The Toronto Argonauts are sailing into Week 16 of the CFL season, winners of three straight games. The Boatmen coming off their last bye of the regular season, are preparing at Lamport Stadium for the same team they faced before the break, the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
Circumstances Surrounding Week 16 For The Toronto Argonauts
Before game-time arrives for the Argos this weekend, the team will know if a follow-up victory over Ottawa punches their ticket to the playoffs. That’s because Hamilton plays Montreal on Friday evening, and a Ticats loss to the Alouettes opens the playoff door for the Double Blue to clinch against Ottawa.
However, no matter what’s at stake on Saturday. Winning the season series over the Redblacks won’t come easy for Toronto. It’s always challenging in the CFL to beat a team in back-to-back games, particularly on the road. The Argonauts’ rematch with the Redblacks is not your typical CFL rematch game. After all, Part 3 of the 2022 season series between the Ontario rivals takes place two weeks apart from their last meeting. Both teams have had plenty of time to prep for one another during the dually shared bye.
Everything about the Argos’ regular season schedule has been unique and matches the uniqueness of the current CFL season. For example, two CFL teams are entering the late stages of the year without a home victory under their ledger. The Elks, who are 0-6 in Edmonton. And the Redblacks also sport the same record at home.
Ottawa is due for a home victory at some point. And it could very well come at the expense of Toronto this Saturday night.
Week 16 Toronto Argonauts News And Notes
The practice report has some interesting names for the Toronto Argonauts that could be determining factors in Week 16. The injury report reads as a good news-bad news scenario for Double Blue. Let’s get the potential bad news out of the way first.
Henoc Muamba Questionable To Play On Saturday
As reported here on Monday, before the Toronto Argonauts began their official practices on Tuesday. LB Henoc Muamba is dealing with a Grade 1 oblique strain. Muamba’s abdomen injury occurred in Week 14 against Ottawa.
Oblique injuries can be tricky. The good news is that Muamba’s injury doesn’t appear to be of the severe variety. However, the defensive leader could possibly miss Saturday’s game after being limited during the first two practices of the work week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Perhaps Muamba’s status can change, but Toronto’s medical staff may err on the side of caution. The key to any abdomen injury is rest and avoiding physical contact. There’s no doubt that Muamba feels good enough to play.
|TORONTO ARGONAUTS||PRACTICE DAY|
|Player Name||Position||Injury||TUE||WED||THURS||Game Status|
|Deionte Knight||DL||Healthy Scratch||Full||Full|
In the meantime, and in between times. Trevor Hoyte and Jack Cassar would be next in line to man the middle for Toronto’s defence. The Carleton duo did a respectable job replacing Muamba in Week 14. But it’s worth noting that Ottawa had much more success offensively in their last meeting with Toronto when Muamba left the lineup.
The Double Blue Needs A Boost To Their Ground Attack
Despite how well RB AJ Ouellette has filled in for future Hall of Famer Andrew Harris. Mainly as a pass blocker and receiver in recent weeks. Toronto’s offense has struggled mightily running the football this season.
The Argos are last in the league in rushing yards per game (73.0) and yards per run (4.2). The Boatmen have a league-low four touchdowns on the ground, three of which have come from non-RBs.
For all the debate over whether or not Andrew Harris was living up to his billing in the Six. Harris led the entire CFL in rushing in weeks four and seven, with 111 and 143-yard outputs.
The injuries to Harris and on Toronto’s offensive line have certainly contributed to the team’s offensive struggles on the ground. The line has also allowed 34 sacks, tied for third-most in the league. But the Boatmen have made due in the passing game. The run game needs to perform better down the stretch to help create some semblance of balance.
Perhaps having an actual fullback on the roster can help. The Argonauts have been without one for several weeks. So the news that Declan Cross is practicing in full is a positive development. For weeks, Toronto has lined up receivers as lead blockers in running situations. The Argonauts are not going to turn into a dominant run team overnight. But the return of a quality veteran like Cross should give Double Blue a boost in their rushing attack.
With a hamstring injury, RB/KR Javon Leake has been limited in practice. The CFL rookie showed glimpses of promise on special teams and offence before getting injured again. Toronto could use him on both ends. The Argos are last in punt return average (6.8) and second to last in KR avereage (20.1).
Back To Double Duty For Boris Bede
Because standout rookie punter John Haggerty hasn’t practiced this week due to a hip injury, it’s looking increasingly likely that Boris Bede will handle punting duties this Saturday. Something he did for the team exclusively in 2021.
Haggerty’s injury doesn’t appear serious despite his inactivity in practice this week. But he could be held out for precautionary reasons in Week 16.
The league’s best kickoff specialist, Bede, had success a year ago in his dual role. But the Boatmen wanted to lessen his load this season. Global rookie John Haggerty leads the CFL in punting average (48.8) and was instrumental in Toronto’s victory against Ottawa with his directional punting, designed to avoid kicking to DeVonte Dedmon at all costs. Boris Bede will have to assume the same role on Saturday.
