of last season.
Bittersweet Ending To 2021 Argos Season Shaped 2022 Moves
It’s challenging for many Toronto Argonauts fans to look back on the 2021 season with fondness. Because of how it all ended.
In a shortened season with plenty of conflict and uncertainty from start to finish. From coaches departing in mid-season to rescheduled games on short rest to having the CFL’s most extensive injured list. The Boatmen overcame all of that adversity and won nine games and the Eastern Division a year ago.
Last season, The Argos beat the still reigning CFL Champion Blue Bombers in Toronto and the Grey Cup runner-up Hamilton Tiger-Cats on three separate occasions in 2021. Including a thrilling come from behind victory in Hamilton on Thanksgiving.
However, Toronto’s achievements in 2021, was in many respects, fools gold. The Argos were 7-1 in close games decided in the final three minutes. And they were 6-0 in games that were decided by four points or less.
A valid argument could be made that the proper MOP of the Argonauts last season was kicker Boris Bede. Toronto doesn’t escape all those near defeats in 2021 without his heroics. A nine-win season in 14 games could’ve easily been a 6-8 campaign without Bede.
Toronto lived on the edge all last season. And ultimately, when it came time to rise to the occasion when it mattered most, the Boatmen sunk under pressure in its most pivotal moment of the year.
The Argos nearly got to a Grey Cup last season. They were a quarter away from vanquishing their archrival Hamilton for the fourth time in one season and challenging Winnipeg for the CFL throne. But it wasn’t meant to be.
On December 5th of 2021, Toronto took a 12-0 lead into the half in the East Final, where they should have been up by a more commanding score. If not for the herculean efforts of super sub-Dane Evans and JaGared Davis.
The Argos barely held onto a 13-12 lead going into the fourth quarter. When the smoke eventually settled at BMO Field, Toronto would lose the game 27-19. But the truth is Toronto had already lost the East Final to Hamilton on two specific plays in the first half.
JaGared Davis’s pass breakup of a surefire major in the end zone and Dane Evans forced fumble on an interception return down the sidelines late in the first half. These two clutch plays have haunted the Argonauts and their entire fan base in the offseason.
In the season’s most decisive moment. The Argos needed more than a stellar kicker to help them seize the day. They needed what JaGared Davis gave the Ti-Cats in the East Final. Toronto needed what Andrew Harris gave Winnipeg in the West Final when he carried the Bombers back to the Grey Cup, rushing for 136 yards on the ground.
Today, Andrew Harris, JaGared Davis, and Brandon Banks are Toronto Argonauts because of what happened in the 2021 East Final. Double Blue signed them because of their talent and leadership. But ultimately, they are Argos because the team wanted clutch performers in the biggest games of all.
Specifically Harris and Davis. One could argue that no two players in the modern-day CFL have produced at a higher level in big games than they have.
Argos News And Notes
Perhaps not surprising, considering the depth and talent of their overall roster. It didn’t take long for CFL teams to sign away players; Toronto released in their first wave of roster cutdowns.
The BC Lions have signed QB Antonio Pipkin. WR Chandler Worthy is now an Alouette. And LB Brady Sheldon will give it a go with Chris Jones in Edmonton.
It remains to be seen what happens with Sheldon and Worthy on their new teams in the coming weekend when final cuts occur. But with Antonio Pipkin, it’s a win-win for him and the B.C. Lions. The Leos needed a competent backup behind Canadian sensation Nathan Rourke. And for Pipkin, he is going to play with some very talented players in B.C. Including one of the league’s very best receiving duos in the dynamic Lucky Whitehead and All-CFL receiver Bryan Burnham.
Veteran Argos Stage Team Meeting
On Tuesday, Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the media that his players had an impromptu team meeting after Monday’s sloppy practice. Dinwiddie wouldn’t disclose to Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun which veterans orchestrated the meeting. But the second-year head coach was pleased with the way the team practiced on Tuesday. A sign that the in-house messaging by his players worked.
Ryan Dinwiddie talked about how player struggles are commonplace in the dog days of training camp. He described, how at this stage, players lose focus in the heat and tire physically and mentally from competing against one another. Dinwiddie believes that Friday’s preseason finale against a different opponent will help.
Boise State/Winnipeg/NFL/CFL Connection
In Tuesday’s media scrum, Ryan Dinwiddie revealed how his former Winnipeg teammate and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury played a role in helping helped lead W.R. A.J. Richardson to the Argos.
Once upon a time, two current prominent NFL head coaches, Zac Taylor (Bengals), and Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals) shared a quarterback room in 2007 as backups to current Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie in Winnipeg. All three former CFL quarterbacks have gone on to success in the coaching ranks, and remain close confidants and allies.
After his NFL opportunities dried up, AJ Richardson reached out to Dinwiddie initially to see if there was an opportunity with Toronto. Kliff Kingsbury helped seal the deal by endorsing A.J. to Dinwiddie. And the entire process took one day to complete.
Dinwiddie was always aware of Richardson’s exploits at his alma mater Boise State. But the connection to Kingsbury and the timing helped land A.J. with Toronto.
After three straight years of falling short of making an NFL active roster, Richardson’s NFL window closed in the summer of 2021 after spending the first two years of his career on the Cardinals’ practice squad. Richardson went undrafted in 2019 out of Boise State. But it was his 2018 college campaign that put him on NFL teams’ radars.
In his final collegiate season in 2018, The late bloomer A.J. Richardson set career highs across the board in receptions (54), receiving yards (825), and touchdowns (8).
The California native, who will turn 27 on Thursday, has shined in Argos camp thus far. The 6’0 215lb pass-catcher doesn’t possess great straight-line speed (4.65), but he has always shown a knack for making the spectacular catch using stellar body control. The door on his NFL career may be closed for now. But a new one has opened up in the CFL. Thanks to a Boise State and CFL connection.
Argos No Longer Under The Radar
The Argos are preparing to enter the 2022 CFL season under different circumstances than a year ago. And Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie is fully aware that the measuring stick and expectations have changed for his club in 2022.
Last year, everyone kind of underestimated us. Many had us picked seventh out of nine teams, which was a great situation to be in. To be under the radar. Now we set the bar higher and we gotta get better”.
Toronto is not resting on their laurels from 2021 as East Champions, and they know they weren’t good enough. Newcomers like Andrew Harris and Brandon Banks are getting rave reviews from their new head coach for how well they have practiced and for their work in the class and locker room.
Dinwiddie, who has always been known a demanding coach to please, went of his way to praise his new star veteran players the last few days. Players like Harris and Banks could be the catalysts in Toronto getting better in 2022.