The Toronto Argonauts are four days away from their regular-season opener in Calgary. The Boatmen’s star-studded defence appears ready to take the CFL by storm. But its offence, on the other hand, feels like it’s stuck in the harbor. Legitimate question marks are surrounding the Argonauts offense and its readiness for week one of the season. And it goes beyond the uncertainty attached to the quarterback position.
The Argos, on Tuesday, took the field at Lamport Stadium for day two of practices for their week one opponent, the Stampeders. Once again, the team’s projected starting quarterback Nick Arbuckle practiced in a limited fashion. Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie liked what he saw from his quarterback but still raised caution about Arbuckle potentially tweaking his hamstring injury again. Dinwiddie should have a better feel for his quarterback situation tomorrow and admitted that he has to decide soon who will be the teams starter. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is ready to get the call, and the sense is that if Arbuckle doesn’t progress from where he is now, that McLeod will start the season opener in Calgary.
Notwithstanding the drawback of splitting quarterback reps in preparation for week one. The Argonauts have issues at two other critical spots on their offence. The first of which has flown under the radar in recent weeks.
The Toronto Argonauts Starting Left Tackle
Projected starting left tackle Isiah Cage has missed practice for quite some time, and today, Coach Ryan Dinwiddie confirmed that Cage is dealing with an ankle injury. The team followed up today’s media session by releasing its first injury report today. It’s very likely that not only will Cage be out this Saturday but that he could be placed on the teams injured list.
In Isiah Cage’s place at left tackle has been, Recent acquisition Terry Poole, who was acquired from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Alden Darby trade, and American offensive linemen Dejon Allen. They have both been splitting reps. The two former XFL players have experience as starters. Poole, in particular, stood out for the Houston Roughnecks protecting the blindside of league MVP PJ Walker. Pro Football Focus ranked Terry Poole as one of the XFL’s top-graded offensive linemen.
However, Terry Poole, like Dejon Allen, has never played offensive line in the CFL. It’s an adjustment period for any American lineman transitioning from the game in the states to a one-yard neutral zone in the CFL. Patience and timing are essential in the Canadian game for offensive linemen. The drive off the snap is much different in America and is challenging for newcomers to the CFL.
Not only could the Argonauts be starting an inexperienced CFL player at left tackle in week one, but they would be tasking that player with the responsibility of protecting a quarterback who will have limited mobility. That’s presuming that Nick Arbuckle does get the start. Even if he doesn’t, dealing with the crowd noise and the Calgary pass rush will be a difficult task for either Poole or Allen in their first CFL game. You can bet that Stampeders defensive coordinator Brent Monson will be looking to capitalize on the Argos uncertainty at quarterback and its blindside protector.
The Toronto Argonauts Starting Centre
The absence of Cody Speller, who has been on the team’s suspended list since training camp started, has created a big hole in the middle of the Argos offensive line. However, It’s not like Double Blue doesn’t have alternate options there. They do, but it will be put to the test in week one against the Stamps.
The first option is starting rookie first-round draft pick, Peter Nicastro. Toronto has high expectations for the Dinos’ standout, but throwing him to the wolves in the middle of the team’s trenches will be difficult for the rookie. Nicastro has alternated in practices taking snaps at both guard and centre. He is going to start on Saturday. The question is, what position will he play? Will Toronto entrust the rookie to make all the line calls upfront on the road in Calgary? The Argos brass loves Nicastro’s toughness and aggressive nature, but can he play on an even keel if given the significant responsibility of leading the Boatmen’s offensive line.
Option B is the safe route, and although Ryan Dinwiddie told the media several weeks back that his preference is to leave Philip Blake at guard. The CFL veteran has been prepping as if he is going to get the starting nod at centre. Blake has taken Nicastro under his wing in camp, and being by his side in the trenches could help guide the rookie through adversity. But is it worth the gamble of putting too much on Nicastro’s plate and shoulders in his CFL debut? Blake is the fallback that the Argos may have no choice but to lean on come Saturday night.
The Argos Offence Readiness For Week One
It’s less than ideal any time you are preparing to play a game with uncertainty at quarterback. You couple that with some question marks on the offensive line at two pivotal spots. And it’s fair to surmise that despite their deep talent pool at receiver, the Argos offence may struggle for consistency early on in their season.
They always say at the start of seasons that defenses are ahead of the offenses. And considering that there has been a two-year layoff from play, that could hold true in week one for many CFL teams. Toronto appeared to have a decided advantage in continuity because of Arbuckle’s experience with Dinwiddie and his former Calgary receivers, DaVaris Daniels, Juwan Brescasion, and Eric Rogers. But Arbuckle’s injury and missed time have derailed the possibility of the offence clicking on all cylinders right out the starting gate.
The Argonauts defence on paper is as good as it gets. And they may have to keep the Boatmen’s season afloat early on if the offence struggles and weighs the ship down.
Additional Argos Practice News & Notes
- Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the media that the area that his is least concerned with is their defensive line. Despite the team having some injuries there. He loves the unit’s depth.
- Eli Harold is on the disabled list with an illness (non-COVID). He’s not expected to return for a while.
- Cordarro Law did not practice today due to a knee injury. American rookie Shane Ray looks poised to make the start at DE oppositie newly christend defensive captain Charleston Hughes.
- DT Drake Nevis is nursing a hip injury. He missed practice last week and did not participate today, creating doubt that he will play on Saturday. His presence against the run will be missed.
- DL DeWayne Hendrix was limited in practice today (ankle). Hendrix could be called upon to help out if Nevis and Law do not play. Look for Shawn Oakman and Kony Ealy to play pivotal roles on Saturday.
- DB Arjen Coulquhoun was limited with a hamstring injury on Tuesday. His availaibility in the next couple of days will be something to closely monitor.
- Recent arrivals WR Cam Phillips and LB Vontae Diggs are racing against time to be available to play in week one. Both appear unlikely to play. Diggs has the best shot to play on special teams if Bear Woods (Quad) is unavailable.
- Coach Dinwiddie mentioned several different options at kick returner for this weekend’s game. Calling the position a commitee. Starting tailback John White was among the names mentioned along with WR Daniel Braverman and DB Chris Edwards.
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