The sole benefit to Bede assuming punting and kicking duties is that it frees up an extra roster spot on game day. The Argos have gone into several games this year very light on their offensive line and the defensive backfield. Toronto, largely because of injuries, has dressed only two reserves at times in both areas.
Toronto Argonauts Reinforcements Arriving Soon
The good news is that RT Dejon Allen, who has been dealing with back issues, is on track to play against Ottawa. He suffered back spasms in the team’s last contest. Allen is practicing in full this week.
The Argonauts’ offensive line is not whole yet. But there’s a strong possibility that it could be in the coming weeks. Still no word yet on offensive tackles Trevon Tate and Isiah Cage. But that picture could become clearer soon. Tate and Cage are on Toronto’s six-game injured list and have been there for an extended time. A return from either player down the stretch could reinforce Toronto’s depth at offensive tackle.
2021 Rookie All-Star Peter Nicastro is still recovering from off-season knee surgery. But head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has hinted recently at Nicastro potentially returning in the team’s final three games. Perhaps the team’s issues in the ground attack could be resolved by the standout Centre’s return.
Defensive Back Shaq Richardson (hamstring) and WR Cam Phillips (groin) are not listed on Toronto’s practice report. They are still currently on the six-game injured list. But both players have been doing light work on the side, and are eyeing a potential return to the Argos lineup, perhaps as early as next week.
Phillips would rejoin a deep receiving corps that has seen the likes of rookie Damonte Coxie step up in his stead. The second-year CFL player, Phillips, was coming into his own before being injured in pre-game warmups several weeks back.
Maurice Carnell IV has filled in admirably at defensive halfback in Richardson’s place. Carnell stepped in for Robert Priester a few weeks back. Priester has also been a bright spot for Double Blue. Starting at defensive halfback and SAM linebacker earlier this season. He appears to be on the verge of returning to the defensive lineup. Priester also made a substantial impact on special teams before his shoulder injury.
As reported here on Monday. Despite injuring his knee against Ottawa, Shane Ray was good to go back into the game. But the Argos medical staff chose to be cautious. Ray, the Argos sack leader with six, is practicing in full and ready to go this weekend.
Toronto has some new blood on their defensive line to play in tandem with Ray. They have added three promising pass rushers to the mix in recent weeks. Brandon Barlow, Ali Fayad, and NFL veteran Damontre Moore. For all the success Toronto has had defensively this season, particuarly in defending the red zone area. The Argos have allowed the fewest touchdowns in the league (19). Notwithstanding all that, The Boatmen are last in the CFL in sacks with only 23.
The eventual return of DE JaGared Davis and the new arrivals should aid the Argos pass rush immensely.
So how does a ten-year NFL veteran like Damontre Moore find his way into the CFL? Connections did help the process.
Moore’s uncle is Keyuo Craver, a one-time NFLer who played in the CFL for Winnipeg and Edmonton. Craver played with Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie in Winnipeg. The two former teammates have been close friends ever since, and Dinwiddie has kept in close contact with Damontre Moore since the Spring.
The 30-year-old Moore had been holding out hope for another NFL opportunity. But Toronto has been lying in wait as an option all this time. Damontre figures to be a situational rusher for Toronto. And could be active as early as Saturday. Ali Fayad has also taken first-team reps this week. The former MAC defensive player of the year is making a strong early impression.
Additional Toronto Argonauts Notes
On Monday, I listed every East team’s schedule and playoff scenarios. Here is another quick look at those schedules and the win percentages attached to them. Along with some other key notes heading into this weekend.
- Toronto | @OTT, @CGY, BC, @EDM, @MTL, MTL | 34-41 (.453)
- Montreal | HAM, @EDM, OTT, @OTT, TOR, @TOR | 28-47 (.373)
- Hamilton | @MTL, Bye, SSK, @CGY, OTT, @OTT | 25-38 (.397)
- Ottawa | TOR, @BC, @MTL, MTL, @HAM, HAM | 34-40 (.459)
- Teams are 9-7 off the bye this year. Coming off byes this week are Toronto (2-0), Montreal (0-2), and Ottawa (0-2).
- Toronto’s McLeod Bethel Thompson is coming off a season-high 365-passing yard performance in Week 14. He is a career 7-1 against Ottawa with five games over 300 yards. McLeod is second in the CFL in passing yards (3,427), behind Bombers superstar pivot Zach Collaros (3,578). Collaros has played two more games. However, MBT has 28 more pass attempts. Even still, heading into Week 16, the league-wide passing efficiency sits at 94.7 – the third highest in CFL history. MBT is at 94.6.
- Kurleigh Gittens Jr. has 14 receptions for 245 yards against Ottawa this season. He is on pace to have his first 1,000-yard season of his young career. Gittens has eclipsed all his numbers from a year ago in fewer games. The Canadian standout has 57 receptions for 759 yards and three scores.
- Very few defensive backs have been on the hot streak that Jamal Peters has been on in recent weeks. The league leader in interceptions (6) has five picks in his last three games. Peters is sure to be one of Toronto’s many shoo-in All-Stars at season’s end.