The Toronto Argonauts are two days away from their home opener at BMO Field. The Boatmen are trying to rebound from last week’s loss to the Blue Bombers, but they won’t be able to do it without their key additions in the offseason playing up to their superstar status.
The majority of focus on this Saturday’s game will be on Toronto’s starting quarterback Nick Arbuckle. And understandably so, after all, the Argos offence has struggled in the early days of the season to establish consistency. And the hope is that Arbuckle will stabilize the ship and set it on course in the right direction. Toronto will only go as far as he takes them.
However, a big key to the Argonauts’ fortunes this season is the impact of their most high-profile acquisitions. Let’s face it, outside of the team’s rookie head coach and the potential upside of their young quarterback. This is not a rebuilding team. The Argonauts are in win-now mode with a collection of prominent veteran players.
No team in the CFL since 2019 has made the number of marquee acquisitions that Double Blue has. Toronto has acquired elite players on both sides of the ball. From Eric Rogers to DeVaris Daniels to Charleston Hughes to Cameron Judge etc.
The early returns in the first two weeks aren’t bad by any means. But this particular group of players has not lived up to their billing to this point. And will need to pick up their play if the Argos will be genuine contenders this season.
Toronto Argonauts Wide Receivers Eric Rogers & DeVaris Daniels
Through the first two weeks of the regular season. Eric Rogers and DeVaris Daniels have 13 catches total for 144 yards and 0 touchdowns. Daniel Braverman is the team’s leading receiver with 13 receptions. Matching the combined total of two of Toronto’s prized acquisitions at receiver.
In both players defense, the uncertainty at quarterback hasn’t helped, and it’s only two games. And in all fairness, Eric Rogers made two key plays in The Argos week 1 come from behind road victory against the Stamps. A game-saving blitz pickup led to a touchdown and a dazzling two-point catch to tie the game late. The sequence by Rogers was a glimpse of his value, but the production level thus far has not been up to his standard.
In 2019, Eric Rogers caught 85 passes for 1,080 yards and 10 TDs. He was named a West Division All-Star for the second time and had three games with over 100 receiving yards. Time after time, the Stampeders would rely on Rogers in crucial situations. Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and Quarterback Nick Arbuckle witnessed Rogers’s stellar performance in Calgary first-hand. The Boatmen need to work on getting Rogers back to that level of play.
DeVaris Daniels is also off to a slow start by his standards and is coming off a rough week 2 against Winnipeg. A game where Daniels was targeted seven times but only had one catch for 11 yards. There were two plays in the game where Daniels beat the Bombers’ defensive coverage for what should’ve been big plays downfield, but miscommunication and ill-timing by Daniels and his quarterback left the team empty and off the scoreboard. Daniels, one of the most reliable receivers in the CFL, has only three catches for 40 yards on the season.
With Juwan Brescasin out with a knee injury for presumably the next month. Both Rogers and Daniels need to step up their game, and in turn, doing so could help elevate their former and current teammate Nick Arbuckle’s play at quarterback.
Defensive End Charleston Hughes
Much like Eric Rogers, it’s not like Hughes hasn’t made plays in the early season. In fact, in week one, Hughes forced a fumble on Stamps RB Kadeem Carey late in the game, and his fumble recovery set up a short field for the Argos struggling offence to tie the game. Without that play, the Argos are not 1-1.
But after two weeks, the player who has led the CFL in sacks for four consecutive seasons (16 in 2019) has yet to register a sack. Hughes has six tackles on the year and zero sacks.
Now there are a lot of contributing factors to the slow start in that department for Charleston Hughes.
As they always do, opposing teams have slid their protection to Hughes’s side to keep him from disrupting their passing game. And another reason for Hughes’s slow start could be that he is playing next to CFL rookies on the defensive line. Hughes is playing without the likes of Cordarro Law and Drake Nevis to help take away some of the attention from him. Both Law and Nevis are on the Argos six-game injured list.
However, being the center of attention for CFL offenses is nothing new for the future Hall-Of-Famer. Hughes is accustomed to beating double teams and protections designed to slow him down. The early season sack drought by Charleston brought back to light some legitimate questions that were raised before the season started.
