Following nearly two weeks of training camp practices, the Toronto Argonauts will finally get their first taste of in-game action on Wednesday night as they travel to Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers in the inaugural game at Investors Group Field.
The Argonauts will field a young line-up on Wednesday as many veterans will not play in the team’s pre-season opener including quarterback Ricky Ray and reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player, Chad Owens. Head coach Scott Milanovich has already confirmed that Trevor Harris will start under centre for the Boatmen as he continues to assess the team’s back-up quarterback situation. Quarterbacks Zach Collaros, Mitchell Gale, and Josh Portis will also receive reps as the game goes along.
“We’re going to get a real good look at some of the younger guys and give our veteran guys a bit of a break,” commented Milanovich following the team’s walk-through on Tuesday morning.
On the defensive side of the football, the Argonauts continue to meddle with different combinations on the defensive line and in the secondary. Pat Watkins remains absent from training camp and no update has been given regarding his status. Pacino Horne returned to practice this past weekend but will not play in Wednesday’s pre-season game. Matt Black is expected to make the start at safety on Wednesday and Jalil Carter joins Black as the only two defensive backs that were members of the Argonauts secondary last season.
With the likes of Kevin Huntley, Marcus Ball, Robert McCune, and Brandon Isaac noticeably absent from the Argonauts’ pre-season line-up, this will be an opportunity for younger players to showcase their abilities in an attempt to impress the Argonauts’ coaching staff. On the defensive line, Argonauts newcomer Eric Foster will play in his first professional football game since Week 4 of the 2011 NFL season. Akwasi Antwi is slated to make his Argonauts debut on Wednesday after being traded to Toronto from Calgary during the off-season.
“We’re looking to see who can transfer it from the practice field to the game and ultimately guys who we can count on to do their job when the lights come on,” said Milanovich. “We’re looking for some other guys that can get in there and get some quality reps and do their job.”
In the backfield, Gerald Riggs, Quinn Porter, and Curtis Steele will look to solidify their position behind Chad Kackert as the team’s back-up running back. Kackert, the 100th Grey Cup MVP, will not play on Wednesday night, allowing head coach Scott Milanovich to evenly distribute the offensive load among his three young running backs.
Receivers Quincy Hurst and Trent Guy will assume the Argonauts’ kick and punt return duties. Veterans Mike Bradwell, Spencer Watt, and Romby Bryant are expected to play on Wednesday and will likely start as Chad Owens, Andre Durie, Jason Barnes, and Dontrelle Inman did not make the trip to Winnipeg.
As for the Blue Bombers, the big competition in camp is for the team’s starting running back job. In 2012, Chad Simpson was the Bombers’ nominee for Most Outstanding Player and created havoc for many opposing defences. Chris Garrett was the Bombers’ starting running back in 2011 and also started in the 99th Grey Cup Championship game. However, Garrett suffered a season ending torn Achilles tendon injury during training camp last season and is looking to regain his role as the team’s starting running back. Carl Volny and Will Ford are also in the mix but will likely compete for the team’s third string running back position.
Winnipeg is also dealing with some controversy ahead of tomorrow’s pre-season tilt with the Argos as Bombers defensive back Jonathan Hefney will play despite his current legal issues. The Blue Bombers have not handed down any supplementary discipline on their All-Star defensive back.
The quarterback position is always a hot topic of discussion in Winnipeg. Buck Pierce, Max Hall, Chase Clement, and Justin Goltz are in close competition for the team’s starting quarterback job. Pierce guided the Bombers to the 99th Grey Cup game in 2011 but injuries have placed him in a position where he is battling just to retain his starting job. It is likely that all four quarterbacks will receive reps in Wednesday’s game as Bombers head coach Tim Burke continues to assess his quarterback situation.
Although it may only be pre-season action, there are certainly plenty of storylines to keep an eye – or in this case – an “ear” on as the Argonauts and Blue Bombers prepare to go head-to-head in the first official game of the 2013 CFL season.
The game can be heard live on TSN 1050 Radio beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST as Argonauts play-by-play announcer Mike Hogan has the call from the comfy confines of the brand new Investors Group Field.