The Argonauts played a solid road game last night in Montreal against the Alouettes. This is how they are going to have to play for the first half of their season as 8 of their first 10 games are on the road, if they are to still be in contention in their division for a playoff spot. The signs so far point to them being able to do that. They are well coached and the general manager has uncovered excellent talent on both sides of the ball.
The defence scored two interception returns for touchdowns in the second quarter and had 3 interceptions on the night. Both cornerbacks had interceptions: AJ Jefferson and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. DB Branden Smith had the other interception. The defensive line applied pressure to the Montreal quarterbacks throughout the night. While they did not register a sack, they forced Montreal’s QB’s to hurry their throws and scramble causing the turnovers and forcing their throws off target and incomplete. The linebackers when called upon to blitz also caused problems for Montreal’s passing attack. Outside of the opening drive for Montreal on which they scored a TD, their offence was kept in check by Toronto’s defence. The Argo defence has talent on the line, in the secondary and at linebacker. Good players will be cut unfortunately to get the final 46 man roster in place by Saturday night. This is a testament to the hard work the scouts did in the off-season to address defensive shortcomings from last year. The defence is young, and aggressive. Keep in mind the defence was rotating players in and running standard “vanilla” sets and looks last night. Once the roster is set and they incorporate their schemes and blitz packages they will be fun to watch and should progressively get better through the season.
Turning to the offence, Trevor Harris played the entire first half at quarterback for Toronto. He played an efficient game and was 10 for 12 in passing for 98 yards and did not commit any turnovers. He did what he had to do. His defence put up two TD’s in the second quarter. He played mistake free football, moved the ball and let kicker Swayze Waters boot field goals to pad their lead. Nothing spectacular, but he didn’t have to be. That is how you win on the road, make the most of your opportunities, and don’t turn the ball over. Mitchell Gale made the most of his opportunities in the third quarter at quarterback. He took advantage of penalty mistakes by Montreal to keep an Argo drive alive, and finished with a beautiful 7 yard pass to Diontae Spencer for a touchdown followed by a 2 point conversion pass to running back Lyle McCoombs. Similar to the defence there is talent on the Argo offence. An area in need of attention in the offseason was at receiver due to the departure of key receivers and it looks as though this has been addressed. The management team again have difficult decisions to make on who to keep.
Special Teams rounded into form last night as starting kicker Swayze Waters played the entire game after sitting out last week. He connected on both 32 yard converts with no problem and booted two field goals from 42 and 25 yards. His punting average was 44.4 yards with a longest of 62 yards. The Argo kicking game is in very capable hands. This will be vital playing for field position with such a grueling road schedule ahead for the team. The returners did much better than the previous week with Diontae Spencer and AJ Jefferson breaking big returns for the team. Kick cover teams were also strong with quick downfield pressure and solid tackling.
All in all a solid effort from all three phases and a well deserved win. Head coach Scott Milanovich knows what is required to win road games and watching the game last night I got the sense he is gradually putting in place the playing style and character his team will need to have to be successful early in the year. On defence, play solid run defence forcing your opponents into second and long pass attempts opening up blitz opportunities and aggressive play from your secondary. On special teams tilt the field position in your favour with an all-star kicker and good cover teams and opportunistic return units. Offensively manage the game without turning the ball over and take advantage of the opportunities your defence and special teams will provide.
Do these things, stay in the hunt come the fall, the Argos can pin their ears back at home for 7 of their final 8 games. Bring on the regular season. Let’s go.
Scott Ford – Argos Admirals