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Toronto Argonauts Week 3 Report Card: Team/Position Grades

Week 3 of the CFL season saw the Toronto Argonauts return home with an impressive 30-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The new-look Argos debuted in grand fashion in front of their home fans for the first time in 665 days.

On Saturday, the Boatmen (2-1) avenged their loss to the defending Grey Cup champion Bombers by starting fast, weathering some stormy moments in the middle of the game, and then finishing strongly to seal the victory.

It’s still early in the season, but after three weeks. The Toronto Argonauts sit atop the East in first place at 2-1. None of the teams in the eastern division have played each other yet. In two weeks, Toronto will begin divisional play with back-to-back games against Hamilton. But for now, The Argos are back home quickly this week, and they will be facing yet another western team in the 1-2 Edmonton Elks, Thursday Night at BMO Field.

EAST DIVISION

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1 Toronto3210460631-0-01-1-00-0-0
2 Montreal2110252410-0-01-1-00-0-0
3 Ottawa2110226350-0-01-1-00-0-0
4 Hamilton2020014490-0-00-2-00-0-0

Let’s take an in-depth look at how the Argonauts team fared in week three on the coaching and player side.

Toronto Argonauts Coaching

The added day of preparation paid off for Toronto’s coaching staff. And the extra day of rest was evident for the Argos players as they looked like they had fresh legs and started off the game red-hot. Being at home helped pick up the energy for the Boatmen, but its coaching staff did a tremendous job from top to bottom in their rematch with Winnipeg. Not an easy task to duplicate what you did well against the same opponent. But Toronto’s staff improved upon what was successful a week ago.

Starting with Ryan Dinwiddie, a week after rushing for over 120 yards against Winnipeg, Dinwiddie added some new wrinkles and formations to the team’s run-pass option scheme, and the Argos ended up running for 149 yards on the ground. The Argos two-back sets paid off heavily in this game.

The big improvements from last week’s outing with Winnipeg came in Toronto’s passing attack. A week after struggling mightily against Richie Hall’s secondary. The Argos threw for over 300 yards in the air, and they did so by attacking down the field. Something that had been missing from their offensive attack in the opening two games. The big plays down the field made it impossible for Winnipeg to over-commit to the run or crowd the underneath areas in the passing game.

Ryan Dinwiddie’s best moment came late in the game. With the Argos hanging on to a seven-point lead with 2 minutes left. Rather than conventionally running the ball to eat up the clock. Dinwiddie decided to stay aggressive and give his quarterback freedom on a run-pass option play. On first down, the Argos threw the ball, and it resulted in a 43-yard pass play to Ricky Collins Jr. Toronto played to win, and they did. It was a great day at the office for the rookie head coach. He has shown in his first three weeks that when the team has questions, he provides the answers.

Defensive Coordinator Glen Young and his staff had another strong outing against his former team. In back-to-back games, the Argos shut down the Bombers vaunted ground attack. A week after halting Winnipeg to 53 yards on the ground. The Double Blue defense held the Bombers to just 32 yards rushing.

Winnipeg’s first and only drive into the red zone didn’t come until late in the 4th quarter. It wasn’t all perfect for Young’s aggressive defense. For the second week in a row, the secondary got burned for a big play downfield. However, this time, it wasn’t the play design that backfired against Young but a player in Jamal Peters, who blew his coverage on Darvin Adams’s long touchdown. However, overall, Young’s defense rose to the challenge two weeks in a row against a formidable opponent. Forcing numerous two-and-outs and getting their offense back on the field quickly.

Mark Nelson’s special team’s units were fantastic on Saturday. It was the group’s best outing of the young season. The first play set the tone when Daniel Braverman kicked off the game with a big return.

Overall Grade: A

Toronto Argonauts Offense

Quarterback

Nick Arbuckle had a great debut in his first start for Toronto. Arbuckle was 23/32, throwing for 310 yards and scoring two touchdowns, one through the air and one on the ground. The Argos under Ryan Dinwiddie and Jarious Jackson, two former quarterbacks, are running a QB-friendly system that gives their signal-callers a lot of freedom to make decisions. The staff’s faith in Arbuckle was rewarded on Saturday. He ran the team’s check with me RPO plays to perfection.

