How good are the Toronto Argonauts this season?
It’s a question I find myself being asked, and a question I’m asking myself consistently through the first half of 2022.
Either the Argos are the rightful leaders of the East division at 4-3, a team that had the misfortune of two early bye weeks but found a way to string together victories and nearly defeat the league leading Bombers, a win that might reveal their true potential. OR, they are a team that’s capitalized off two Riders wins that came on a strange travel week and a COVID-19-depleted roster after being gifted an early season home victory thanks to a David Cote shank from in tight.
No matter how you view the Argos, they now enter a crucial part of their season. One that will in all likelihood determine their playoff seeding and the always important bragging rights trophy that is the Ballard Cup.
With four games in five weeks against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto has the opportunity to quiet the naysayers — until playoff time — by establishing themselves as the best team in the East Division if they are able to start stacking wins against their Eastern opponents.
If they are going to accomplish that, it will take all three phases as put on full display in their opening argument last Friday in a hard fought 34-20 comeback victory.
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Whether it be a punt block that results in a touchdown or Chris Edwards intercepting Dane Evans late to seal the deal, Toronto’s defence and special teams have to play an essential role in their success this season, and in this stretch of rivalry games leading to Labour Day.
It’s not as though the Argos’ offence isn’t capable of explosive playmaking. Andrew Harris has added an unseen element to their attack from 2021 and receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Cam Phillips have emerged as some of the most explosive in the CFL. The offensive line has started to take shape despite a lacklustre first half performance against Hamilton last week and will be asked to help close out games with Harris as the season progresses. The deep ball, though, hasn’t been overly effective so far and the ground attack has been a grind.
On defence I would define the Double Blue as an extremely opportunistic group capable of changing the game in a moment’s notice. Wynton McManis‘ pick six in Touchdown Atlantic, Royce Metchie constantly flying to the football from free safety after being acquired in the off-season from Calgary and a defensive line with names like Ja’Gared Davis, Shawn Oakman, Dewayne Hendrix and Shane Ray means if you blink the opposing offence might lose possession.
On special teams the Canadian core of Brandon Calver, Trevor Hoyte, Jack Cassar, Josh Hagerty, Tommy Nield and 2022 second round pick Daniel Adeboboye have made a noticeable difference in games while fellow rookie Enoch Penney-Laryea has immediately made a tangible impact with his unique speed and power combination, creating a score on the road in Saskatchewan earlier this season.
Often when a team is framed as needing all three phases to win it’s viewed as a shot at the offence, but quality complimentary football is not a slight, especially in this situation. In an East Division where no team seems willing or ready to truly separate and every club taking turns allowing mistakes in any of the three phases that define the CFL, Toronto has all the pieces in place to play a balanced style that could run their way through the East if the offence continues to improve.
Toronto is built the right way by GM Pinball Clemons and assistant GM Vince Magri. Now it’s up to head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff to create advantageous situations for their players, let the defence and special teams lead the way and see if some wins follow close behind.