It’s been a topsy-turvy 2022 CFL season for the Argos. The team’s trajectory has shifted weekly. And that’s reflected in Toronto’s 4-4 record as they prepare to enter the midway point of their campaign.
The Toronto Argonauts head towards tumultuous territory as they approach game #9 of their 18-game schedule against the 5-3 Calgary Stampeders this Saturday night at BMO Field.
State Of The Argos Heading Into Midseason Point
Based on their success in 2021 and high-profile pickups in the offseason, the Argos seemed like a good bet to challenge for a Grey Cup this season. But the tide is starting to turn against the Boatmen.
After all, because of Double Blue’s upcoming schedule and mounting injuries. The Argonauts’ ship is sailing into potentially stormy waters, and the team is encountering turbulence with a very uncertain future.
The latest news that Andrew Harris will miss the entire 2022 season has undoubtedly played a role in clouding the Argos’ path. Harris was supposed to be a catalyst on the field and locker room, aiding Toronto to a potential CFL title. But if the team wishes to have any championship success in 2022, they’ll have to soldier on without him.
Toronto’s Tenuous Position In The East
Toronto currently leads the East at 4-4. However, that standing and position are very tenuous for them.
EAST DIVISION STANDINGS
The Argos are only two points ahead of Hamilton and Montreal. The Als and Ticats play one another this Saturday afternoon, and the winner of that game will be 4-6.
Hamilton is in a great position to take over the East in the next three weeks. A victory over the Alouettes would improve their divisional record to 4-1.
Toronto, home underdogs to a surly Stampeders team on Saturday, could conceivably fall to 4-5 on the season. The combination of an Argos loss and Ticats win in Week 11 would place Hamilton only a half-game behind the Argonauts.
It’s within the realm of possibility that the Tiger-Cats could be 6-6 and 6-1 in the East if they sweep Toronto in their next set of back-to-back games. In that scenario, Hamilton would win the season series and see the Argos fall to 4-7.
The Double Blue’s ship could sink significantly in the next three weeks if they don’t steady the ship in the turbulent waters ahead.
State Of The Argonauts Depleted Roster
All football teams encounter injury issues as a season progresses. But the effects of being without and continuously losing so many crucial players is catching up to the Argonauts. Thursday’s injury report for Week 11 against Calgary doesn’t reflect Toronto’s issues correctly.
ARGONAUTS INJURY REPORT WEEK 11, DAY 3 – THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2022
|TORONTO ARGONAUTS||Practice Day|
|Player Name||Position||Injury||TUE||WED||THU||Game Status|
|Edwards, Chris||DB||Not Injury Related||DNP||FULL||FULL||QUESTIONABLE|
|Hagerty, Josh||DB||Not Injury Related||DNP||DNP||FULL||QUESTIONABLE|
Before the 2022 CFL campaign commenced, on paper, Toronto looked like they could have one of the league’s most well-rounded teams. But injuries have prevented the Argos from becoming whole.
However, there are no quick fixes in the midst of a CFL season. Because of the cap and other considerations, simply trading for or signing players and transitioning them onto your roster is easier said and done. But Toronto’s front office will definitely be working the phones in the coming weeks. Especially if more signiifcant injuries arise.
Toronto’s Offensive Regression
Struggles in pass protection, run blocking, and the team’s available receivers failing to make big plays have made life challenging for play-caller Ryan Dinwiddie, pass-game coordinator Pete Costanza, and ultimately quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Very quietly, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is having his most efficient season as a starter. He has avoided turnovers in the last three games but has been under constant duress in the pocket. Thompson is one of the league’s toughest quarterbacks, but the pieces around him have prohibited the Argos from having a consistent scoring attack.
There are plenty of legitimate excuses for the Argonauts’ offensive struggles. After all, Toronto has been without their two best offensive linemen all season. LT Isiah Cage, who made an impressive brief cameo for one game, is on the shelf for the foreseeable future dealing with concussion issues. He is technically on the team’s six-game injured list, but there are doubts about him returning to the field at all in the CFL. Making matters worse for Toronto is that Cage’s replacement on the blindside, Trevon Tate, has also been out of action on the six-game injured list.
2021 All-Star rookie C Peter Nicastro is still recovering from delayed knee surgery in the offseason. He missed the playoff run late last year and the first half of this season, and there is no set timeline for when he will be able to return. And one has to wonder if he can regain his stellar rookie form when and if he does reenter the Argos lineup.
Because of all these injuries up front, Argos offensive line coach Kris Sweet has had to piece together a makeshift starting group. Interior linemen Philip Blake, who has dealt with a multitude of nicks and bruises all year, is starting out of position at left tackle. Rookie first-round pick Gregor MacKellar is going through on-the-job training at left guard. The results for the Argos offensive line have been mixed at best. The team has allowed ten sacks in their last three games and has struggled immensely to run the football during that stretch.
Wide Receiver, which was arguably Toronto’s deepest position on paper, has also been hit hard with the injury bug. Veterans Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescasin have combined to play only one game this season, and the latter is expected to make his 2022 debut this Saturday against his former team. Provided that Brescasin does indeed return, it couldn’t come at a better time.
