The 2021 CFL regular season has finally arrived. The new-look Toronto Argonauts kick off their season on the road in Calgary this Saturday night against the Stampeders. The game will air in Canada on TSN and ESPN Plus at 7 pm ET.
BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has the Calgary Stampeders as 5 point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is currently 48.5 points.
The last time, the Argonauts and Stampeders played each other. The Stamps bested the Argos 23-16 in Toronto. Their last meeting at McMahon Stadium in July of 2019 saw Calgary top Toronto 26-16.
Toronto Argonauts-Calgary Stampeders Overview
The Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders have been complete opposites on and off the field.
The Argos’ success in recent years has been fleeting. The team last won a Grey Cup championship in 2017, upsetting the Dave Dickenson/Bo Levi Mitchell-led Stampeders 27-24. Toronto completed a Cinderella season that year, going from a 9-9 regular reason record to the top of the CFL mountain. The year prior, the Double Blue was coming off a 5 win campaign.
Toronto’s stay on top as CFL champs would be short-lived. In 2018 and 2019, the Argos followed up their championship with back to back 4 win seasons. The franchise went from the outhouse to the penthouse and then immediately back to where they started. As a result, the Argos’ are starting all over again in 2021, and some naysayers would point out that they are trying to take a shortcut and build a winning program by buying their way back to relevancy.
On the flip side, the Calgary Stampeders have been a model of consistency. The Stamps have been to 6 Grey Cup games in the last twelve seasons, winning three of them. Calgary hasn’t had a losing season since 2007. Many can argue that no franchise in the CFL has a better football operation than the Stampeders. It all starts up top with the president and general manager John Hufnagel. The former multiple-time champion in the CFL and NFL is one of the best administrators in all of football. Hufnagel has not only built a winning culture in Calgary but a franchise model that has sustainable success year in and year out.
It helps to have arguably the best head coach/quarterback combo in the CFL with Dave Dickenson and Bo Levi Mitchell. A duo that is very reminiscent of the one that once existed south of the border in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. However, the Stampeders also have a stellar track record of drafting and developing star players. Opposing teams sign their best players year after year in free agency, and the Stamps don’t blink an eye because they have confidence in their scouting and coaching.
The Toronto Argonauts want to eventually get to where the Calgary Stampeders currently preside as a consistent winner. The Boatmen might have some of Calgary’s former coaches and players, but the success part will have to be earned.
Toronto Argonauts-Calgary Stampeders Injury Report
The Argonauts will be without five projected starters on Saturday. (Arbuckle (dressing as a backup), Cage, Nevis, Law & Colquhoun). Drake Nevis, Isiah Cage, and Cordarro Law are currently on the Argonauts six-game injured list. Each CFL team has two pulls in a season where they can take a player off the six-game injured list. If a team does it, it counts against the cap.
The Stampeders have a recovering Bo Levi Mitchell (groin), who missed most of the summer, but he is fully healthy and ready to go on Saturday. Getting DB Richard Leonard on the field would be a big boost to the Stamps secondary, but it appears that he might not be able to play.
Toronto Argonauts/Calgary Stampeders Week One Depth Charts
- Excluding the long snapper (Jake Reinart) and fullback Declan Cross). There are only four returning starters from the Argos team in 2019. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, RT Jamal Campbell, DB’s Shaq Richardson and Crezdon Butler. Toronto’s entire starting lineup on both sides of the ball has been completely revamped. The team will also have a new kicker/punter and returners on special teams.
- Toronto is starting six CFL rookies in total. Three of them on their defensive line in Shane Ray, Shawn Oakman and Kony Ealy. Newcomer Treston Decoud is getting the start at cornerback in place of the injured Arjen Colquhoun. On the offensive line, Canadian rookie and first-round pick Peter Nicastro gets the nod at left guard. American rookie Dejon Allen beat out another newcomer Terry Poole to get the call at left tackle in week one.
- Although he is listed as the backup Will linebacker behind CFL megastar Cameron Judge. Expect Dexter McCoil to be a jack of all trades, who can play all three linebacker spots or safety if needed.
- The depth chart listed has the 45 players who are eligible for game day action. Nick Arbuckle will be ready in an emergency situation at quarterback.
- The Stampeders, based on average age (27) have the youngest starting roster in the CFL. The team does have 28 returning veterans to help guide the young and inexperienced players.
- Calgary is rolling the dice and betting on its developmental system on their offensive line. Players like Shane Bergman and Derek Dennis will be difficult to replace. But the Stamps have confidence in players like Julian Good Jones and Justin Lawrence. Veterans Sean McEwen and Ucambre Williams will be key components up front.
