2022-06-16 15:57:54

TORONTO — Week 2 of the CFL season kicks off with the Toronto Argonauts hosting the Montreal Alouettes at BMO Field on Thursday night.

The Argos had a bye in Week 1, while the Als lost a 30-27 thriller to the Calgary Stampeders to open their 2022 campaign.

Toronto quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson will once again lead the offensive charge for the Argos. Bethel-Thompson threw for 2,303 and 12 touchdowns last season.

Toronto put the ball in the air a league leading 493 times in 2021. Despite throwing nearly 500 times in the previous season, the Argos will need to be mindful turnovers, their 19 interceptions were the second most league-wide last season.

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Receiving options won’t be an issue for the Boatmen pivot. Rival-turned-teammate Brandon Banks signed with Toronto during free agency, he spent his first eight seasons in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

In 111 games with Hamilton, Banks totalled 422 catches for 5,678 yards and 44 touchdowns, earning CFL All-Star honours four times and was named 2019’s Most Outstanding Player.

If Banks isn’t available, Bethel-Thompson will have another newcomer to target in Markeith Ambles. Ambles signed with Toronto during the off-season after spending the past three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.

This past season with Calgary, Ambles averaged 12.7 yards per catch, pulling in 54 passes for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The third year receiver will look to provide his new team with a reliable set of hands and the ability to find open space downfield.

If Bethel-Thompson is looking for an option he is more familiar with, it will likely be Kurleigh Gittens Jr. The third year Canadian receiver burst onto the scene for the Argos in 2021, catching 50 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns.

Gittens will be looking to build on the foundation he laid last season and is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win, starting on Thursday night.

“I prepare the same way,” Gittens told argonauts.ca. “For me it’s all about attention to details. I’ll help the offence in any way coach thinks I can help, whether that’s going deep, catching screen passes, or if that’s catching a few hook passes. I’m a team first guy, I’m going to trust what he has planned for us and go out and try to execute it to the best of my ability.”

Kurleigh Gittens Jr. averaged 12.1 yards per catch in 2021 with Toronto (Geoff Robins/CFL.ca).

In 2021 the Argonauts had the third fewest rushing yards with 1,272 and their average of 90.9 rush yards per game was the third fewest among any team.

At the start of CFL free agency, Toronto addressed their ground game almost immediately with the signing of running back Andrew Harris. Harris, an 11-year veteran, holds the record for most rush yards by a Canadian running back and is just 339 yards away from reaching 10,000 in his career.

In just seven games last season with Winnipeg, Harris was responsible for for 623 rush yards and three rushing touchdowns on 116 carries, the fifth highest rushing yards amongst running backs last season.

The defensive side of the ball also got a makeover in the off-season, with one of the biggest additions coming in the form of defensive linemen, Ja’Gared Davis.

Davis was one of the most coveted pass rushers throughout free agency and chose to sign with Toronto. The former Ticat is coming off a season in which he had 39 defensive tackles and six sacks.

In addition to the newly signed Davis, the defensive line duo of Shane Ray and Shawn Oakman should also help to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Oakman had six of the Boatman’s 29 sacks in 2021.

Looking ahead to Thurday’s contest, the Toronto defence will have their hands full trying to contain the athleticism of Alouettes quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr.

In their Week 1 opener, Adams completed 18 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. He was also responsible for adding another 22 yards on the ground, including a seven-yard touchdown run, which saw him leap over a defender before finding the end zone.

 

However, the loss in their season opener wasn’t the only loss suffered on the field by the Als. In the second quarter, running back William Stanback was tackled and fell awkwardly, forcing him to leave the game. He has since been placed on the six-game injured list by the Alouettes and will not be available on Thursday night.

Jeshrun Antwi was called on in the absence of Stanback, he carried the ball seven times for 98 yards, including a 70-yard gain. According to the Als depth chart he is listed as the No.1 back entering Thursday’s matchup in Toronto.

The absence of their star running back will certainly put more pressure on Adams to make plays with his arm in Week 2. However, if Antwi can mimic his stunning performance from Week 1, it will certainly help to relieve some of the pressure on the passing attack.

Eugene Lewis was the Als top target in Week 1, catching four passes for 112 yards. Lewis will once again look to utilize his length and speed to expose an Argos secondary which surrendered 19 touchdowns through the air in 2021.

Rookie Tyson Philpot was a welcome surprise on special teams in his regular season debut. He returned a pair of kickoffs for 63 yards and added 38 yards on five punt returns. The ability to set his team up with good field position to start drives will be critical in helping to reduce the pressure on the Montreal offence.

Defensively for the Alouettes, it was defensive back Ardarius Pickett who made his presence felt in their Week 1 opener against the Stampeders. Pickett showed off his range in the defensive backfield, recording seven tackles an interception.

The Als will be looking for more of the same entering a matchup against the Argos where there will be opportunities to make plays with the ball in the air.

Despite carrying a 24-14 lead into the half, the Als managed just two first downs in the third quarter and three points in the second half. The focus for head coach Khari Jones heading into the second game of the season, is to keep the momentum through four quarters.

“We need to make sure we play a full 60 minutes,” Jones told reporters after the loss to Calgary. “We can’t give teams momentum. You need to fix the problems and know when not to go for it. But those are things that can be corrected.”

Defensive back Adarius Pickett was all over the field on the defensive side of the ball against the Stamps, recording an interception and seven tackles. Bethel-Thompson will need to know where Pickett is at all times when throwing the football.

The Als will hope to spoil the start of Toronto’s regular season, but with the excitement of a home opener and a retooled roster it will be a tough task. Kickoff is set for 7:30p.m. ET at BMO Field on Thursday, June 16.

The game can be seen on TSN, RDS, ESPN2 and can be followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.

– With Files from Argonauts.ca and MontrealAlouettes.com

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Source by [graycupnews.com]

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