TORONTO – In the first two games of the Toronto Argonauts 2013 campaign their championship calibre offence and defence has been on display, but not at the same time.
The offence was firing on all cylinders in Week 1 against Hamilton as the Argos outlasted their rivals for a season opening victory. Led by quarterback Ricky Ray, the offence gained momentum as the game progressed which resulted in the Argos climbing back from an early deficit. Ray’s efforts earned him CFL Offensive Player of the week honours.
While the passing game was nearly flawless as Ray completed 71 percent of his passes without turning the ball over, the running game was just as effective. Chad Kackert torched the Hamilton defence, rushing the ball for an average of 11.2 yards per carry including a long 57 yard touchdown run.
Despite the early success in putting points on the board, the Argos offence sputtered in Week 2 against the Lions and failed to grasp momentum during the game. Although Ray avoided throwing an interception for the second consecutive game, he threw for a mere 215 yards through the air compared to his 368 yards in the opener. After connecting with his receivers for four touchdown passes against Hamilton, the Lions defence prevented him from adding to that total. Ray did record his first rushing touchdown of the year to cut the deficit to eight but attempts at a late fourth quarter come back fell short.
“[The Lions] played a good game and, offensively, we just really couldn’t get anything started and couldn’t keep anything going,” said Ray after the game. “When we didn’t have a chance, we just didn’t make the plays.”
Chad Kackert also struggled to get anything going out of the backfield as the stout Lions defence held him to only 20 yards on eight carries. The return of Solomon Elimimian provided B.C. with a significant boost and assisted the unit in regaining their 2012 form and top ranked run defence.
The performance of the Argonauts defence has been the complete opposite of the offence thus far. After finding it difficult to force the Hamilton offence off the field in Week 1, it was the defence that kept the Argos within striking distance throughout the game in Vancouver.
The defence’s second half improvement against the Tiger-Cats translated into a much better overall performance against B.C. but inconsistencies were still evident. In the opener it was the pass defence that struggled while the run defence excelled. Against the Lions it was the pass defence that showed significant improvement however the front seven was unable to contain Andrew Harris, allowing him to rack up 103 yards on the ground.
Considering the Argonauts young secondary which features many rookies that are adjusting to and learning the CFL game, it will take time for them to gel. The effort they showed against Travis Lulay’s Lions was quite impressive as they held one the of the league’s top signal callers in check. Despite the team being outplayed as a whole, the defence’s ability to hold Lulay to 249 yards and one touchdown gave the Argos a chance to win. The pass rush improved by recording three sacks while the defence also tallied their first turnover of the year when Jalil Carter intercepted a Lulay pass attempt.
Perhaps the most consistent aspect of the Argonauts thus far is the special teams where Swayze Waters and Noel Prefontaine are a combined 4 of 5 on field goal attempts while the squad is perfect on extra point attempts.
For the Argos to find success this season they will need to have a more consistent effort on both sides of the ball. With the large amount of high scoring games already played in this young CFL season, more than one offensive touchdown will be needed to be victorious. As showed in Week 1, the Argonauts offence is capable of being the best in the league and a nightmare for the opposition, however they must play at a high level on a weekly basis to do so.
When the offence is at its best, a lot of pressure will be taken off a young defence. From Week 1 to Week 2, the number of missed assignments in coverage has been reduced, the pressure on the quarterback has increased and they have begun to force turnovers. Allowing less than 25 points per game is usually a recipe for success in the CFL, therefore if the defence can consistently aim for that target the offence will be able to lead them to victory more often that not. With the strides they have made as a unit, it is only a matter of time until they take off.
Another tough test is upcoming for the Argos as they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday making it a perfect time for the offence and defence to play to their potential.