- The Stamps recently signed CFL veteran DE Shawn Lemon and on Friday, they elevated him from their practice squad to their active roster. Lemon gives Calgary a much needed veteran presence on the edge.
- Calgary loves the youth in their secondary. DJ Killings a newcomer gets the start opposite another elite player in DaShaun Amos. Opposing teams will attempt to test Killings early on to see if he has the chops to start in the CFL.
Old Friends, New Enemies
On Thursday, Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson spoke very favorably to CFLNewsHub about his experience and his staff’s time with Ryan Dinwiddie. Dickenson has taken great pride in watching Dinwiddie grow as a coach. And he feels that Ryan is very deserving of his current opportunity with Toronto. Both Dickenson and Dinwiddie have followed similar career paths as former quarterbacks turned coaches.
The lead-in to this week’s game has been unique for Calgary and Toronto. The old saying goes that familiarity breeds contempt. Well, it’s certainly true in football when competition comes into play for former allies.
In some respects, Calgary and Toronto’s coaching staffs will be looking in the mirror from a stylistic standpoint, particularly on offence. Despite the knowledge that both coaching staffs have for each other. It’s hard to pinpoint which team will have a decided competitive advantage in that area. It feels like a wash.
One thing is for sure, Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson knows the task at hand and the reality of his current relationship with former pupil Ryan Dinwiddie. “We will be cordial before the game, but we will see who’s happy after the sixty minutes is over.”.
The Toronto Argonauts Offence Versus The Calgary Stampeders Defence
The coach that helped bring Ryan Dinwiddie to Calgary is current Stamps defensive coordinator Brent Monson. Both are very close friends. In the past, the two coaches would confer and trade notes on their strategies. But on Saturday, they square off against each other on the sidelines. There’s been radio silence between the two colleagues and buddies this week. Dinwiddie and Monson know each other’s philosophies very well, and it will be interesting to see the game of chess between them. Their units practiced against each other for years; now, they finally go at it in-game action.
On Thursday, the Argonauts made it official announcing McLeod Bethel-Thompson as their week one starter at quarterback. Nice Arbuckle will watch his new team face his old team from the sidelines. It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Arbuckle, who would have loved to lead the Argos offence in his return to Calgary. But ultimately, it’s the right call by head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. For his team and the long-term health of Arbuckle.
A healthy McLeod Bethel-Thompson gives the Argos their best chance to compete and potentially win on Saturday. Because of Arbuckle’s hamstring injury, MBT has been afforded extra time in Dinwiddie’s offensive system. It has also helped Thompson build chemistry with a new cast of receivers headed by Juwan Brescasin, Eric Rogers, Ricky Collins Jr., and DaVaris Daniels. Thompson’s cohesion with his receiving corps will be crucial to Toronto’s passing attack against Calgary.
Blocking in front of Bethel-Thompson is almost an entirely new group of offensive linemen. Except for starting RT Jamal Campbell. The Boatmen have four new starters in LT Dejon Allen, LG Peter Nicastro, C Philip Blake, and RG Dariusz Bladek. Although Toronto entertained starting rookie first-round pick and Calgary native Peter Nicastro at centre, the team opted for the safe option in Philip Blake.
John White was the Argos prized acquisition at running back, but there are indications that AJ Ouellette could have equal footing in the Argonauts backfield.
The Argos offensive line will be pivotal in this game. Bethel-Thompson is not known for his mobility, and creating a clean pocket for him to operate in, will be of utmost importance. The uncertainty of Dejon Allen on the blindside, a CFL rookie, could be a key factor in how much success Bethel-Thompson has on Saturday. The veteran pivot will need time to connect with the Argonauts’ talented receivers.
The Stampeders defence is a very aggressive unit led by Brent Monson, and there’s no doubt that they will be looking to pressure Bethel-Thompson into mistakes. The Stamps have one of the best interior tandems in the CFL on their defensive line in Mike Rose and Derek Wiggan. The real question mark is who will provide the outside pressure for Calgary at the defensive end position. Cordarro Law is now on the Argos. The Stamps are relying on mostly young players on the edge, who have minimal starting experience in the CFL. The late addition to the active roster of Shawn Lemon helps Calgary.
At linebacker, Calgary welcomes back superstar Jameer Thurman. He should provide great leadership to the Stamps young roster. Jamar Wall and DaShaun Amos are two of the very best coverage players in the entire CFL. They can wreck games and shift momentum very easily by forcing turnovers.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson can run hot and cold and at times be a streaky passer. Against Calgary, he’s going to have to avoid mistakes. MBT may look to force the football into his talented group of receivers, which could be costly. Especially when playing an opponent like Calgary on the road.