Arbuckle had a couple of moments during the game where turnovers by him could’ve derailed the team. On one occasion, it did. Up 13-0 in scoring range, Nick Arbuckle held on to the football too long scrambling in the pocket, and Jackson Jeffcoat chased him down and knocked the football out. Jesse Briggs would scoop up the fumble and race downfield for the score, Instead of going up 16-0. The Bombers had cut the Argos lead to 13-7. The mishap swung the momentum of the game from Toronto to Winnipeg.

Nick Arbuckle dodged a bullet later on in that same quarter. With time running out in the first half and the Argos up 16-14. An interception Arbuckle threw right before the half to DeAundre Alford was called back on a debatable pass interference penalty. It was arguably the turning point of the game. As two plays later, Nick Arbuckle would connect with DeVaris Daniels on a beautiful pump and go 35-yard touchdown pass. The turn of events would give the Argos a 22-14 lead going into the second half.

Ironically, it was the same type of play that got McLeod Bethel-Thompson benched last week in Winnipeg. It finally worked this week with Arbuckle executing it. And it was something that the QB and receiver worked on extensively in practice leading into the game. It turns out Arbuckle was misfiring in practice as MBT did during the first Winnipeg matchup. But practice made perfect.

Overall Grade: A-minus

Running Backs

The Bombers were prepared for John White, holding him to 24 yards on 12 carries. A week after, he ran for nearly 9 yards per carry and 111 yards. But Winnipeg never saw DJ Foster coming. And what a spark the young NFL veteran and Arizona State standout gave the Boatmen on Saturday. Foster was fantastic, rushing for 101 yards on ten carries. He also had one reception for 14 yards.

Coach Ryan Dinwiddie admitted after the game that he came close to elevating Foster from the practice squad a week ago. But the short work week leading into week 2 prevented that from happening. Well, there’s no doubt that DJ was ready to play in week 3. He showed excellent open-field vision and agility on his ten-yard touchdown run and a great burst on a 39-yard run later.

Credit to the Argos scouting department and front office for identifying Foster’s talent and bringing him on board late in training camp before the Boatmen’s ship set sail for the season. When DJ Foster received the call, he was so anxious to get into the mix that he immediately flew to Toronto and got to work. That’s what he did in his first CFL game.

Overall Grade: A

Wide Receivers

By far, this group’s best performance of the season. After only one catch in week two. DeVaris Daniels exploded for 7 catches for 100 yards in the first half alone. Unfortunately, Daniels had to leave the game with a head injury after a brutal hit by Brandon Alexander to start the third quarter. But the foolish penalty came after Daniels had already made the Bombers secondary look like fools on Saturday.

Eric Rogers (5-69), Ricky Collins (5-52), Dejon Brissett (2-51), and Kurleigh Gittens Jr (1-23) all contributed with big pass plays on Saturday. The run blocking by this group was also very good for the second week in a row.

Brissett’s inclusion in the offense is very encouraging moving forward. And with Daniels most likely out on a short week. The Argos will need him to step up against the Elks.

Overall Grade: Aplus

Offensive Line

Stephen McAdoo’s group had some hiccups along the way. Allowing 4 sacks and nearly causing a fumbled exchange in the backfield after not properly picking up a blitz in the A-gap. But the run blocking was solid for a second week in a row, and the line gave Arbuckle enough time to make some key pass plays down the field. The Argos generated over 400 yards, so it wasn’t all bad, but there is still room for improvement moving forward.

Overall Grade: B-minus

Offense Overall Grade: A minus

Toronto Argonauts Defense

Defensive Line

For the second week in a row. The Argos defense held the Bombers ground game in check. This week, to only 32 yards rushing. But the unit produced no sacks again. However, Charleston Hughes had 3 pressures in the game, and his early pressure on Zach Collaros forced an errant throw and an interception.

The interesting thing with Toronto’s defense this week is that they went with the speed package, and on many occasions throughout the game, lined up only 1 or 2 defensive linemen. It’s part scheme and because the Argos are thin on the defensive line after losing Shane Ray, Cordarro Law, Drake Nevis, and Kony Ealy. Eli Harold and Dewayne Hendrix played minimal snaps in this game and neither registered any stats. It was Shawn Oakman and Hughes who saw the most action in this game.

