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The Toronto Argonauts Quarterback Conundrum

Who will be the Toronto Argonauts starting quarterback when the team returns from its bye week? And should Ryan Dinwiddie and the Argos staff consider finding a way to dress three quarterbacks when all of them are healthy? These are two important questions to ponder during the Boatmen’s week 9 bye.

Toronto enters the midway point of their season at 4-3, 2-1 in their division, and tied for first place in the East with Hamilton. Seven games remain on the Argos’ regular-season schedule. Five of which will be against divisional opponents.

EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

RKTEAMGPWLTPTSFAHOMEAWAYDIV
1 Hamilton743081361192-0-02-3-03-1-0
2 Toronto743081421683-0-01-3-02-1-0
3 Montreal624041581540-2-02-2-01-2-0
4 Ottawa61502871790-3-01-2-00-2-0

The Double Blue’s future itinerary reads as follows. They return to BMO Field in week 10 on Wednesday, October 6th. The Argos will be squaring off with the Ottawa Redblacks before heading to Hamilton to play the Ti-Cats five days later on Monday, October 11th. The third of four regular-season meetings between the two rivals. Eleven days later, Toronto heads to Montreal. Before finally coming back home to play the BC Lions on Saturday, October 30th.

Toronto’s next three divisional games could determine the Argos’ playoff hopes and, ultimately, its fate in winning the East.

The team will have to make a big determination in the coming week in deciding how they handle the quarterback position when they resume play next Wednesday.

Let’s look at the Argos’s quarterback conundrum heading into the second half of their season.

Toronto Argonauts Quarterback Conundrum

Nick Arbuckle’s Hamstring Injuries

Nick Arbuckle has missed a significant amount of practice time leading into and during this season. It has cost him three starts on the pivot in seven games. Arbuckle’s current hamstring problem is similar to what he sustained in training camp but in a different area.

As it pertains to Nick Arbuckle’s hamstring issues. Argos’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and the team’s training staff opted to proceed with caution at the start of the season. And they exercised the same approach this past week against Montreal. The team doesn’t want to jeopardize his long-term availability by potentially turning Arbuckle’s strained hamstring into a torn one.

So with that in mind, Nick Arbuckle may stay on the shelf when the team returns to practice in preparation for Ottawa nine days from now. And quite possibly, Toronto could sit Arbuckle for the follow-up game in Hamilton as well, which is only a few days after.

Depending on how he feels, and more importantly, how the Argos staff feels. It might be challenging to get Arbuckle the necessary practice time that he would need to prepare for both of those opponents in a short time frame, especially if he is hobbled or limited in any fashion.

Toronto’s offensive playbook this year has featured a lot of run-pass options and zone-read plays. You don’t necessarily need to be Doug Flutie to run this offense, but it does require the ability to make quick decisions and move and throw on the run.

Furthermore, Hamstring, foot, or leg injuries are also troublesome for standard pass plays. Any injury to the lower body affects throwing motion and the ability to set your feet properly and throw on time with accuracy.

For those reasons, it will be fascinating to see if Toronto’s staff has faith in Arbuckle being healthy to move forward immediately. Or if they are going to proceed with caution while going with what they may feel internally is their better option.

Sticking With McLeod Bethel-Thompson At Quarterback

There’s no question that the Toronto Argonauts envision Nick Arbuckle as the future of their quarterback position. The Boatmen are invested in him for the long term. And Arbuckle was paired with his former offensive coordinator, Ryan Dinwiddie, in the Six for a reason.

But….. Is Nick Arbuckle the team’s best option right now at quarterback?

From a health perspective. The immediate answer might be no. But the real questions are, Does McLeod Bethel-Thompson give the 2021 Toronto Argonauts their best chance to win? And, Should the Boatmen stick with MBT for the remainder of their season?

Provided that Nick Arbuckle sits out against Ottawa and Hamilton because of his hamstring injury. It’s quite possible that the performance of McLeod Bethel-Thompson during those two games could provide the answers.

Playing the what-if game is a familiar practice, especially when it comes to sports. But if McLeod Bethel-Thompson starts the next two games, plays well, and gets the Argos to 6-3. The job could be his the rest of the way.

