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Toronto Argonauts News And Notes Heading Into Monday Night Clash With The Lions

The Toronto Argonauts face their biggest test of the early 2023 CFL season this Monday night at BMO Field, as the defending Grey Cup champs clash with a red-hot 3-0 B.C. Lions team.

The 2-0 Argos are off to a great start in defence of their CFL title, but they are moving up in class in what could be a preview of the 2023 Grey Cup. However, the true challenges will extend beyond the week four showdown of unbeatens.

Let’s look at all the news and notes surrounding the Argonauts as they head towards game #3 of their regular season.

Toronto Argonauts Week 4 Practice Schedule

  • Wednesday: No practice.
  • 11:25 a.m. – 1:20 p.m. – Ontario Soccer Centre (7601 Martin Grove Rd, Woodbridge, ON)
  • Friday: Centennial Stadium 11:00-1:00
  • Saturday: Lamport Stadium 11:00-1:00
  • Sun: Walkthrough
  • Monday: Gameday vs. BC.

Beyond the standard team alterations in a practice week leading into a Monday game. The Argonauts’ early season schedule takes a unique turn after they tangle with the Leos at home.

Once the smoke settles on Week 4, Toronto is headed toward another bye week and a long stretch of road games.

Considering what’s on the horizon for the Boatmen, they will need a bye. They won’t get another one until Week 11.

The Argos will be off in week five before embarking upon what, for all practical purposes, is a four-game road trip. After Monday night, The reigning champs won’t return home at BMO until Week 10 on August 13th.

In successive weeks, after the bye, Toronto will be at Montreal and Hamilton in weeks six and seven. They will then “host” this year’s Touchdown Atlantic against Saskatchewan before heading to Calgary to face the Stampeders.

Toronto’s test as a team in 2023 extends beyond Monday’s measuring stick game against B.C.

Week 4 Toronto Argonauts Injury Report

The Argonauts’ roster depth has already been challenged in 2023. And so far, the results have been highly positive.

The Double Blue have made do without several key contributors in their lineup, including LB Henoc Muamba (6-game injured list), WR Kurleigh Gittens Jr., DB Maurice Carnell (6-game injured list), G Dariusz Bladek (6-game injured list), DB Robert Priester, and WR Markeith Ambles (6-game injured list), among others.

Toronto’s depth and injury issues, combined with ratio concerns, forced them in Week 3 to sit CFL All-Star Shawn Oakman as a healthy scratch—a testament to the team’s overall roster strength.

In Week 4, Toronto could be without Isiah Cage at left tackle. The snake-bit offensive lineman injured his groin against Edmonton. LG Ryan Hunter shifted outside to left tackle when Cage went down.

Because of the Argonauts’ depth on the interior, who were missing Darius Ciraco in Week 3, they could keep a similar alignment against B.C. Theoretically, Toronto could start four Canadians upfront, with Hunter at offensive tackle.

Trevon Tate is also an option on the blindside. Tate hasn’t suited up yet this season.

Of even more concern for the Argos, from a depth standpoint, is the injury of MLB Jordan Williams, who has done a great job in place of the missing Henoc Muamba.

B.C.’s former first-overall pick would love to play his former team. But a foot injury saw him limp off the field in the first quarter against the Elks. Williams wound up missing the rest of the game. The upcoming practice week should help answer questions about his availability for Monday.

If Williams cannot go, Option C, Jack Cassar would get the call in the middle. The standout special teams ace has experience as a starter and has played well in the past. But he isn’t quite the dynamic talent that Williams is.

A pivotal player who could also miss Week 4 as a precautionary measure is All-Star Canadian receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.

KGJ is nursing a hamstring injury. That type of ailment can be tricky. Rather than risk him reinjuring himself on Monday night. Toronto could opt to sit Gittens with a bye week upcoming to give him added rest before returning to the lineup.

The impressive play of Canadian receivers Dejon Brissett and David Ungerer in Week 3 in Gittens’s place might make that decision easier for the Argos.

Accolades Coming The Argos Way

Pro Football Focus released their top player grades and awards for Week 3 of the CFL Regular Season. And the list is blanketed with Boatmen.

On PFF’s All-CFL team for week three are eight Argonauts. Four of which are Canadians, including WR Dejon Brissett, who was graded as the league’s best slot WR after stepping up with one of his best days in the CFL in place of All-Star Kurleigh Gittens Jr.

For the second week in a row, RB A.J. Ouellette received high acclaim from PFF after bulldozing his way to 84 yards and three touchdowns against Edmonton.

DB Royce Metchie received top honours as the league’s highest-graded player (92.5) for his Week 3 performance.

Metchie’s coverage grade was off the charts.  Against the Elks, Metchie was targeted four times and allowed only three catches for 11 yards. He contributed seven tackles and a pick-six. The Canadian standout safety had the top coverage grade of the week at 91.8.

The pass-rusher of the week in the CFL was Dewayne Hendrix. In week 3, the versatile linemen recorded seven pressures and two sacks.

