The Toronto Argonauts are now 3-2 after five games of play. Friday’s narrow victory at home over Hamilton in the LDC rematch puts the Boatmen on top in the East with nine games left to play this season.
Often, teams lose games that they should’ve won and win when they should’ve lost. In Toronto’s case last night, they won a game that they had no business nearly losing. And the truth is that had they lost to the Ti-Cats, they would’ve earned it, based on how many opportunities the team squandered to put the game away. Credit to Hamilton for hanging in and still having a chance to steal one on the road.
The positive coming out of Toronto’s victory in Week 6, besides the result, is how the team, despite its inconsistencies, has shown glimpses that they can get better as the season progresses. There’s a lot of talent on the Argos, and they have the potential to become a complete team if they put it all together. The parts are greater than the whole right now, and it’s been good enough to get them in prime position to contend.
Let’s take a look at how the individual areas of the team graded out in Week 6 against Hamilton.
Toronto Argonauts Week 6 Report Card
Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie was extremely disappointed in his team’s lack of discipline in week 5. So much so that he called on his veteran leaders to steady the Boatmen’s ship.
Dinwiddie’s players responded well in week 6 after not receiving his message before the Labour Day game. The Argos still had eight overall penalties against Hamilton, but they weren’t the same type of unnecessary self-inflicted errors that buried Toronto on Labour Day.
The Argonauts’ offensive coaching staff also did a better job in their rematch with Hamilton in getting back to utilizing the two-back look that was so successful in the team’s last victory at home over Winnipeg. The deception used in the Argos ground attack has produced some of their best plays this season. As evidenced by DJ Foster’s 40-yard touchdown. The play was set up by the team’s success running the football in between the tackles and by using consistent motion to keep Hamilton defenders guessing.
Defensively, Glen Young and his staff did a tremendous job generating a pass rush from all angles against Hamilton’s suspect offensive line. Despite all the Argos’ injuries upfront on their defensive line and playing last night without Charleston Hughes. Toronto ultimately won this game because of the consistent pressure they put on Hamilton’s passing attack.
On Friday, Mark Nelson’s special team’s units were also improved in the rematch with Jeff Reinebold’s group. The Argos’ special teams weren’t great and had several hiccups. Still, the unit did a much better job containing Frankie Williams and avoiding the boneheaded penalties that plagued them in week 5.
The glaring coaching issues this week with the Boatmen came from some poor game management by Ryan Dinwiddie. The rookie head coach had some curious decisions throughout the game that nearly backfired and cost his team what should have been a comfortable victory at home.
Starting with a questionable sequence at the end of the first half, where Dinwiddie opted not to go for it on 3rd and inches near midfield. Not only did Hamilton get the ball back, but they almost scored a long touchdown that would’ve tied the game at 14 right before halftime.
Late in the game up 7 with 2:37 left, the Argos opted to throw the ball on first and second down instead of running the football and some clock. The decision proved costly and it led to Nick Arbuckle turning the football over at midfield. Hamilton would capitalize on the Argos blunder and would drive the short field and score what should’ve been a game-tying touchdown.
Overall Grade: B
The defensive staff deserves the most credit for Toronto’s victory. Despite several key injuries (Crezdon Butler, Charleston Hughes, etc.), their offense’s struggles and being put in difficult circumstances throughout the game. Glen Young’s group held up. The Argos on offense failed on multiple occasions to put the game away and nearly lost the game for the entire team.
Toronto Argonauts Offense
Toronto quarterback Nick Arbuckle knows that he didn’t play a good game on Friday. The stat line is a lot more favorable than his overall performance was. Arbuckle (236 yards passing) was credited with two touchdowns, but one came on a sneak and another on a shovel pass.
Arbuckle left several plays on the field and made some abysmal decisions with the football. For the second game in a row, Mark Washington’s defense for Hamilton confused Arbuckle and it led to many errant throws.
Toronto didn’t run the ball enough in this game. John White had only 12 carries for 84 yards. Despite the team nursing a lead throughout. DJ Foster has only scratched the surface about how good he can be in the CFL as a dual-threat out of the backfield. The Boatmen’s two touchdowns came as a result of him. Foster drew a pass interference call in the end zone that led to the Argos’ first score and Foster provided the prettiest play of the game, scoring on a 40-yard catch and run.
It was great to see Declan Cross get on the stat sheet with one reception for 8 yards. The veteran team captain has done a great job all season in the run game as a lead blocker at fullback and tight end.
