Week 2 of the CFL season saw the Toronto Argonauts humbled and outclassed by the reigning CFL champion Blue Bombers. The Argos fell prey to Winnipeg’s defence and their home crowd. Toronto squandered scoring opportunities, turned the football over in key spots, benched their starting quarterback, suffered some key injuries, and committed several mental and physical errors in the 20-7 loss.
But it wasn’t all bad for the new-look Argos. The team battled back through adversity to get within three points in the latter stages of the game. Thanks in part to the Boatmen’s defence which stood toe-to-toe with the Blue Bombers offence and gave their team a fighting chance to win.
However, there are very few consolation prizes in a loss, and the team will have to regroup and play Winnipeg again next Saturday in their home opener at BMO Field.
Let’s take an in-depth look at how the Argonauts team fared in week two on the coaching and player side.
Toronto Argonauts Coaching
To his credit, in the Argos post-game media scrum. Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie took his fair share of the blame for Toronto’s struggles on offence against the Bombers. The rookie head coach critiqued some of his own playcalling while giving credit to Winnipeg’s defensive coaching staff.
Coming into the game with the Blue Bombers. Dinwiddie stressed his rushing attack, and the Argonauts ran the ball fairly well. The team rushed for 123 yards on 14 carries for an 8.8-yard average. John White led the way with 111 yards on the ground. The Argos used some RPO and misdirection to take advantage of Winnipeg’s pursuit angles, and it paid off.
The passing game for Toronto disappointed mightily on Friday night. Some of it can be attributed to design, but there were plays drawn up that should’ve worked. But the players themselves, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and DeVaris Daniels, failed to execute. On two separate occasions, a deep ball on the opening drive that would’ve put the team in scoring range and on a poorly overthrown ball by MBT in the third quarter that would’ve been an easy touchdown for The Argos were significant missed opportunities. The monumental misfire in the third quarter by McBeth would lead to his benching.
The one area where the Argos struggled mightily was dealing with the crowd noise in Winnipeg. The team had 13 penalties but five crucial mental errors on offence that killed momentum and drives. There was one sequence where the Argos had three consecutive procedure penalties. Unacceptable.
The special teams also contributed with their fair share of mental mistakes. Not as much as week one, but the unit had four overall penalties that negatively helped flip field position for Toronto.
Things were much better on the coaching front on the defensive side of the ball, with the lone exception of a blitz call that backfired when Zach Collaros connected with Rashad Bailey for a 35-yard score. The defensive game plan and playcalling were solid. Glen Young’s group did a great job plugging up run lanes against Winnipeg’s vaunted offensive line. The Argos run defence held the Bombers to 53 yards on 18 carries—a 2.9-yard average.
For the second week in a row, The Boatmen’s defence was put in countless bad situations. From poor field position to the time spent on the field because of the Argos offensive struggles. All things considered, Glen Young called a good game, and his unit kept Toronto’s hopes alive.
Mark Nelson’s special teams weren’t as bad as last week, but there’s plenty of room for improvement there.
Overall Grade: C+
Toronto Argonauts Offence
McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s fall from grace matches that of the team from week one. MBT’s poor performance (10/20, 70 yards passing) will ultimately lead to him losing his starting job. Nick Arbuckle was already waiting in the wings to take over at some point. But Saturday’s lousy outing by McBeth expedited that process. Thompson missed some easy layups in the game that could’ve changed the outcome of the Bombers game and kept him in the starting lineup for a while longer.
Nick Arbuckle wasn’t perfect by any stretch, either (10/19 96 yards, 1 interception). Arbuckle came into the game in relief of MBT and started on fire, completing his first five passes. But once the John White fumble happened, Arbuckle started pressing and made some poor decisions with the football.
Late last week, Ryan Dinwiddie told the media that there were some missed plays that he saw on film from his passing game in week one that disappointed him and the coaching staff.
In Friday’s game, the visual evidence of what Dinwiddie was talking about was much more evident. Nick Arbuckle has better knowledge of what his coach is looking for on specific plays. And it will be his offence moving forward. Arbuckle will have to prove why his head coach has so much faith in him executing the offence.
Overall Grade: D
There’s no question that John White bounced back from a non-descript week one performance. By rushing for 111 yards in this game. But was it the player or the play calls and execution that led to White’s production? The answer might be somewhere in the middle. Regardless, White showed decisiveness in his runs and did a good job setting up blocks in open space. His fumble, though, was at the worst possible spot in the game and ultimately did his team in.