To this point, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, in his three starts versus Nick Arbuckle’s four starts, has put up better overall numbers. Both quarterbacks have also come in games on relief duty for one another during the first half of the season. But the efficiency totals favor Bethel-Thompson this season. As shown below.

Toronto Argonauts QB’sPLAYERCOMPATT%YARDSTDINTEFFICINT %AVG
ARBUCKLE, Nick9615362.71,1585680.53.97.6
BETHEL-THOMPSON, Mcleod578864.874550110.30.08.5

Each Quarterback, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Nick Arbuckle, provides different skill sets. When healthy, without question, the mobility side favors Arbuckle. But when it comes to arm strength and experience, Bethel-Thompson has the edge.

Toronto having both of these options is a good problem that most teams would love to have. But the season is reaching a point where a leader in the clubhouse has to emerge and firmly take hold of the offense. If things break right, this could become McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s team.

Dressing Three Quarterbacks

Before I enter into this next section, below are the current roster rules for the CFL this season, as it pertains to dressing a third quarterback on game days. From the CFL game rule ratio for the 2021 season.

  • Teams can opt to dress 43 or 44 players this season. A total of two of the players for opening week identified must be quarterbacks. A third quarterback can be dressed but he must be listed at another position and follow the guidelines of that position (ex. listed as a WR). Rosters must consist of a minimum of 20 nationals and a maximum of 2o Americans, with two quarterbacks and one Global.

Wide Receiver Antonio Pipkin. Perhaps, that bridge is never crossed at all by the Boatmen. But based on how well Pipkin played against Montreal, in a change of pace role at quarterback. It’s entirely possible that the day might come where the team uses the CFL’s loophole for dressing a third quarterback on game day.

The loophole might not need to be exercised in the immediate future, especially if Nick Arbuckle is inactive in the Argos next two games. Toronto would go with the same quarterback duo they had against Montreal last Friday.

Dressing a third quarterback at a different position is doable but easier said than done. First off, it comes at the expense of another player and special teams. And with the Argonauts issues with injuries at several different positions. It makes the possibility less likely when Arbuckle and MBT are both healthy. However, keeping Antonio Pipkin active for every game moving forward is something Toronto needs to consider strongly.

After all, Antonio Pipkin not only brings an added dimension to the Argos RPO/Zone Read offense, but he helped cure Toronto’s season-long short-yardage issues by picking up four first downs in the team’s 30-27 victory over the Alouettes. A week before, Toronto walked away without any majors on two separate occasions deep in the red zone in their loss to Saskatchewan.

Antonio Pipkin helped the Boatmen not only extend scoring drives versus Montreal but ultimately score a touchdown in a goal-to-go situation. On a DJ Foster td run up the gut where the defense was keyed in on Pipkin and his ability to get outside the pocket.

The former small-school standout at Tiffin is a dynamic runner with a big arm. His resume as a runner speaks for itself. Even in the CFL, with Montreal back in 2018, Pipkin had 8 rushing touchdowns.

Antonio Pipkin was prolific in college. He played 44 games at Tiffin, leading the Dragons to their first winning season in the GLIAC. He broke virtually every school career passing record. Finished with 10,940 yards and 88 TDs. Pipkin was the first player from Tiffin to ever play in the Senior Bowl. He led the team in rushing in 2014 and 2016, highlighted by a 234-yard game in 2015. Pipkin finished his college career with 2,207 rushing yards with 25 TDs.  

The Argonauts also have another dynamic runner at the Quarterback position on their practice roster in Cole McDonald. But Antonio Pipkin provides the best value right now to assume this role on offense.

We have all seen CFL teams this year fall apart due to QB injuries. But Pipkin has experience in the CFL and Toronto’s system and provides the team with an excellent security blanket in games. The Double Blue are lucky to have more than two viable options to run their offense.

The next seven games will be an all-hands-on-deck situation for the Boatmen. And the Toronto Argonauts need to do what’s right at the quarterback position if they hope to win the East and potentially hoist the Grey Cup.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Angelo Varvouletos

    September 27, 2021 at 11:28 pm

    Great article. I’ve been on the 3 QB decision all year. Short yardage success can be the difference between winning and losing, and if Pipkin was dressed in Regina, the Argos just might have won that game. Argos have dressed 8 D-lineman and 7 LB’s at times this year. I don’t think that is really necessary. Go with the 3rd QB.

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