Following their Week 6 bye, the Toronto Argonauts travel to Montreal for their first meeting of the season with the division rival Alouettes.
Toronto enters the matchup with momentum on their side. The Boatmen are winners of two straight, but won both of those games in convincing fashion; a 35-19 victory of the Blue Bombers and a 38-12 rout of the Lions. Their recent surge has vaulted their record to 3-2 after struggling earlier in the season.
On the other hand, Montreal has had a disappointing start to their 2013 campaign and look like a much different Alouettes team than the one we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. As a result, the Alouettes made a coaching change during the bye week, replacing Dan Hawkins with Jim Popp.
Toronto Argonauts (3-2)
In the last two games, the Argos are really starting to look like the defending Grey Cup champions again.
After an inconsistent start, the offence has found its rhythm and is now firing on all cylinders. Zack Collaros did an excellent job filling in for an injured Ricky Ray against the Lions, but Ray will return to the helm in Montreal. Despite the change in quarterback, the game plan should remain the same.
The Double Blue have spread the ball around nicely over the course of the win streak, as passes were completed to six and eight receivers respectively over those two games. That will need to continue in order to keep a stout Alouettes secondary on their toes.
Re-establishing the run game last week took a lot of pressure off the young quarterback. Curtis Steele had an impressive debut in the Argos backfield as a starter, rushing for 74 yards on only 12 carries while adding two touchdowns. Steele was able to add that coveted second dimension that was missing from the Argos offence to start the season. For the most part, Montreal has struggled against the run this season therefore it it is critical for Toronto to get the ground game going early in this contest.
A lot of the credit for the Argos recent success has to be given to the much improved play of the team’s defence. Holding Travis Lulay and the B.C. Lions to only four field goals was impressive and meant the offence wouldn’t have to accomplish much in order to emerge victorious. The next challenge for the Double Blue will be to shut down future Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo.
As expected, the many changes in the offseason meant it would take longer for the unit to develop chemistry with one another. Now that they are in sync and playing to their potential, it appears the front office made the right decisions.
Montreal Alouettes (2-3)
Despite Calvillo’s struggles thus far, he is still Anthony Calvillo and he shouldn’t be underestimated. Under a head coach that is already familiar with the team, look for the Als offence to be a lot sharper, more efficient and more motivated than the one on display in the first five weeks.
The Alouettes were dealt a major blow when it was announced that receiver Jamel Richardson would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL and LCL. Despite the injury, the Als offence still features the league’s seventh ranked receiver in S.J. Green along with Arland Bruce. The Argos were successful in shutting down a duo of pass catchers in Week 5, but they will have to do the same in Week 7 if they are to emerge victorious.
After rushing for 117 yards in the first four games, Alouettes running back Brandon Whitaker recorded 162 yards on 24 attempts against the Eskimos. This performance has certainly drawn the attention of Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones. While the Argos pass defence has improved, the run defence continues to be a question mark as Andrew Harris ripped off 107 yards against them in Week 5. The Boatmen will have another solid running back to deal with in Montreal.
On defence, the Alouettes have seven interceptions on the season, two of them from Shea Emry. However, like the Argos, the Alouettes are vulnerable against the run especially when they find themselves trailing early in a game. Considering that the Als have a stout secondary, Ricky Ray will need to continue making wise decisions throwing the football because Montreal can make him pay.
Argonauts Keys To Victory
It will be important for the Argos to get an early lead to avoid having to rely on the passing game to get themselves back into the game. This will allow the run game with Curtis Steele to be established which would add a second dimension to the Toronto offence. It also forces the Als questionable run game to make plays rather than their high caliber secondary.
For the pass game to continue firing on all cylinders, the Argos will need to get their top play makers involved early; Chad Owens, Jason Barnes, Spencer Watt and Andre Durie. This will ensure the Als defenders can’t focus on solely one target with many unique ones being used.
There will be a large mental aspect to this game as well. The Argos can’t take the Als lightly especially with a new coach that has had past success working with this team. Montreal will come out motivated to turn their season around.
Kickoff between the Argos and Alouettes goes Thursday August 8th at 7:30 pm EST in Montreal. Be sure to watch the game live on TSN or listen on TSN 1050 Radio.