The Argos offensive line, particularly Peter Nicastro, who made his first career start at Center, was excellent opening up holes in the ground game. Nicastro playing in place of the injured Philip Blake, did a nice job in his stead. There were some breakdowns in pass protection against Hamilton’s blitz but overall, Toronto’s offensive line of Dejon Allen, Shane Richards, Dariusz Bladek, and Jamal Campell did a good job not allowing any sacks.
There were several opportunities for the Argos receiving corps to make big plays down the field, but Nick Arbuckle missed them. Toronto’s receivers had modest totals all night. The group averaged only 8.7 yards per reception. Ricky Collins led the way with eight receptions for 60 yards. One of Nick Arbuckle’s two interceptions came on a costly drop by rookie Dejon Brissett in the end zone, which led to an interception.
Overall Grade: C plus
Nick Arbuckle’s play dragged the unit down this week. It wasn’t all his fault. But he’s going to have to play better moving forward. You can’t leave points on the field and, in turn, give your opponent opportunities to score by not sustaining drives or turning the football over.
Toronto Argonauts Defense
Toronto’s best overall unit all season long has been their defense. It’s the reason that they are 3-2. Week after week, the Double Blue defense has kept their team in games, while its offense and special teams have struggled to sustain consistency.
Before last night, After 4 games, the Argonauts defensive line only registered two of the team’s overall six sacks on the year. But Friday was a coming-out party for CFL rookies Shawn Oakman and Eli Harold. Both combined for 4 total sacks. These two are elite physical talents that can be dominant forces for a long time to come. They gave Hamilton’s offensive line fits.
Toronto’s front seven on defense continues to play at a high level against the run and in space. Henoc Muamba is hitting his stride as an Argo. He’s had back-to-back excellent weeks. Muamba had an interception last night to go along with three tackles. Chris Edwards might be Toronto’s best overall player. His stat sheet of only 2 tackles is very misleading. Week after week, Edwards is consistently providing great run support, pass coverage, and pass rushing when blitzed into an opposing team’s backfield. He’s been all over the field making splash plays in all three facets.
It wasn’t all perfect on Friday night for Toronto’s defense. Once again, the Argos gave up big plays in the passing game. This time, because of the inexperience showed by rookie safety Josh Hagerty. The Argonauts are lucky that Hamilton missed on several scoring opportunities down the field. Much like on Monday, there were Tiger-Cat receivers open downfield in several instances. Hagerty also missed a key tackle on Thomas-Ellington’s touchdown run late in the game. The talent and effort are there for the rookie, but the performance hasn’t been.
The team misses Crezdon Butler, and the defensive staff needs to entertain alternate options on their back end if he doesn’t return.
Overall Grade: A minus
Toronto Argonauts Special Teams
The Argos special teams wasn’t their achilles heel this week. So that’s a positive.
Toronto’s special teams had only three penalties this week and kept Frankie Williams from breaking the game open with a big return. Williams longest kick return was 24 yards. His longest punt return was 18 yards and that came very late in the game out of his own end zone.
Chandler Worthy, replacing an injured Daniel Braverman, provided a spark early on in the punt return game with 29 yards on his first two returns. The team didn’t break any long returns but Worthy has elite speed to make that a possibility in the future.
In this low-scoring affair. It’s typically one or two special teams plays that can make the difference. The Argos had a play that almost did them in a blocked Boris Bede punt at midfield in the third quarter. Fortunately, for Toronto, their defense held up and forced a Ti-Cats punt.
The one special teams play that did end up deciding the game went in the Argonauts favor as Hamilton kicker Michael Domagala fatally missed a game-tying extra point.
Overal Grade: B
Toronto Argonauts Overall Grade: B
In a shortened regular season, you take wins anyway you can get them.
This wasn’t a case where Toronto stole a victory. Although the game ending doink off the crossbars might suggest otherwise.
The Argos responded to Monday’s meltdown loss to Hamilton and they got the win, despite the offensive coaching staff and its quarterback clearly not playing their “A game”. Normally, you have to be at your best to beat an established team like Hamilton. Toronto wasn’t in a couple of key areas.
The important thing, however, is that the Argos got a crucial victory, at home, within their division. A loss, considering the opponent, and how the game unfolded would’ve been damaging. Not only for the team’s psyche but as far as the standings go.
You live to fight for another day. And right now, the Toronto Argonauts look like they could be in this fight for the long haul. However, They are going to need to be better moving forward if they hope to be contending for a playoff berth, division championship and beyond.