A.J. Ouellette only carried the ball twice for twelve yards. So it’s hard to critique his play because his playing time was limited.
Overall Grade: B
Credit to the Bombers’ young defensive backs like CFL rookie Deatrick Nichols for standing up to the challenge of facing Toronto’s experienced group of receivers. Juwan Brescasin, unfortunately, had only one catch, and on that play, got injured. No official word yet on the severity of Juwan Brescasion’s knee injury, but it appears likely that he will certainly miss time. How long remains to be seen.
Eric Rogers was held in check with only 5 receptions for 49 yards. Ricky Collins was targeted four times but finished with just one reception for 29 yards. His best play came on an open field block in the run game that sprung John White for a long gain.
DeVaris Daniels had a rough game. It was a comedy of errors between him and Bethel-Thompson in this game. On the opening drive, it looked like the two were not only on different pages but reading from entirely different playbooks. Daniels was targeted seven times but only caught one pass for 11 yards.
Daniel Braverman chipped in with some catches underneath. Eight overall, but only at six yards per catch. The Argos are missing the big play in their offence, and this group has failed to deliver on their expectations.
Overall Grade: C minus
On the one hand, this unit did a great job opening up lanes and following through on their assignments in the run game. And on paper, considering the opponent, the fact that the Argos gave up only one sack, which came late in the game, is a positive.
However, the first two weeks of the season have seen several instances where the line has allowed defenders into the backfield way too easily.
The passing game has suffered because the pocket hasn’t been clean for Toronto’s quarterbacks. The offensive tackle play in particular needs to improve moving forward. And an injury to LT Dejon Allen may start that change. Weeks ago, Toronto traded away Alden Darby for Terry Poole. It’s time for Poole to make his debut on the blindside. The Argos need to solidify that spot.
Considering how banged up Philip Blake is, dealing with a shoulder injury. He needs to be commended for the work he has done in the early part of the season. Blake has played at guard, centre, and in this game at left tackle for the injured Allen. Thus far, rookie Peter Nicastro and veteran Dariusz Bladek have held up their end of the bargain on the interior, but the overall line has to be better.
It’s pretty telling that even in an emergency with their left tackle going down to injury, the Argos moved Blake to the blindside and didn’t insert 2019 first overall pick, Shane Richards. The former top pick played some guard in this game because of Allen’s injury, but one must wonder why the team has no faith in Richards on the outside.
This unit struggled to deal with the crowd noise in Winnipeg and committed several errors. Altogether it was an uneven performance by the Boatmen’s offensive line.
Overall Grade: C minus
Offensive Grade: C minus
An improved rushing attack can’t save all the ills and follies from the Argonauts offence in week two. You can excuse any offence for struggling against Winnipeg, but self-enforced wounds and misconnections on simple plays can’t happen. The Argonauts’ offence did not respond well to the pressure of playing the CFL’s best team.
Toronto Argonauts Defence
Rich Stubler’s group up front had a strong week. Particularly against the run. There were some hiccups along the way with a couple of offsides penalties. But the Argos were stout against the run against one of the CFL’s best offensive lines. The Bombers had very little running room. Charleston Hughes and Shawn Oakman (5 tackles) did a great job shedding blocks and disrupting the Bombers ground attack. Eli Harold made his first start at DE (1 forced fumble), and by the looks of things, there could be more big plays made by him as the season progresses.
The unit still hasn’t flashed in the sack department, and there were some plays where Zach Collaros broke contain and made some plays outside the pocket, but overall this was a strong effort for this group.
The one downside is that injuries are starting to catch up. Odell Willis, Cordarro Law, and Drake Nevis are missing from action. Shane Ray went down last week, and Kony Ealy went down in this game. The team’s depth is going to be tested moving forward.
Overall Grade: B+
To no one’s surprise, the best position group on the Argos is at linebacker. Henoc Muamba and Dexter McCoil were fantastic in this game. The linebackers filled holes in the run game, made some sure open-field tackles to keep the Bombers’ offence from extending drives, and did a great job defending the width of the field against a team that is very creative in designing plays to exploit teams who overpursue.
Cam Judge has been relatively quiet in his first two games as an Argo. He’s been overshadowed by McCoil and Muamba. It’s time for him to start making the big plays that have made him a most valuable defensive player candidate in the past.
Overall Grade: A
This unit was without two projected starters in Arjen Colquhoun and Robertson Daniel. Jamal Peters and Treston Decoud have held up well in their absence. Peters saw a lot of action on Friday, and the Bombers tested him a lot in the passing game. All things considered, Peters did a respectable job under fire. He had 9 tackles and recorded a rare Zach Collaros interception in the end zone.