Cam Phillips, who was emerging as one of the team’s best contributors on offense, is out for up to a month due to a groin injury sustained in warm-ups. Tommy Nield has filled in admirably, but he hurt his ankle last week and, according to coach Ryan Dinwiddie, will be out two to three weeks.
The story this week is the loss of Andrew Harris. But the other high-profile player who hasn’t recaptured his former glory is WR Brandon Banks. One of the CFL’s most exciting playmakers in the past has had a few glimpses of his former brilliance in Double Blue. But those moments have been few and far between. Banks is tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions, but he has not made an impact for Toronto and only has 18 receptions on the season.
Speedy B came very close earlier this season to having a quick exit off Toronto’s roster. After a blowup on the sidelines in week 4 with his fellow Double Blue teammates. The player who was supposed to provide sparks on the scoreboard nearly lit his new team on fire.
The pressure is on Banks to deliver during this crucial stretch of the season. Especially with the team having so many injuries at the receiver position. The way things have transpired thus far for Banks in Toronto. His stay in the Six looks like it is headed towards a one-and-done scenario.
Argos Secondary Missing Their Leader
Toronto still boasts one of the better front sevens in the CFL. Especially at linebacker with All-Star-worthy performances by Wynton McManis and Henoc Muamba. But a critical injury to the Argos’ most accomplished defensive back Shaq Richardson, coupled with injuries to players directly behind him, is a growing concern for Corey Mace’s defensive unit.
The news that 2021 CFL All-Star Shaq Richardson would go on the six-game injured list with a groin injury flew under the radar last week. But the loss of Richardson had a ripple effect on the Boatmen’s secondary. Royce Metchie and Dahaun Amos were forced to switch roles at safety and defensive halfback. After Robert Priester, the new boundary halfback, was injured against Hamilton. To muddy the waters further, newly reacquired DB Maurice Carnell IV was thrust into Toronto’s lineup, and then he got banged up.
Shaq Richardson has always been the glue that has held the back end of Toronto’s defense together. Without their secondary leader, the Argos looked lost a week ago. Not just against the pass either on a few occasions against the Ticats. The Argos DBs were lined up incorrectly in their run fits as well. Hamilton broke through the second line of defense and averaged seven yards per run play.
CB Robert Priester, who is learning the CFL game on the fly, has had to play the SAM linebacker spot and now boundary halfback. He is questionable for Saturday’s game with a lingering hamstring issue. The positive news is that Maurice Carnell is on track to play, but he is not at the level of player that Richardson is.
Royce Metchie and Dashaun Amos, two handpicked players in the offseason by former Stamps assistant coach Corey Mace, need to play better. Both have had issues during the first half of the season, and they must start righting the ship this Saturday when they play their former team Calgary.
Another player in his first year in Toronto that hasn’t delivered yet is DE Ja’Gared Davis. It’s not quite a repeat of Charleston Hughes’s nondescript 2021 campaign with the Argos. After all, Davis does have two sacks on the year. But he hasn’t made any impactful plays for the team. Like his former Hamilton and current Toronto teammate Brandon Banks, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Davis could be headed towards one-and-done territory.
Argos Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie Under Increased Scrutiny
Critics and naysayers of the Toronto Argonauts have been prematurely calling for Ryan Dinwiddie’s dismissal all season long. As ludicrous as the suggestion has been to this point. Based on Dinwiddie’s success in his first season and a half as Argos head coach. (13-9 after 22 games).
However, the dissenting voices against Double Blue’s on-field leader will seem more credible if the team falters.
For better or worse, rightly or wrongly, the expectations for Toronto were high coming off of last season’s East Final run. Despite all the injuries and adversity bestowed upon the team, anything short of that type of result in 2022 will be deemed a failure for Ryan Dinwiddie.
A complete nosedive by Toronto that sends them out of the playoff picture entirely in a year where the East has been mediocre at best could lead to Ryan Dinwiddie’s exit from the Six.
There are legitimate gripes and questions about Ryan Dinwiddie’s success as a play caller in Toronto. But also his in-game management and ability to lead an entire locker room. Ryan Dinwiddie’s head coaching career is at a crossroads right now.
How Dinwiddie weathers this storm and takes control of his team could determine his longevity as a head coach in Canada.
Unlike coaches who have taken over rebuilding CFL franchises in the past. Since Michael Pinball Clemons reentered the picture, the Argos have taken a win-now approach by luring in high-priced veterans. Dinwiddie wasn’t hired to captain a rudderless ship in transition. Toronto is expected to win and be a championship contender.
The entire coaching staff is a reflection of Ryan Dinwiddie. After adopting hired guns in 2021, In 2022, He has his handpicked lieutenants on staff this year. Dinwiddie is tasked with making it all work.
Depending on your point of view, there are legitimate reasons or excuses for the Argos 4-4 record and their bi-polar style of play. But in the results-oriented business of sports. How Ryan Dinwiddie and his Argonauts team perform in their final ten games could decide whether he gets to captain the Boatmen’s ship in 2023.
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