The Toronto Argonauts found a way to lose in Week 4 against a team that is notorious for finding ways to win. The Argos were their own worst enemy at BMO Field. Not that they needed the assistance. But Winnipeg got plenty of help against Toronto. The Double Blue beat themselves and, at one point, nearly resorted to beating each other up on the sidelines.
Monday night’s 23-22 loss to the back-to-back CFL champion Blue Bombers could easily be viewed as a glass-half-full loss scenario for Toronto.
After all, the team bounced back from a demoralizing 44-3 defeat in Week 3. And battled back against the champion Blue Bombers down 17 to nearly force overtime. Despite dealing with a lot of self-inflicted adversity, the Boatmen had a late surge to push Winnipeg to the brink.
Furthermore, The Argos have plenty of talent to turn things in their favor. And despite all their issues, Toronto stands atop the East division at 1-2 with nearly two weeks to prepare for Touchdown Atlantic against the Roughriders.
Things aren’t as bad as they appeared after last week’s debacle in Vancouver. And there were some positives from yesterday’s game. But the 2022 Argos need to learn how to become a winning team. They are a work in progress right now.
Let’s look at what worked and didn’t work on the field at BMO on Monday.
Toronto Argonauts Week 4 Report Card
Coaching: B minus
Many will point to the sideline fracas in Monday’s game between Toronto teammates as a sign of poor leadership from the coaching staff. But emotions run high when players are passionate or frustrated. Blame for the incident should not be placed on the coaches. However, how the team responds moving forward and stays united can be more of a true test for Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff.
Dinwiddie told the press about last night’s incident. “Maybe some guys gotta go home”. Regardless of how talented they are. For what it’s worth, Brandon Banks apologized to the team afterward for his blowup. But one has to wonder if he is on thin ice with his new teammates.
There were some positive signs all across the board for the Boatmen’s coaching staff. Ryan Dinwiddie got into a groove late calling plays. He removed his tight formations and started running plays from the spread set. It eventually paid off in the run and pass game. Credit to Dinwiddie for making the change. He also wisely utilized Declan Cross as a chip blocker in the passing game to slow down Winnipeg’s defensive rushers.
The slow starts are still a major problem. The offense got off to a dreadful start persistently shooting itself in the foot. But the adjustments made before and during the game eventually paid off.
Another point of contention against Ryan Dinwiddie was his decision to not go for two at the end of the game. In hindsight, considering how reliable Bede has been, and how well his defense was playing, the safe play was going for the extra point. But there is a sound argument for going for the gusto and trying to ride a motivated Andrew Harris into the end zone for the victory.
Corey Mace’s defensive group bounced back in Week 4. There were still issues with the pass rush failing to get home and losing containment in the pocket. But the problems that plagued Toronto’s defence in previous games were not evident this week. The blown assignments and mental breakdowns disappeared. Kudos to the secondary coaches for getting that fixed.
Mickey Donovan’s special teams unit didn’t have any huge blunders. Minus the botched extra point and being duped on the opening kickoff. But there were some penalty issues that hurt field position. As well as issues with Toronto’s punt return unit. The scheme and execution are not working in that department.
At halftime, the TSN crew entertained the possibility that Toronto could pull the plug on McLeod Bethel-Thompson and insert Chad Kelly against Winnipeg. They weren’t the only ones entertaining this thought.
You couldn’t script a worse performance by a quarterback than the one Bethel-Thompson had to start the game. 1 of 5 with two interceptions, with one of them returned for a touchdown. MBT also fumbled two snaps from centre during the first half. And probably should’ve been picked off on three other occasions.
But to this credit, McLeod bounced back and got red hot during the game, completing ten straight passes. Thompson finished the game throwing for over 300 yards and two scores. Albeit one of those scores came on an offensive interception by Brandon Banks to start the third quarter. But as he has his entire career. MBT kept fighting through the storm and swiftly led his team to what should’ve been a game-tying drive.
The bottom line is that McLeod Bethel-Thompson needs to break away from his bi-polar style of quarterback play. There’s a justifiable reason to suggest that MBT won’t change for the better. What you see is what you get. For better or worse, the Argos are sinking and swimming with Thompson. The ship will go down with him if he doesn’t improve his overall play.
