It’s only two games in an 18-game season. But the early returns on the 2022 Toronto Argonauts are not looking promising. Saturday night’s 44-3 loss to the B.C. Lions was arguably Toronto’s most disappointing effort in years, especially considering the team’s lofty expectations.
Toronto Argonauts Facing Early Season Turbulence
On the bright side, despite the lopsided nature of their week three loss. The 1-1 Argos are currently tied for first place in the East with Montreal. And Hamilton (0-3) and Ottawa (0-2) are still seeking their first victories. By default, someone has to win the division. And by the looks of things, there will only be two playoff teams coming from this group. There is still time for Toronto to get their ship sailing in the right direction.
But the bottom line is that genuine contending teams do not perform the way the Argonauts did in Vancouver. It’s not the fact that they lost, but it’s how it happened. Toronto’s players and coaches were outclassed in every possible way by BC, and it was an alarming effort by the Argos. Teams who have championship aspirations don’t get humiliated the way Toronto did.
Not taking anything away from British Columbia or the CFL’s newest megastar Nathan Rourke. The Leos are for real. Saturday night’s game was also about Toronto’s futility as much as it was about another coming-out party for the Lions.
The 2022 version of the Boatmen looks dead in the water. They showed up for a fight with a rising contender last night, had a poor game plan, took two body shots early, and never got back up off the canvas.
Similarities will be raised from the last time the Lions mauled Toronto at BC Place in 2019. The 55-8 beating three years ago led to significant changes within the Argos. But that Double Blue team was a bottom-of-the-barrel outfit headed for an organizational reset anyway. The 2022 Argos were supposed to be better than what they displayed in Week 3, and the truth is that they may not be.
The Boatmen will have extra time to go back to the drawing board and try and course-correct before their next game on Monday, July 4th, at BMO Field against the reigning CFL champion Blue Bombers. But for now, let’s painstakingly look back at every aspect that went wrong in Week 3.
Toronto Argonauts Week 3 Report Card
“We all have to find a way to look in the mirror and find a way to get better. That was a tough loss, it sucks, I hate it, but we can’t let it ruin our season.”Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie to the media after last night’s 44-3 loss to the BC Lions.
The old boxing saying goes, “Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth.” One has to wonder if Toronto even had a comprehensive game plan last night. After all, they looked like a team that didn’t practice for their opponent.
The Argos revamped coaching staff under 2021 CFL coach of the year candidate Ryan Dinwiddie lost the battle last night before it started.
The offence came out the gate hot, but beyond their opening script, they had no answers or direction. It didn’t help that once again, Toronto comically got down near the goal line on their opening drive and couldn’t punch it in despite having three tries. It was a demoralizing moment that sealed the Boatmen’s fate.
Play calling in the green area is not the only aspect where Dinwiddie has struggled mightily. His game management has also left a lot to be desired. At the end of the first half, as Toronto was punting the ball back to the Leos, the Argos, instead of running the clock down, left an extra 15 seconds on the clock for BC to tack on three additional points. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter. But it was a clear sign that Toronto’s coaching staff was asleep at the wheel. A common theme for the Argos on Saturday night.
The Argos don’t lack talent on offense. But they are poorly constructed. Their insistence on running power formations with receivers like Markeith Ambles as defacto tight ends is baffling. In critical short-yardage situations, early on, when the game wasn’t entirely out of hand. Ambles was tasked with blocking DE Obum Gwacham. Offensive drives died on the vine because players were put in the least likely position to succeed.
Corey Mace, one of the league’s brightest young assistants, had an awful night at the office in BC. The unproven rookie defensive play-caller had all the wrong answers against the Lions’ passing attack. Toronto played off coverage out of fear of getting beat deep but gave Nathan Rourke easy throws all evening.
To compound matters, there were communication issues on every level of Toronto’s defence. The Lions had receivers wide open with no one around them. The Argos defenders were playing like chickens with their heads cut off. That’s on Mace and all of his defensive assistants. William Fields and Joshua Bell are doing an awful job of getting their secondary on the same page. Almost every BC score was a blown coverage. That type of repeat performance warrants changes to the staff.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson got off to a hot start early on. But the brakes came off the offence quickly as the game progressed. Whether it’s the scheme or working with new teammates, A frustrated McLeod is not in sync with everyone around him. In his defence, He’s not getting much help. But MBT is making poor reads and decisions with the football. He’s better than what he has shown.
Running Backs: C minus
Andrew Harris did not look as explosive as he did in his Double debut. Perhaps being limited due to hamstring tightness in the week leading up didn’t help his cause. But Harris’s listless performance, seven carries for 27 yards, won’t help kill the narrative that he is an old war horse on his last legs. The team’s usage of him and the blocking scheme is not helping matters.
