The Toronto Argonauts 2021 Regular Season begins next Saturday, August 7th, in Calgary against the Stampeders. The Boatmen have finalized their regular-season roster for 2021. let’s take an in-depth look at the configuration and structure, position by position, of the new-look Argos roster as they head into prep mode for week one.
Toronto Argonauts 2021 Offence
Nick Arbuckle (A), McLeod Bethel-Thompson (A), Antonio Pipkin (A)
CFL teams can only keep two quarterbacks on their active gameday roster, but there’s a workaround for teams like the Argos to deploy. Teams can dress a third quarterback, but he must be listed at another position and follow the guidelines of that position (per example. listed as a WR)
Depending on Nick Arbuckle’s availability to open the season because he has been nursing a minor hamstring issue. Toronto could decide to keep their options open, leading into week one or on game day itself. The Argos need to guard against the possibility of a setback occurring during practices or during the season opener.
A healthy Arbuckle will get the first crack at captaining the Boatmen’s ship on offence. He not only knows the system, having worked with then Stamps QB coach and now Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. But he also has experience working with former teammates DaVaris Daniels, Eric Rogers, and Juwan Brescasin. Many teams in the CFL don’t have that type of luxury in a year where players have no game experience with their new teammates.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson is the ultimate safety net. The veteran signal-caller lead the CFL in majors in 2019, and because Arbuckle has been limited in practice, MBT has had an extended opportunity to work with a sea of new faces on the Boatmen’s offence. Bethel-Thompson should be ready to go in week one or if Arbuckle falters down the road.
Antonio Pipkin has starting experience in the CFL and is arguably the strongest arm of any of Toronto’s throwers. Pipkin is also a tremendous runner, once rushing for over 200 yards in a single game at Tiffin Unversity. Because of this trait, Pipkin could see play during games; he doesn’t start, particularly in red-zone packages.
Running Backs (2)
John White IV (A), AJ Ouellette (A)
On paper, this position looks thin, but the flexibility of players like fullback Dion Pellerin and the team’s incredible depth in other positions of the team makes the total number of running backs necessary. Of all the acquisitions that the Argos have made to their roster since the 2019 season ended. John White is one of the most overlooked.
White broke out with a 1,000-yard season in 2019 for the BC Lions (4th in rushing in the CFL) and registered 46 receptions. It’s fair to wonder if 2019 was a one-year wonder for White, but the Boatmen’s brass thought highly enough of the veteran runner to bring him on board as their #1 running back.
There’s a #1A in the Argos backfield, and he’s a returning player from Toronto’s 2019 campaign. AJ Ouellette shined at the tail end of that season and has also stood out this summer. The Argonauts coaching staff loves his toughness and versatility. Expect Ouellette to be a weekly fixture in Toronto’s ground attack.
Declan Cross (N), Dion Pellerin (N)
Declan Cross is one of the few remaining crew members from the Argonauts’ last championship team in 2017. Cross is also one of the toughest and most selfless players on the team. A jack of all trades who provides value on offence and special teams, as well as in the locker room as one of Toronto’s leaders.
Dion Pellerin, the 23-year old rookie, is in many ways, Declan Cross’s clone, understudy, and potentially his future successor. The fifth-round pick in 2020 by Toronto provides the same roster value as Cross but brings some running skills to the table. The 225-pound fullback rushed for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior season at the University of Waterloo. The Argos could use Pellerin’s power running traits near the goalline.
Wide Receivers (9)
Eric Rogers (A), DaVaris Daniels (A), Juwan Brescasin (N), Ricky Collins Jr. (A), Llevi Noel (N), Dejon Brissett (N), Cam Phillips (A), Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (N), Daniel Braverman (A)
Wide Receiver/Slotback is one of the deepest and most talented positions on the entire Argonauts roster. Toronto broke camp with six different players legitimately vying for five starting spots. The interesting question concerning this receiving stable is where they will all line up when the season starts.
The field and boundary side receiver positions are a mystery at this point. No matter how coach Ryan Dinwiddie and his offensive staff configure the position, expect Eric Rogers, Juwan Brescasion, and DaVaris Daniels to be featured components of the air attack. Particularly because of their experience, pedigree, and knowledge of the system. Ricky Collins Jr., another accomplished option in the passing game, spent July playing several positions and will be a factor as well.
Llevi Noel had an outstanding summer but will it transfer to the regular season? Noel has always been one of the most valuable role players in the CFL, contributing mightily as an elite special teams player. But no one took to the new offense better than he did in camp. Let’s see if it transfers when the bullets start flying for real.
Did the team sacrifice its return game on special teams by not keeping players like Chandler Worthy, Damion Jeanpiere, and Terrell Sinfield on its roster? Perhaps but two of Toronto’s best national prospects, Dejon Brissett and Kurleigh Gittens Jr., shined in camp, displaying great upside for the future. They could contribute as returners if duty calls.
Another player who can contribute on special teams is American receiver, Daniel Braverman. He beat the odds to make an extremely talented receiving corps, but his value could come from returning punts.