Toronto had six sacks against Edmonton and has been on a tear in that category, thanks to the incorporation of Corey Mace’s blitz-happy scheme.

Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie, non-jokingly after Sunday’s game, stated that the team should’ve registered twelve sacks. He was disappointed with some missed tackles in the backfield.

The player who has arguably had the most impact for Toronto, Dime-Back extraordinaire Adarius Pickett, finally got his just due with an 82.0 grade from PFF.

Any old-fashioned eyeball test would have scored Adarius Pickett in the high 90s, after another week where he was all over the field on defence (8 tackles, two sacks) and special teams making plays. He’s been one of the most impactful players in the entire CFL this season.

There are plays that Pickett makes that don’t show up on the stat sheet, like his coverage in the flat that resulted in an easy Brandon Barlow sack in the Edmonton game. Or his well-timed blitzes that have opened up rush lanes for his teammates.

However, the story of the day for Double Blue in the player-grading department is their offensive line. And is a true testament to the high quality of Toronto’s personnel department led by the brilliant Vince Magri—a former Canadian offensive lineman himself.

Toronto Argonauts Offensive Line Taking Massive Leap Forward

REGINA SK SEPTEMBER 17 Dylan Giffen 64 of the Toronto Argonauts on the sideline during the game between the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on September 17 2021 in Regina Canada Photo by Brent JustGetty Images

One of the most unheralded aspects of Toronto’s 2022 championship run was the acquisition of Ryan Hunter from the NFL. The veteran stabilized a line that had some inconsistencies during the 2022 season, especially during the early and mid-season part of last year’s campaign.

It was a true game-changer for a team that was 4-5 at the midway point when Hunter was signed. Coincidentally or not, Toronto would win nine of their last 11 games and the rest of the way. One loss came in a glorified exhibition game against Montreal to close the regular season.

Flashing forward to The Argos in 2023, with the versatile Hunter in the fold from jump street, a healthy Peter Nicastro, and the emergence of early-season standouts like Dylan Giffen. Toronto’s line play is leaps and bounds better than last season.

Flashback to last year; it took the Argos nearly an entire season to score a rushing touchdown. In two games thus far, the Argonauts are on a record pace in that category. Toronto already has seven rushing scores.

A year ago, it took six games for the Argos to score eight touchdowns. They have matched that total already after two contests in 2023.

Kris Sweet’s Argonauts’ offensive line has not only dominated with their ground attack in 2023. But they have also kept Chad Kelly clean; Toronto has allowed only one sack this season.

The Boatmen have done this without one of their best players in Guard Dariusz Bladek. The team’s depth up front has been tested. And they have passed that test with flying colors.

In week 3, C Peter Nicastro, RG Dylan Giffen, and RT Dejon Allen were the highest-graded offensive linemen by Pro Football Focus. In fact, the Argos upfront were awarded offensive line of the week honours from PFF.

Against Edmonton, Toronto surrendered just two quarterback hurries.

In the run game, they flexed their muscle on the Elks defence, rushing for a league-leading 183 yards. On top of that, 101 of those rushing yards came before contact, which is clear evidence of how dominant the Double Blue’s line was against Edmonton.

Emerging out of Week 3’s performance was the elite play of former 2020 third-round pick Dylan Giffen. He scored a league-leading 83.5 grade at right guard in week 3.

The 6’8 Ontario native, despite sticking out in every crowd he inhabits, was mostly an invisible afterthought coming into this season. That’s not a knock on him as a player but simply because of his minimal starting experience (2 career starts) and the depth in front of him.

Notwithstanding the Argos’ combination of front-line interior starters like Ryan Hunter, Peter Nicastro, and Dariusz Bladek. There’s also off-season pickup Darius Ciraco, who started week one at Centre, and last year’s promising first-round pick Gregor McKellar, who both figured to be ahead of Giffen in the pecking order.

However, after Dylan Giffen’s stellar play in Week 3, Toronto might want to leave him in the lineup until he proves that he shouldn’t be a starter.

With Giffen’s emergence, the Argos have six capable starters on their interior. That’s an embarrassment of riches. All national players, mind you. Three of whom are recent draft picks. CFL media members and teams needing organizational overhauls might want to start paying attention to Vince Magri’s work.

The fantastic early sample size of Toronto’s line play in 2023 will be tested against a terrific Lions defence led by rock star DC Ryan Phillips. B.C.’s defensive unit is coming off a game where they registered seven sacks and kept the Bombers out of the end zone in Winnipeg.

Therefore, the step up in class will prove to be a better barometer of Toronto’s group up front. But so far, the Argonauts line looks like a significant strength and could be the catalyst that brings forth another Grey Cup.

author avatar
Mike Mitchell Reporter
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Tress

    June 29, 2023 at 11:50 am

    Toronto’s front line is giving Chad Kelly lots of time to throw, and he’s going to need that in the upcoming game against B.C. because the Lions lead the league in sacks. Kelly is the biggest name to arrive in the CFL since Johnny Manziel, but Manziel had a lot more fanfare. Let’s home that Kelly lasts longer than Manziel, for the sake of the CFL.

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