Wide Receivers: C
The performance of the Argos receivers is not as bad as it looks on paper. The circumstances surrounding the offence have limited their effectiveness and usage. Kurleigh Gittens and DaVaris Daniels need to be featured more. Brandon Banks drew a long pass interference penalty that could have resulted in a deep touchdown early in the game. This group can get better if utilized properly.
However, It’s clear that Toronto lacks physicality in the receiving corps. It doesn’t help that the eternally injured Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescasin remain on the shelf. The Argos need their physicality in the pass and run game to complement their other pass targets properly.
Offensive Line: D
The Argos put all their eggs in the Isiah Cage basket in the offseason. And they are paying for it now. To make matters worse, last year’s starting left tackle, Dejon Allen, went down with a knee injury against BC.
Trevon Tate was dreadful for the second straight game at the point of attack. It’s not showing up on the stat sheet in terms of sacks. But the Argos are allowing too many free rushers into the backfield. And MBT has taken a beating in the first two games.
Peter Nicastro’s loss has shown up for quite some time now. Toronto’s interior play has been spotty at best. Despite having three solid veterans on the inside, there are communications issues and mental breakdowns on every drive. New offensive line coach Kris Sweet has done a poor job getting his entire unit on the same page.
Defensive Line: D plus
The only visible aspect of Shawn Oakman in Vancouver was his colorful pre-game speech beforehand. Oakman’s fiery rally the troops moment led to him registering zero tackles on the evening.
Also in the MIA category was JaGared Davis. Although to a lesser extent than the world’s tallest ghost on Saturday night, Oakman.
Davis did register three tackles. But like game one, he has looked slow out the gate. Like he’s still in training camp mode. What’s most troubling about a high-priced veteran like Davis is that his veteran leadership, like his productivity, has also been non-existent. The Argos were humiliated in primetime and fell apart at the seams, and no one stood up to stem the tide for the drowning Boatmen.
Robbie Smith, Sam Acheampong, and Dewayne Hendrix had a decent outing against BC early on against the run. But there weren’t very many impactful plays made by this unit.
The Argos’ defensive line, and some of its biggest stars, which needed to be at their best to contend on the road, didn’t bother to show up.
Linebackers: C plus
Wynton McManis has been the Argonauts’ best player after two weeks (10 tackles, one sack). Henoc Muamba was also steady in week two (6 tackles). But he hasn’t made any impact plays thus far. Robert Priester has done a commendable job as a CFL rookie (5 tackles, 1 FF vs. BC), but Toronto desperately misses All-Star Chris Edwards and his big-play-making ability.
How can I not grade this unit with an F? Getting beat is one thing. But consistently having blown coverages and allowing wide-open touchdowns is inexcusable. This grade works hand in hand with the coaching of this unit. Royce Metchie, Shaq Richardson, and Dashaun Amos all looked like they had never played organized football before Saturday evening.
No matter how good your opponent is, any time you allow nearly 90 percent completion percentage for 436 yards. You failed miserably. The Lions had only one pass play all evening, over 30 yards. The Argos secondary was dying a slow death all night long, and they didn’t even put up a fight. An inexcusable effort all around.
Special Teams: C
Not much to discuss here. At least this group wasn’t as dreadful as the offence and defence. The kicking and coverage units were fine.
A missing aspect covered here since 2021 was how effective Chandler Worthy was late last year in helping Toronto in the return game with field position. Worthy’s performance was largely overlooked and dismissed by the Toronto faithful. At the moment, even though Javon Leake and Isiah Wright have had some decent moments. Letting go of Worthy looks like a mistake by the Argos brain trust.
Toronto Argonauts Overall Team Grade: D minus
It’s challenging to be bullish about the Argos after two weeks of play. The combination of poor coaching by Toronto’s revamped staff and some missteps by the football ops team in the offseason has left the Boatmen with several holes in their ship.
The team desperately needs to reconfigure its roster and how it uses the players it has at its disposal. It doesn’t help the coaches that so many crucial figures are out of the lineup. But that’s no excuse for players being out of position and unprepared.
The Argos, on paper, looked like they would be better than their 2021 counterpart, which in many respects, last season was a case of fools’ gold. It’s why Toronto was so progressive in making significant wholesale changes. But thus far, the Argonauts look rudderless and without any heart. You can’t buy chemistry or an identity. You have to earn it. The 2022 Argonauts are a work in progress. Adjust your expectations accordingly.