Cam Phillips, the breakout star receiver from the XFL, was just signed by Toronto after being released by East division rival, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Phillips is starting on the Argos suspended list while he goes through the quarantine process. Phillips is a wildcard in this group; the extremely talented pass-catcher, who broke records at Virginia Tech, is an absolute newcomer to this offence. It might take him some time to work his way into the Argos offensive attack.
Offensive Line (9)
Terry Poole (A), Isiah Cage (A), Dejon Allen (A), Philip Blake (N), Dariusz Bladek (N), Peter Nicastro (N), Jamal Campbell (N), Shane Richards (N), Dylan Giffen (N)
For now, the Argos are carrying nine offensive linemen on their regular-season roster. That could change in the coming days when the team releases its injured list. Right now, six nationals are listed at this position, and there’s a strong likelihood that four will be starters come week one. (Blake, Bladek, Campbell, and Nicastro).
The area of main interest is who will be starting at left tackle in Calgary. 2019 starter Isiah Cage has been banged up in camp. Dejon Allen and Terry Poole, who was acquired in the Alden Darby trade, have been splitting reps on the blindside. Both American players have great mobility and are equipped to handle the task, but it will be a challenging proposition nonetheless against the Stampeders pass rush in week one.
Another player up front who could be facing a significant challenge to open the season is rookie first-round pick, Peter Nicastro. The Dinos standout might get the call at centre. It’s a big responsibility for a young player to assume, making line calls on the road in his CFL debut. Luckily for him and the Argos, veteran Philip Blake is waiting in the trenches by Nicastro’s side to guide him or potentially assume the duties on the pivot if necessary.
Shane Richards came into camp as a new man, shedding weight down to 280 pounds. Once upon a time, he was the team’s future at tackle. Perhaps before the season is said and done, he can be once again. Dylan Giffen had a strong summer in camp, playing multiple spots. The Argos could wind up utilizing his versatility during the length of the season.
Toronto Argonauts Defence
Defensive Line (8)
Charleston Hughes (A), Drake Nevis (A), Kony Ealy (A), Cordarro Law (A), Shane Ray (A), Shawn Oakman (A), Dewayne Hendrix (A), Robbie Smith (N)
There’s hesitation in calling this unit the most accomplished group of starters on the entire Argonauts roster. Only because we haven’t gotten to the linebacker position yet. But the Boatmen’s talent on the defensive line is as formidable as any team’s in the CFL. Defensive Coordinator Glen Young and the returning Rich Stubler have an embarrassment of riches.
There’s a question about how the two-year layoff will affect proven standout veteran players like Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law. But there’s no denying what they bring to the table as pass rushers. Hughes is as good of a pass rusher as the Canadian Football League has ever seen.
Lost in all the high-profile acquisitions that the Argos have made is former Blue Bombers standout, DT Drake Nevis. The agile former LSU star is one of the best run stoppers in the CFL. The question is, who will line up next to Nevis in the middle of the Argos defence? Both Shawn Oakman (6’9 287) and Kony Ealy (6’4 275) have the size to take on the task. The two former XFL players had strong camps and figure to be factors upfront.
It will be hard for anyone to upstage Charleston Hughes, but by season’s end, Shane Ray might be able to match his level of play. There are indications that the former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos will be starting opposite of Hughes come week one in Calgary. Regardless if he does or doesn’t, expect Ray on the field a lot. He has experience setting the edge against the run and even standing up as an outside rusher. Ray has made a great impact on his coaches and teammates already; the next step is to do it when the games count.
Robbie Smith and Dewayne Hendrix are two quality sub-edge rushers who bring to the table similar traits that many of the players ahead of them on the depth chart possess.
Henoc Muamba (N), Cameron Judge (N), Dexter McCoil (A), Vontae Diggs (A), Bear Woods (A), Jack Cassar (N), Trevor Hoyte (N)
Is there such a thing as a perfect depth chart? The Argos might have it at the linebacker position. The team has two top-of-the-line premium players/leaders at the Will and Mike positions in Henoc Muamba and Cameron Judge.
Behind them or side by side is Dexter McCoil, another veteran who has played at a top level in his CFL career at multiple positions and an emerging young linebacker in Vontae Diggs. The latter was most recently acquired after the Edmonton Elks let him go. The Boatmen wasted no time in picking up Diggs offshore.
Jack Cassar and Trevor Hoyte, two National players who are former college teammates at Carelton, are in the ideal situation as developmental players. They get to benefit from the learning tree of the veterans in front of them while providing the Argos value on special teams. Fan-favorite Bear Woods is also a veteran player that the two youngsters can lean on.
Defensive Backs (9)
Shaquille Richardson (A), Crezdon Butler (A), Robertson Daniel (A), Chris Edwards (A), Arjen Colquhoun (N), Matt Boateng (N), Jeff Richards (A), Treston DeCoud (A), Josh Hagerty (N)
The Argonauts’ new coaching staff decided to part ways with its most notable defensive back, the risk-taking playmaker Alden Darby. The move was a tell-tale sign of the new direction and defence that Toronto wants to play in 2021. It’s going to be more of an assignment-driven defensive scheme.
