YORK UNIVERSITY – Injuries are not to blame for the Toronto Argonauts’ disappointing start to the 2014 CFL season. In actuality, the Boatmen’s early-season struggles stem from a multitude of issues within their offensive and defensive schemes.
Before we move any further, I would like to take this opportunity to address the Argos’ current injury situation. With all due respect to Chad Owens, Andre Durie, and Jason Barnes, a team is not comprised of simply three players. A complete CFL roster consists of nearly 70 individuals who must contribute in some capacity in order for the team to be successful.
The Argonauts are an organization that prides themselves on preparation and work ethic. Head coach Scott Milanovich is very meticulous and demands a detail-oriented approach from his players.
Although football is considered to be a combat sport, there appears to be a big misconception with regards to the degree of intelligence required in order to play the game at a high level. Not only does football take a toll on the human body, it also challenges an individual’s mindset.
In football terminology, this is what we often refer to as “character”. Moments of agony and distress reveal a lot about a person’s mental toughness. It is an intangible quality that measures an individual’s desire to succeed.
This past Saturday, the defending Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders systematically dissected a vulnerable Toronto Argonauts squad to the tune of a 37-9 trouncing.
The Riders dominated in virtually every facet of the game. Schematically, Saskatchewan exploited all of the Argonauts’ glaring deficiencies, ultimately forcing them out of their comfort zone.
Recognized as the master of in-game adjustments and king of preparation, Scott Milanovich has been seemingly outcoached on a weekly basis thus far this season.
Unfortunately, there are numerous statistics that support this assessment.
Analytics provide teams with a broad spectrum of analysis. Admittedly, certain statistics are of lesser importance than others. However, no one can dispute the fact that numbers produce a uniquely objective perspective that cannot be altered.
The Argonauts offence may be hampered by injuries but that does not necessarily equate to inevitable failure. Ultimately, a lack of precision and execution has resulted in the Argos’ early-season demise.
Following his sensational 407-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 2, Ricky Ray has accumulated a mere 811 passing yards, along with one touchdown and four interceptions over the course of the Boatmen’s current three-game losing skid.
An injury to right guard SirVincent Rogers has hindered the success of the offensive line, while a revolving door at running back has also contributed to the Argonauts’ pass protection woes. Perhaps a revitalized rushing attack will spark an offensive turnaround for the Double Blue as they currently rank seventh in the CFL in rushing yards per game, averaging just 85.6 yards along the ground.
Fortunately, from an analytical standpoint, the Argos’ aerial attack hasn’t faltered significantly. Entering Week 6, they still find themselves ranked atop several offensive categories, including completion percentage (70.3), average passing yards per game (330.4), and most accumulative yards of total offence (1,981).
Defensively, the Argonauts rank last in nine different defensive categories. Tim Burke’s defence has surrendered a league-worst 29.8 points per game in 2014. To say that the Argonauts’ defence is struggling is an understatement. A lack of depth along the defensive line has resulted in prolonged stretches of inconsistent play and unnecessary fatigue. In addition, the Argos’ new-look secondary has allowed the most passing touchdowns (10) in the Canadian Football League through five weeks of play this season. Much like the defensive line, a lack of depth and continuity has resulted in sub-par play on the back-end.
Head coach Scott Milanovich is well aware of all these issues. I don’t doubt his ability to rescue the Argonauts’ 2014 campaign. In fact, he is more than capable of re-energizing his troops and sparking a mid-season turnaround.
Despite owning a dismal 1-4 record, the Argonauts are currently tied for top spot in the CFL’s Eastern Division. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal isn’t to simply win a division title. The Argos have much greater expectations, aiming to recapture the Grey Cup after losing in last year’s Eastern Final.
Prior to Saturday’s game in Regina, Scott Milanovich met with his veteran players in an attempt to restore a championship culture within the confines of the Argonauts’ locker room.
Establishing a cohesive bond is definitely a necessity for the Double Blue.
What I admire most about this particular Argonauts squad is their resiliency. This group refuses to settle for mediocrity. No matter what the circumstances, they always carry a positive attitude.
From a statistical standpoint, this team has their work cut out for them. A monumental challenge lies ahead in the form of a 1-4 uphill battle. The CFL is a league that tends to have a flare for the dramatics. In this league, anything is possible. Moreover, at this particular point in the season, hope should not be lost. Analytics may provide a factual basis of evaluation for a team’s on-field success but they do not measure the intangibles.
Unlike a quarterback’s completion percentage, one cannot attach a ranking to the hustle and passion displayed by players. The CFL season is a six-month journey, one that consists of many ups and downs.
The 2014 Toronto Argonauts are still in a position to control their own destiny.