That being stated, the Argos corners gave up too many completions underneath, and Collaros completed 80 percent of his passes. The overall secondary missed some big opportunities with two dropped interceptions in the game.
Jeff Richards was also extremely active, finishing the game with seven tackles. He had some great open-field tackles that ended Winnipeg drives on second down. Crezdon Butler had a solid game as well with four tackles. Chris Edwards continues to be one of Toronto’s best overall players on defence. On Friday, he sacked Collaros in the red zone on second down to hold Winnipeg to a short field goal. It was another big red zone play for Edwards a week after breaking up a Bo Levi Mitchell pass to cause a turnover on downs.
Shaq Richardson got caught and was the victim of the Bombers big pass play to Rashad Bailey for a 35-yard score, but Richardson was put in a difficult position on that play when the teams’ blitz did not get home.
Overall Grade: B minus
Defensive Grade: B+
For the second week in a row, it wasn’t perfect. And the unit did not make enough splash plays. But considering the circumstances, if it wasn’t for the Argos defence, this game could’ve very easily been a blowout. Somehow, despite the team’s struggle on offence. Toronto still had a chance to win the game late. The Argos D kept getting their offence the ball back. And in return, the Argos offensive attack let them down. Down 10-7, with the football after the Argos forced Winnipeg to punt for the tenth time. Toronto’s offence fumbled the football away, gave the Blue Bombers a short field, and they capitalized and put the game away for good.
Toronto Argonauts Special Teams
Toronto’s special teams weren’t as bad as last week. So that’s a positive, but the overall unit has been lackluster to start the season. Boris Bede missed a long field goal and punted ten times in the game for a 45.3 average. His kickoffs were also solid. The return game was very average. Braverman averaged 21 yards per kick return and 8.5 per punt return. Ricky Collins also saw some action in the return game, with 9.5 yards per punt return and 18 yards per kick return. He had a nice 15-yard punt return late in the game from deep into Argos territory.
Field position was a factor in this low-scoring game, and four penalties by this unit didn’t help matters. The Argos also gave up a 32-yard punt return by Charles Nelson that further hurt the team’s chances of making a comeback.
Special Teams Grade: C minus
Special teams were the one area where people suspected there would be issues in the early going of the CFL season. The assertion is a logical conclusion because of no preseason games and the changes with a two-year layoff. Often in close games, like last night was, special teams can make a difference and be a determining factor in flipping the result. Right now, Mark Nelson’s unit has not held up its end of the bargain. It’s likely a combination of a lack of cohesion and talent. If things don’t improve on this side of the team, the Argos will lose many close games.
Even the most ardent of Argos supporters didn’t expect Toronto to defeat Winnipeg at home last night. The team fought hard in week 2, but they didn’t play well enough to pull off the victory. But what’s most frustrating beyond the injuries about the Argonauts loss is how the team lost the game. The truth is that the Boatmen were in a position to steal a victory last night.
The Blue Bombers are a great team, and you need to play near perfect to beat them on their field. But there were plays to be made on Friday, where Toronto had Winnipeg beat, and they didn’t capitalize. You can throw in the missed field goal for added measure. Couple that with the two easy misses in the passing game, and these missed opportunities cost Toronto at least three scores in the game.
Oftentimes, wins are not as good as they appear because the result camouflages all your warts. And by the same token, some losses are not as bad as they look at first glance. There’s no shame in losing to the Grey Cup champs on the road in a closely contested defensive struggle. But the meltdown and mental errors in key spots do raise some concerns moving forward.
Week 2 Overall Team Grade: C
The Toronto Argonauts have an important week ahead of them for their home opener. Last week, the team had one less day of rest and work to prepare for Winnipeg. So the extra day this week could help the team regroup.
It will be interesting to see what moves are made on the roster to shore up some areas due to injury. Some players on the teams’ practice roster and injured list can be reinforcements for the Argos in the coming weeks. Players like Odell Willis, Drake Nevis, and Dewayne Hendrix are needed upfront. Cam Phillips could be called upon with Brescasin out. And Theren Churchill could make his way to the main roster to help with depth on the offensive line.
The uniqueness of preparing for the same opponent two weeks in a row will be a good litmus test for Ryan Dinwiddie and his coaching staff. The Blue Bombers won round one of this two-round fight by continuously hitting the Boatmen with body punches. The big question for week 3 is, Can the Argonauts get up off the canvas and avoid a knockout blow next Saturday? We are going to find out.