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Top Storylines As The Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts Start 2023 Training Camp

The road to the 2023 CFL season has commenced. The defending Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts have started their first phase of training camp. A three-day process on May 10th that includes first-year CFL players and veteran quarterbacks. The entire team begins camp this Sunday, May 14th.

There are many storylines heading into training camp and the preseason for Toronto.

The 2022 CFL champs have returned many of their anchors from last year. However, a new captain is leading the Argos ship at quarterback.

Let’s look in-depth at what’s on the horizon for the Boatmen.

Toronto Argonauts Roster News & Upcoming Moves

  • Key returnees: RB, Andrew Harris, RB, A.J. Ouellette, WR, Kurleigh Gittens Jr, WR, Markeith Ambles, WR, DaVaris Daniels, OT, Isiah Cage, OT, Trevon Tate, K, Boris Bede, DL, Robbie Smith, LB, Wynton McManis, LB, Henoc Muamba, DB Royce Metchie, DB, DaShaun Amos, DB, Robertson Daniel
  • Key new arrivals: QB, Bryan Scott, RB, Deonta McMahon, FB, Mario Villamizar, WR, Dontrelle Inman, OL, Darius Ciraco, DE, Folarin Orimolade, LB, Jordan Williams, DB, Adarius Pickett
  • Key departures: QB, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR, Brandon Banks, OL, Philip Blake, DE, JaGared Davis, DB, Chris Edwards, DB, Shaq Richardson, CB, Jamal Peters

After the CFL Draft concluded for the Toronto Argonauts. The football club had over 100 players listed on its offseason roster. That list is already being pared down. But it will be slashed even further with the first two waves of upcoming cuts.

CFL rosters are cut down to 85 on May 13th. Two days later, the roster gets trimmed down to 75 plus non-counters.

The Boatmen are back this year at the University of Guelph for training camp and the preseason.

The Argos open their preseason slate against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field on May 27th. Toronto will host Ottawa for the final preseason contest at the University of Guelph on June 1st.

The Argonauts are in a unique position regarding roster evaluation and ultimately trimming down their roster to 46 (45 actives) for the regular season.

Toronto’s first game of their 2023 campaign doesn’t take place until Week 2, when the Argos host the Ti-Cats Sunday, June 18th, at BMO Field.

As a result, Toronto will have 17 days from their final preseason game to prepare for their season opener.

Although, the odd season start time for Double Blue had many loyalists singing the Blues when the schedule was released. On a positive note, from an early season standpoint, the opening bye week affords Toronto the added time to reset and reassess its roster and rest any dinged-up players in camp/the preseason for game one.

Let’s look into some of the top storylines to follow in camp as we march toward next month’s regular season.

Pivotal Question Mark On The Pivot

Chad Kelly Argos

The Toronto Argonauts are doing two important things you usually wouldn’t see defending Champions do.

On the superficial side, the Argos, headed to the 150th year of their existence, are planning to unveil a new look. The Cambridge blue helmets have already seen the light of day, and new uniforms are expected to follow on the 23rd of May.

Typically, when a team is coming off a championship, they don’t look to mess with their mojo.

Changes to an overall image and brand in sports are usually reserved for franchises looking to alter their fortunes. However, the Argonauts are bucking that trend, pulling together and forward to turn a new page in its glorious history.

Of far more importance than what Toronto Argonauts players will be wearing this season is who they plan to play at quarterback when they defend their title in 2023.

The Boatmen are banking on potential superstar Chad Kelly to captain their ship on offence.

The Grey Cup hero, who saved the day off the bench against the Bombers, is being tasked with replacing the vastly underappreciated McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who departed the CFL for a shot at playing American pro football again in the USFL. MBT has expertly led the way for the undefeated New Orleans Breakers and is the early favorite for USFL 2023 MVP.

Chad Kelly made replacing Bethel-Thompson in the CFL championship game look easy. But can he sustain and build upon that great moment?

No matter how talented Chad Kelly is and always has been. On the pro level, he hasn’t proven himself as a leader. Yet. He’s finally getting the chance to prove himself in 2023. It’s Kelly’s show in Toronto.