Running Backs: A
Andrew Harris was his old self against his former team. He ran decisively and with the great heart he always has shown. Despite being limited in practice the last two weeks, Harris carried the rock 25 times for 111 yards. Declan Cross was also fantastic, leading the way in the run game and in pass blocking. AJ Ouellette is an underutilized player who needs to see more playing time.
Wide Receivers: B+
The elephant in the room is what took place on the sidelines between Brandon Banks and offensive linemen Trevon Tate. An argument came after Banks had the ball dislodged near the goal line. Banks had a very eventful night. He made big plays, including his 45-yard takeaway touchdown. He also had a long gainer called back in the early going due to a holding call. Banks stepped up on the final offensive drive as well. He finished with five receptions for 85 yards.
You hope that the team can get past their sideline blow-up with Brandon. Because Banks is starting to build great chemistry with his quarterback. And is showing the big-play ability he didn’t last season in Hamilton.
Kurleigh Gittens Jr. is an outstanding football player. For whatever reason, he hasn’t gotten enough opportunities. Toronto started to target him heavily in the second half, and he delivered, making contested catches, and breaking multiple tackles in space. Gittens Jr. finished with five receptions on five targets for 67 yards. But he had a better game than his numbers would suggest.
Markeith Ambles also contributed nicely, with five receptions for 41 yards and a score. Cam Phillips is growing into a nice complementary role as well. He had five catches for 57 yards. For whatever reason, DaVaris Daniels has mainly been invisible to this point.
Offensive Line: C +
The Argos made a concerted effort to keep the Bombers’ All-Star edge rushers in check. And for the most part, they succeeded. The team did, however, allow three sacks to the Bombers supporting cast, had some costly drive-killing penalties, and Justin Lawrence had an awful night at Centre. Lawrence and Bethel-Thompson botched multiple snaps. On a positive note, the run blocking in the trenches was much better in Week 4 than it was in Week 3.
Defensive Line: C+
The Argos’ defensive front did an excellent job against the run versus Winnipeg. But once again, their top players were largely invisible, rushing the passer. They produced no sacks and allowed Zach Collaros to escape on multiple occasions to extend plays and drives.
This has been the Argos’ best unit all season. Wynton McManis and Henoc Muamba were heat-seeking missiles in the run and pass game. Robert Prister did an excellent job covering ground and produced a sack.
A lot less breaking than a week ago. Stll some bending. The secondary allowed 80 percent completions. But they didn’t allow any unearned plays down the field, except for one-blown coverage on a 35-yard gain by Dalton Schoen, where he slipped away uncovered in the third quarter. Jamal Peters had a very active game. He had big tackles to stop receivers short of gain and had a nice interception before the end of the first half. It’s the best Peters has looked since injuring his knee in camp.
Special Teams: C minus
Except for the opening kickoff. Coverage on kicks was decent for Toronto. Defensive back Josh Hagerty had a good night, including making a touchdown-saving tackle. Isaiah Wright had a few nice returns, particularly on kickoffs. Wright, however, looked uncomfortable returning punts. It didn’t help that Winnipeg’s gunners met no resistance from Toronto.
Punter John Haggerty had a nondescript evening until the game’s deciding play. The story of this evening was, unfortunately, Boris Bede. The usually reliable Bede looked like his former self connecting on his first three field goals, one from 52 yards out to help keep his team in the game. But his missed extra point is all that matters. Punter John Haggerty played a part in the miss with a poor hold. That operation has to get better because it was an issue in week one against Montreal.
Toronto Argonauts Overall Team Grade: B minus
The way Toronto lost was terrible. Their start, some of the middle, and the finishing moment. But things aren’t as bad as they seem. The Argos issues are not talent-related. Sure they are missing key players on offence and defence, like Eric Rogers, Peter Nicastro, Isiah Cage, and Chris Edwards, to name a few. But they have the horses to win races.
The issue is the team clicking on all cylinders on and off the field, and team chemistry in both areas is still a work in progress. The Argos can’t afford to fracture after what happened on the sidelines between Brandon Banks and his teammates.
The coaching staff bounced back after being justifiably crucified last week. They will need to continue on the same path with back-to-back games coming against the formidable Roughriders.
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