The Toronto Argonauts will be playing their first preseason game in 3 years this Friday in Ottawa. Provided that the latest CBA issues don’t alter those plans. For what it’s worth, The Argos are practicing on Tuesday morning at the Gryphon Soccer Complex.
Heightened Expectations For The Toronto Argonauts
A lot has changed for the Boatmen since 2019, and only ten players on the current roster were with Toronto back then. Three years ago, the Toronto Argonauts football club was coming off a 4-14 campaign in 2018, and they would match that by winning only four games again the following season. A once proud and historic franchise had become a bottom-tier CFL team only two years after winning the Grey Cup in 2017.
It’s safe to state that the Argos franchise has a much different outlook in 2022. The turnaround started late in the 2019 season when Double Blue legend Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons returned to steer the Argonauts’ ship back in the right direction. And that’s precisely what he has done. Through his leadership and infectious energy, ‘Pinball’ has changed the team’s culture and expectation level.
In unison with Clemons, the hiring of CFL coach of the year candidate Ryan Dinwiddie and the great work of Toronto’s front office have helped rebuild one of the greatest CFL franchises.
The Argos won nine games and the East Division in 2021, and they are heading into 2022 as legitimate Grey Cup contenders. Thanks to strong drafting, the recruitment of excellent American imports, coupled with an all-in approach in free agency that has landed top-tier CFL talents.
There hasn’t been this much enthusiasm surrounding the Toronto Argonauts football club in a long time, and things didn’t feel this way three years ago.
After the Double Blue scrimmage on Sunday, a few different transactions took place. Firstly, after starting training camp on the suspended list. WR Dres Anderson returned to the team on Monday. In a corresponding move, the Argos released Acadia WR Matt Gledhill.
Gledhill signed with Toronto in March of this year after playing six seasons at Acadia University. The six-foot-three, 215-pound Ontario native, impressed at the Eastern Regional Combine two months ago, recording a 37.5-inch vertical jump — the best of any prospect — and a nine-foot, 11-and-5/8-inch broad jump, which ranked second. Gledhill added a 4.70-second forty-yard dash, 7.50-second three-cone, 4.50-second short shuttle, and 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Unfortunately, with the Argos. The numbers game at receiver caught up to Gledhill very early in the process.
Toronto also announced the signing of Toledo/Notre Dame LB Jonathan Jones.
The Florida native Jones had 116 tackles, nine-and-a-half tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 19 games over two years with the Rockets.
Before his time with Toledo, the 5’11 230lb linebackers played 38 games at the University of Notre Dame between 2017-2019. Jones tallied 17 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one pass breakup during his career with the Fighting Irish.
During Monday’s press conference with the media, Ryan Dinwiddie said Jones projects on the weakside or the middle at linebacker. And that he was an American player that Assistant General Manager Vince Magri has been interested in bringing to the Six for quite some time.
Offensive Players/Positions To Watch Out For In Friday’s Preseason Game
While it remains to be seen how many projected Toronto starters on offence play in Ottawa this Friday night. The early hints are that only a select few will even see the field. And if they do, veteran players could receive a quick hook. In his most recent media scrum, Ryan Dinwiddie hinted at taking a safer approach and not pushing players this early in the process. He wants to avoid injuring key contributors.
The likelihood is that the players seeing the most reps will be Toronto’s younger players and new American arrivals.
The most anticipated debut for any American rookie will be that of QB Chad Kelly. The former Ole Miss standout and NFL draft pick should see plenty of reps in his first CFL game, and all eyes will be on him.
Expect Kelly and another American rookie QB Austin Simmons to split most of the team’s reps on the pivot.
The Argos will need to make some interesting decisions at RB and WR. Game reps this Friday for several skill players at those positions could greatly aid Ryan Dinwiddie and his remodeled offensive coaching staff in making crucial evaluations.
Toronto needs to have a strong insurance plan behind Andrew Harris at running back. There are high hopes for Toronto native and 2022 second-round pick Dan Adeboboye, and he will have to prove that he can shoulder the load if necessary during the 19-week regular season. Adeboboye was drafted for his hard running style. But he must bring value as a pass blocker and receiver in the passing game. For the rookie to earn playing time as Andrew Harris’s in-season caddy.
The departure of DJ Foster could hurt the Boatmen. The CFL’s top pass-catching running back a year ago has left the team. But early on in camp, American rookie Javon Leake has shown glimpses of being able to fill the role that Foster filled in 2021. Leake’s best value is as a dynamic returner, and he’s making a solid case to be active every week in camp. On Friday, he might cement his spot.
2020 fourth-round pick Dion Pellerin, who has been transitioning to playing fullback more exclusively this season, could see a lot of action on Friday. Pellerin brings a lot of versatility to the table as someone who can also take snaps at RB. But it will be his play on special teams that could earn him a weekly spot on the active roster. Toronto is carrying five fullbacks on their roster, and Pellerin has a chance to be the top dog at the position if he takes the next step forward in his pro career.
Toronto’s starting five at WR is presumably set with Kureligh Gittens Jr, Eric Rogers, DaVaris Daniels, Juwan Brescasin, and Brandon Banks. Markeith Ambles will also be in that mix. But the battle for who backs these accomplished players is up in the air.
Chandler Worthy, Earnest Edwards, Dejon Brissett, Cam Phillips, and Damon Jeanpiere all have the edge when it comes to experience. But special teams’ value, in both the return game and in coverage, could push someone new into the fold. Newcomers like Isaiah Wright, Darece Roberson, AJ Richardson, Jamari Hester, and Damonte Coxie have all shown flashes thus far in camp. However, Friday might be their only and last shot to prove they belong. The new Argos would love to survive the first wave of player cuts after the first preseason game.
There’s a real battle going on at RT in camp. Dejon Allen appears to be the front runner to play on the opposite side of a returning Isaiah Cage. But Trevon Tate and Martez Ivey will have an opportunity to put themselves in the discussion on Friday. Toronto’s new line coach William Sweet is inheriting players that he has very little history with if any. So 2021 pickups like Allen, Ivey, and Tate start with a clean slate.
Justin Lawrence appears to be the frontrunner to start at Centre, with Peter Nicastro looking less likely to return in time for the start of the regular season. Backup Jonathan Zamora will get an extended look in Friday’s action.
It remains to be seen how quickly first-round pick Gregor MacKellar takes to the CFL. He is projected to be playing guard for Toronto. But a great first impression by MacKellar could set him on a course to try and repeat what Peter Nicastro accomplished right out the gate a year ago.