In 2019, Argos D allowed 562 points. The team gave up several big plays through the air. With a completely revamped and star-studded front seven, the Boatmen’s back end of their defence should reap the benefits but also will be required to hold up their end of the bargain.
Two players who have cemented themselves as key contributors and leaders in the Argo secondary are Shaquille Richardson and Crezdon Butler. Both players have evolved in their time in the CFL, and defensive backs coach Joshua Bell has done a great job of leading them.
Chris Edwards was an excellent acquisition by the Argonauts front office. He has the same type of versatility traits that Dexter McCoil has and will be an asset playing the Sam position.
Arjen Colquhoun, Robertson Daniel, and Matt Boateng have the experience and talent, but they will be required to take their games to the next level. Both Josh Hagerty and Treston DeCoud were surprising additions to the final roster. It’s not for lack of talent. Both players have value. Decoud has the size and pro experience to play the field side corner spot or at safety. In time, the CFL newcomer could be a starter.
LS Jake Reinhart (N), K/P Boris Bede (A)
The best compliment you can give to a long snapper is to forget that they are even on the team. The only time long snappers get noticed is when something goes awry. Jake Reinhart is as good as it gets.
Boris Bede is coming off an excellent 2019 campaign, but for whatever reason, many dismissed his value when the Argos traded for him. Bede can not only kick field goals at over 80 percent, but he has a great range to kick over 50 yards, and he’s a quality punter. Because of all of this, Bede is a lifesaver when it comes to roster management.
Toronto Argonauts Practice Squad (17)
RB D.J. Foster (A), WR Chandler Worthy (A), Damion Jeanpiere (A), Dres Anderson (A), Tommy Nield (N), OL Theren Churchill (N), Brandon Smith (A), FB Assnel Robo (G), K Toshiki Sato (G), DL Sam Acheampong (N), Julian McLeod (A), LB Eric Mezzalira (N), Reshard Cliett (A), Travis Feeney (A), Eli Mencer (A), DB Jamal Peters (A), Tigie Sankoh (G)
Often, followers of sports leagues tend to ignore players’ names on a team’s practice squad but based on the new rules in play and the uncertainties in dealing with a two-year layoff and the pandemic. A CFL team’s practice roster takes on more value and importance.
Before long, DJ Foster could make his way up to the main roster and contribute at RB. The Argos kept four receivers on their PR. Chandler Worthy provides the most experience, while Jeanpiere brings a lot of speed to the table. Theren Churchill, the former first-round pick, fell victim to the numbers game, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him on the active roster at some point.
Kicker Toshiki Sato had a fantastic camp, and Toronto would be happy to call him up for duty if the situation arises. Linebacker Eric Mezzalira is one of the CFL’s very best special teams players, and it won’t be long before he is on the main roster. Jamal Peters just missed the cut and was playing a lot of safety in camp. He’s an injury away from being called into action. In any other year, an interior defensive tackle with national and top draft status like Sam Acheampong would have made the active roster, no questions asked, but with Toronto being so deep on their defensive line, it hindered his chances. He could still factor in down the road as the season progresses.
Toronto Argonauts Suspended List
OL, Cody Speller, Jalen Burks WR, Martavis Bryant, Kendall Wright, Keyaris Garrett, Brandon Sheperd DL, Fabian Foote, Odell Willis, Khyri Thornton, LB, Nelkas Kwemo, Nick Shortill, DB, Robert Woodson, Cam Glenn, James Sample
There are several workarounds for CFL team front offices to utilize during a season. Like dressing a third quarterback but designating him at a different position. But when it comes to storing players for the season, one of the overlooked areas is a team’s suspended list. And one of the clear benefits is that players on the suspended list don’t count towards the cap or the roster requirement numbers. The kicker is that you can store as many players as you desire.
The Argonauts have several players on their suspended list who can provide value when they return. The status for Odell Willis is uncertain for week one. He’s away from the team for personal reasons, for the birth of his child. But based on his pedigree, he could very easily claim a roster spot.
Projected starting centre Cody Speller is also a way for personal reasons. (Undisclosed) But if he’s healthy and ready to go, there’s no reason why the Argos wouldn’t welcome him on board with open arms.
Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie left the door open for linebackers Nelkas Kwemo and Nick Shortill when camp started. Both could be valuable depth pieces as the season pushes forward. In the war of attrition that a long football season can be, injuries are a given, and it’s quality insurance for teams to have proven options in reserve.
There’s still no telling what will happen with accomplished NFL receivers Martavis Bryant and Kendall Wright. There’s also no denying their talents, but they may never arrive to play for the Boatmen. However, being on the Argos suspended list guarantees that they won’t play anywhere else in the CFL this year.
The Toronto Argonauts are, however, ready to play. Regular season mode has started.
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