Overall Grade: B

Linebackers

For all the hype attached to Henoc Muamba and Cameron Judge. And rightfully so, thus far, it’s Dexter McCoil and Chris Edwards who have been the stars of this defense. Edwards doesn’t fill up the stat sheet. Still, three weeks in a row, he has made game-changing plays each game against the run, or particularly in coverage playing the Sam.

Edwards is technically a part of the secondary. Still, he has been utilized heavily near the line of scrimmage in recent weeks.

Dexter McCoil is a fantastic football player. He had 4 tackles in this game and an interception. The linebacker/safety hybrid hasn’t missed a step since returning to the CFL.

In Saturday’s game, another excellent recent pickup by the Boatmen’s front office, Vontae Diggs, had two tackles and a sack.

Overall Grade: A

Secondary

The Argos defense gave up some big pass plays again this week, but after allowing Zach Collaros to complete 80 percent of his passes in week 2. The Argos pass defense reduced that percentage to 54 percent this week. And the increase in tighter coverage, five pass breakups, and forced incompletions kept Winnipeg’s offense on the field for only 20 minutes.

Jamal Peters had a rough week giving up a couple of plays down the field. One on a mental lapse that resulted in Darvin Adams’s 51-yard score. Peters wound up getting injured towards the end of the game. So his status for Thursday’s game is in question.

The overall coverage of the secondary was better this week. And this unit has done a great job all season tackling in the open field.

Overall Grade: B plus

Defense Overall Grade: A minus

Argos Special Teams

To my surprise, Toronto’s special teams severely outplayed Winnipeg’s.

Boris Bede was 3/3 on field goals and started the game positively with a 52-yard field goal. Bede also punted 7 times for a 44 yard average with a long of 68 and earned a single on the blast through the end zone. Bede also boomed kickoffs all game long. Former Argo Tyler Crapigna missed both of his field-goal attempts in his return to BMO Field.

Ironically enough, Bede was traded to the Toronto Argonauts by Montreal back in 2020 for fellow kicker Tyler Crapigna straight up. Bede’s performance on Saturday versus the Boatmen’s former kicker had the front office looking brilliant for making the swap.

Toronto’s return game finally showed some juice this week. Daniel Braverman had a 38-yard return to start the game, he also had an 18-yard punt return and a 23 yard missed field goal return.

Toronto’s special teams’ coverage units were fantastic. Particularly on punts. A week after watching Charles Nelson return a punt 32 yards. The Argos held him to 4.5 yards per return.

Overall Grade: A

Week 3 Overall Team Grade: A

This was a crucial victory for the Argonauts, not just because they were at home for the first time in ages. But because if Toronto truly wants to be a contender, they need to beat good teams on their home field. Notwithstanding the fact that in a shortened season, each game carries more weight than it normally does. There are only 11 more regular-season games left.

Bouncing back after last week’s loss to an elite team in Winnipeg was an excellent sign that the Argos might be ready to become a relevant team again. They stood toe-to-toe with the CFL champs, rebounded after getting knocked down a week ago, and beat them in the rematch.

The victory by Toronto was also important for the head coach and quarterback. Ryan Dinwiddie and Nick Arbuckle are tied to each other’s success in the past and moving forward. The Argos offense was not very good in the first two weeks of the season. For various reasons. So Saturday’s performance is a confidence boost for its young quarterback and its rookie head coach. Toronto may have also found a running game. The combination of their scheme and talent at RB looks very promising.

The Boatmen can’t rest on their laurels. They have a short week upcoming, and they can’t afford an emotional letdown after coming off the high of this home victory. They have to play with the same sense of energy and urgency they had against Winnipeg. It’s still early in the season, but if they can stay healthy, the Argos look like they have a chance to be contenders in the East.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ezekiah Stewart

    August 22, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    Agree with the solid blocking but it was not just the online how about the fullback and receivers

    • Mike Mitchell

      August 22, 2021 at 1:48 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read the article. The WR blocking was mentioned and pointed out in the report. They all got credit.

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