The Toronto Argonauts Defence Versus The Calgary Stampeders Offence
Stampeders superstar quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is 11-0 against the Argonauts in the regular season. Mitchell is a winner, his overall record in the CFL is 77-18-2 (.804). The Argonauts defence will attempt to rattle Mitchell with their star-studded front seven headed by Charleston Hughes, Cameron Judge, Henoc Muamba, and company. Still, Bo Levi’s pocket presence and poise typically rule the day.
Despite all the hype attached to the Argos defence and its terrific coaching staff with Glen Young, Rich Stubler, and Joshua Bell (former Stamps coach). Toronto has some injury concerns heading into week one. Starting defensive linemen Drake Nevis and Cordarro Law are not expected to play. Starting defensive back, Arjen Colquhoun is also a scratch for Saturday’s game.
The absence of one of the game’s best-run stoppers in Drake Nevis could play a factor in helping the Stamps ground attack. The Stampeders could find some much-needed balance and running room for their offensive attack when headed by a healthy Kadeem Carey.
Some of the Stamps’ best receivers in 2019 are on the Toronto Argonauts roster. But do not dismiss Calgary’s current group of pass-catchers. Standout SB Kamar Jorden is back and fully healthy. Hergy Mayala is an emerging national player with huge upside who is only scratching the surface of how good he can be. Josh Huff and Markeith Ambles are more than capable options for Mitchell to throw to.
The key to this matchup between Calgary’s offence and Toronto’s defence is first down. If the Argos can force the Stamps offensive attack to second and long situations. It will favor the Double Blue’s pass rush. Calgary has former Argonaut star centre Sean McEwen on their side now, and along with him are some promising young players upfront. But the question mark is how well Calgary’s young offensive tackles will hold up against Charleston Hughes, Shane Ray, and company. The result could be the determining factor in who wins this game.
As evidenced by Winnipeg’s dominance up front in the league opener, no matter how good a quarterback is like Jeremiah Masoli if he can’t plant his feet and throw, an offence can be brought to a complete standstill. The Argos will need to make Bo Levi’s night in Calgary as uncomfortable as possible.
Argos special teams versus the Stamps special teams
One of the most significant unknowns for most CFL teams is their special teams’ units. The Argonauts are really happy with the acquisition of mister do it all specialist Boris Bede, who has been booming sixty-yard field goals all summer. The question is their return game. Right now, it’s a committee situation where the team is unsure who will emerge.
The Stamps have one of the best veteran kickers in Rene Paredes, but like Toronto, because of their young roster and a lack of preseason games, it’s hard to pinpoint who will be the standouts on special teams. As of press time, the weather is supposed to be mild and not a significant factor. So it isn’t easy to look for any advantages in this matchup.
One thing is for sure; this game could come down to either Bede or Paredes being the deciding factor when the smoke clears. The Argos lost many close games in the last couple of seasons because of their kicking situation. They are hoping that Bede finally brings them stability.
The Argonauts’ preparation’s for this week’s game has been less ideal. While there is a decided advantage of making your opponent prepare for two different starting quarterbacks. The drawback is that your offence doesn’t give one quarterback all the reps he needs to be ready to play at a high level. The uncertainty heading into this game at QB, C, and LT for Toronto throws into question the offense’s readiness for week one.
For Toronto to win this game, they will need to get off to a good start early. And the team’s offence needs to avoid turnovers. Against Calgary, if you fall behind early, the game can get away from you real fast. The Argos need to take the lead early and rely on their pass rush to win the day. The Argos stars on defence need to play like stars for Toronto to pull off the upset on the road.
It’s difficult to bet against Dave Dickenson and Bo Levi Mitchell at home. Couple that with the fact that despite the overall talent that the Argos have, it’s their first game together. For Ryan Dinwiddie, it’s his first game ever as head coach. No matter how calm and cool he has been during the lead-up, the nerves will be working overtime. Players ultimately win games, not coaches but coaches can also lose games. And this head coaching matchup is a lopsided one.
Toronto could experience some bumps in the road early on in their season because there figures to be a learning curve for the entire team. The newness of the staff and roster work against Toronto. Especially with a limited camp and no preseason games. Getting a victory on the road under these circumstances against arguably the league’s most established franchise seems like an uphill battle that the Argos won’t be able to overcome in week one.