Week 5 Preview: Lions vs. Argos
Coming off a victory on the road, the Toronto Argonauts will return home for the second and final matchup of the season against the B.C. Lions.
After leaving Winnipeg with a win, the Argos are looking to keep up the momentum against a team they have struggled against in recent years. The win against their rivals also vaulted the Double Blue to sole possession atop the East Division standings, but the challenge will be to remain in that position as the season progresses.
However, the win came with a price as the Argos lost two key pieces from the offence; Ricky Ray and Chad Kackert. While Ray’s injury has him listed as day-to-day, Kackert will miss the next 4-6 weeks. With Kackert sidelined, Curtis Steele will take over the starting job in the backfield, looking to get the Argos run game back on track. If Ray is unable to suit up against the Lions it will be Zach Collaros under centre.
The Lions on the other hand come to Toronto riding a three game win streak following a loss in the season opener. Despite their nearly perfect record, B.C. sits third in their division behind the undefeated Riders and the 4-1 Stampeders. Leaving Rogers Centre with a victory in hand will be crucial in order to keep pace in the West.
Toronto Argonauts (2-2)
The Argos played their best all-round game of the season last week in the 35-19 rout of the Blue Bombers.
On offence, Ricky Ray was nearly flawless as he completed 19 of his 20 pass attempts and breaking his own record for highest completion percentage in a game, in the process. The Argos signal caller also added two touchdowns through the air, extending his season total to eight while managing to avoid throwing his first interception. With Ray spreading the ball to six different receivers for 286 yards, the passing game was firing on all cylinders.
Whether Ray or Collaros gets the start at quarterback, they must take advantage of the weapons at their disposal in order to find success against the Lions defence. In addition to having the always reliable Chad Owens, the emergence of Andre Durie in recent weeks has provided the Argos offence with a major boost. Getting the ball to these receivers early and allowing them to make plays in the open field will set the tone for the entire game.
While the passing game is hitting its stride, the Argonauts run game has faltered over the last three games. In Week 4, it was Ray, not Kackert who led the team in rushing with a mere 24 yards. With Kackert expected to miss significant time, the responsibly falls on Curtis Steele to carry the load and add that coveted second dimension to the offence.
The Argos defence played extremely well against the Blue Bombers, allowing only six points through three quarters before surrendering two late touchdowns when the game was already out of reach. The most crucial aspect of their performance is that they prevented the opposing quarterback from finding a rhythm at any point in the contest. Toronto also made adjustments to change a recurring theme; their knack to give up the big play.
When these two teams met back in Week 2, the young Double Blue defence did a nice job of slowing down the Lions high powered offence. While the Argos were unable to leave Vancouver with a win, the defence kept the team within striking distance and gave the offence a chance to mount a comeback.
B.C. Lions (3-1)
Although the Lions are off to a good start, quarterback Travis Lulay continues to develop chemistry with his new receiving core. After losing his favourite target Geroy Simon in the offseason, Lulay’s stats in most offensive categories are down from a year ago as he sits fifth in passing yards and has a completion percentage of 63.4.
However, as the Argos witnessed in Week 2, the Lions have two viable targets out wide. Top receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux ranks fifth in the league in receiving yards while Nick Moore, who is not far behind, had his best game of the season against Toronto. The Lulay to Moore connection torched the Argos secondary for 107 yards, including a 43 yard reception. Stopping this duo of third year pass catchers will be a difficult task but a crucial one if the Argos are to make B.C. one dimensional.
Similar to their Week 3 matchup against the Riders, the Argos will need to deal with an elite running back as well as a potent passing game. While Andrew Harris has carried the ball only 54 times this year, he ranks fourth in the CFL in rushing with 296 yards, but is tied for first in rushing touchdowns with four.
Along with possessing an offence that can put points on the board, the Lions defence ranks 2nd in the league. Their ability to stop the pass and the run has led to an average of only 21 points against per game.
Argonauts Keys To Victory
Scott Milanovich is forcing the Lions to game plan against two quarterbacks since it is still unknown whether it will be Ray to Collaros getting the start. If Ray is ready to go, the offence is in good hands as long as he continues to spread the ball in order to make the challenge difficult for the Lions defensive backs.
If Collaros plays its important to take pressure off the young quarterback. This can be accomplished by establishing the run game early with rookie Curtis Steele. A successful run game will give Collaros better opportunities to locate his play making receivers.
With the Lions offence, the Argos will need to pick their poison in order to make B.C. one dimensional. They must find a way to shut down the passing game or contain Andrew Harris, although stopping both would be ideal. Chris Jones’ defence accomplished just that in Week 2 when they took Lulay out of the equation for the most part while Harris rushed for 103 yards. Still, the Lions only scored 24 points, a total the Argos offence has surpassed in three out of four games.
In Week 2, Scott Milanovich wasn’t pleased with the eight penalties his team took, therefore discipline will once again be a point of emphasis for this matchup.
Kickoff between the Argonauts and Lions goes this Tuesday at 7:30 pm EST at the Rogers Centre. The game can be seen live on TSN or listened to on TSN 1050 Radio.
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