The concern going into 2021 with Charleston Hughes was time being his enemy. After all, he is now 37 years old and hasn’t played in two years. The worries were that father time would catch up with him. Earlier this week, Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie gave Hughes a non-injury-related day off from practice. The reasoning was to give Charleston a day of extra rest to recover. Perhaps, the Boatmen’s coaching staff is hoping that the rest will recharge Hughes’s battery.
The bottom line is that the Argos need Charleston Hughes to play at the very high level he always has for the team to be a contender this season.
Linebacker Cameron Judge
The Boatmen have made several high-profile moves bringing in star players to the linebacker position. To this point, Henoc Muamba has delivered with 10 tackles and a sack. Dexter McCoil has picked up right where he left off in the CFL after playing in the XFL. McCoil is second on the team with 13 tackles.
Depending on what unit of the defence (Linebacker or DB), you want to characterize Chris Edwards as playing. The Argos Sam backer has played great in the opening two weeks in coverage, against the run and rushing the passer. Edwards sacked Zach Collaros in the red zone on a well-timed blitz last week and, in week one, broke up a third-down pass into the end zone by Bo Levi Mitchell.
The player in this linebacking corps who has underperformed thus far is Cameron Judge. In 2019, Judge was one of the CFL’s very best defensive players. With Saskatchewan, Judge had 61 defensive tackles, 11 special teams tackles, 5 sacks, two interceptions, one defensive touchdown, and a forced fumble. For his efforts, Judge was named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian.
Through two games in 2021, Cameron Judge has only three tackles. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of talent that the Boatmen have at linebacker, but Judge needs to start making more impact plays. To this point, you forget that he is even on the roster. Part of the decrease in Judge’s lack of production could be due to the team’s defensive rotation, but regardless, Judge has to make more plays to live up to his superstar status.
The Argonauts need their star players to play up to that level, starting this Saturday at home against the Grey Cup champions and moving forward.
Toronto Argonauts-Winnipeg Blue Bombers Injury Report
Several Argos players returned to full practice on Thursday after being limited or taking Wednesday off.
With the team already missing Cordarro Law, Drake Nevis, and Shane Ray. This week, the Argonauts could be down two more defensive linemen with starting DT Kony Ealy and reserve Eli Mencer banged up. The encouraging thing is that Sam Acheampong and Eli Harold are coming off of strong outings in week two. CFL rookie Dewayne Hendrix looks like he is close to playing on Saturday as well.
Returning to the Argos lineup in the secondary barring a setback is Arjen Colquhoun. Jamal Peters and Treston Decoud have helped up as neophyte starters, but Coulquhoun is arguably the team’s best cover corner. A week after watching Kenny Lawler get 10 receptions. The Argos could use Colquhoun’s talents in coverage.
Phillip Blake’s nagging shoulder injury is worth monitoring. The Argos would be in a real bind if it were to miss Saturday’s homecoming. Blake, the teams projected starting guard has played centre and even left tackle for the team in weeks one and two. The Argos would miss his presence and veteran leadership. Knowing Blake, he is probably going to tough it out and play.
Dejon Allen was given medical clearance to return to practice after being limited to a knee injury on Wednesday. Allen is on track to potentially start at left tackle again in week 3. Terry Poole and practice roster OT Brandon Smith have been taking reps there as well.
Let’s take a look at the opposing side’s updated injury report for week 3:
There’s not much change from last week’s injury report for the Blue Bombers, but two key players are inching closer to their return that could provide headaches for Toronto. Megastar RB Andrew Harris is back practicing, albeit in a limited fashion. Early reports indicate that he might be a week away from making his season debut. The Argonauts faithful certainly hopes so.
Zach Collaros is off to a red hot start to the season. And getting Winnipeg’s best deep threat back in Darvin Adams could be a scary sight for opposing secondaries. Like Harris, there’s an outside shot that Adams plays on Saturday, but it’s not likely. Tomorrow’s report will be more telling.