The Argonauts are going all-in on Chad Kelly. Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and the entire Argos brain trust are putting great faith in him maturing and evolving as a quarterback in Canada.

To further prove that level of trust, rather than seeking out a player with CFL experience as insurance behind Kelly. The Boatmen have two other neophyte signal-callers on its roster; second-year CFL player Ben Holmes and American rookie Bryan Scott.

Both options have limited pro starting experience overall and zero in Canada. Toronto is taking a risk, with Holmes and Scott only one snap away from defending Double Blue’s throne.

Therefore, it’s Chad Kelly or Die in 2023. He either steps up and cements himself as a star quarterback, or Kelly and the Argos will take a significant step down from the high ground they achieved at the end of 2022.

Other Key Toronto Argonauts Positions To Watch In Training Camp

Backup RB: Andrew Harris and A.J. Ouellette are the top two dogs in the Argos backfield. They will arguably be the best running-back tandem in the CFL. The question becomes who will back them up. Special teams standout Daniel Adeboboye, postseason standout returner Javon Leake, and or new arrival FCS superstar runner Deonta McMahon. The Argos will not dress five running backs on game days. Four would be the max. McMahon could supplant Leake on the active roster as a runner and returner in reserve with a strong camp.

WR #5: Toronto’s top four wideouts on the depth chart are set. Kurleigh Gittens, Cam Phillips, Markeith Ambles, and DaVaris Daniels. The fifth starting spot is wide open.

This could be a make-or-break year for Canadian receivers Dejon Brissett and Tommy Nield. Both have been quality reserves, but neither has been a consistent factor in the passing attack.

Damonte Coxie and Jeremiah Haydel are two returning Americans who showed some flashes a year ago. They will also have a shot in the preseason to take the next step forward.

Blast from the past, Dontrelle Inman is back in Double Blue., and could serve as a default option at WR #5.

Veteran CFL wideout David Ungerer is also in the mix. But perhaps some of Toronto’s new imports, like B.J. Byrd, could emerge when the smoke clears.

Offensive Tackle: Despite their durability issues, Trevon Tate and Isiah Cage are back with the Boatmen. It was one of the Argos’ first moves in the offseason to retain both tackles.

Grizzled veteran Philip Blake, who expertly slid over to the blindside last season, is gone. As a result, there’s an opening on the left side of the line. Dejon Allen, who is the team’s best outside lineman, can play on either side upfront. And there’s an option to slide Ryan Hunter to tackle if needed. But figuring out who fills Blake’s enormous shoes and spot before the season arises will be necessary.

Secondary: The Argos lost three key star veterans in their secondary this offseason. Jamal Peters to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, and the team did not bring Shaq Richardson back, who is surprisingly still a free agent. Also missing from Toronto’s secondary is the enigmatic Chris Edwards, who is now a Tiger-Cat.

On paper, the Argonauts’ brilliant secondary coaching tandem of William Fields and Joshua Bell have many strong options to replace the talented 2022 trio. All-Star Adarius Pickett should more than hold his own no matter where he lines up, likely at the SAM position.

The boundary, however, provides the biggest question mark for Double Blue’s defensive backfield.

One of the stars that the Argonauts have high hopes for in 2023 is Maurice Carnell IV, who was one of the CFL’s most unheralded playmakers in 2022. Carnell is starting camp and season on the injured list. He is recovering from an ACL injury in November. Carnell’s recovery time from surgery will keep him out of action until August or September.

In the meantime, Robert Preister, who also emerged as a jack of all trades last season at safety, cornerback, and SAM linebacker, will be an essential figure.

The race to replace Jamal Peters at outside cornerback is wide open. The team has brought in promising American imports during the offseason, like Oklahoma’s Parnell Motley and West Virginia’s Keith Washington II.

However, replacing an All-Star like Peters will be challenging.

It’s the same challenge the CFL Champion Toronto Argonauts face heading into a new season.

As the ancient phrase, just slightly older than the Argos football club, from William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” goes, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Whether the colour of that crown is Cambridge Blue or not.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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