Toronto – If you are still holding your breath after last weeks double overtime win in Saskatchewan, it’s okay, just breathe. If you are like me it took more then a few hours to calm down and gather your thoughts after the victory last Sunday. At times throughout the game you may have wondered how Toronto was still in striking distance and it was not until A.J Jeffersons 100-yard pick 6 that you thought, “Hey, we can do this, we can comeback and win this game”. The Argos did win and in the most improbable way. However, the unfortunate news from Sunday was the injury to Andre Durie who will miss the remainder of the 2015 season. Though every player on the Argos feels for Durie, you know they won’t feel sorry for themselves and use any excuses. For the Boatman, it is simple. Next man up.
The next man up for Toronto in this situation is second year slotback/running back Anthony Coombs out of the University of Manitoba. It was Coombs last week that had the unbelievable body control to dive for the endzone to get the successful two point conversion to win the game. When the Argos traded up to get Coombs in the 2014 draft, you knew they must have really liked what he brings to the table. Much like Andre Durie, Coombs can play multiple positions in an offence and is an added dimension that defences must account for.
Lets start at running back where Coombs spent most of his time when with the Manitoba Bisons. Coombs rushed for 2,232 yards off of just 297 attempts, which is an average of 7.5 yard an attempt! Coombs also had 17 rushing touchdowns in his Bison career. How does this fit in with the Argos right now? Despite having running backs Brandon Whitaker and rookie Henry Josey getting most of the carries, Head Coach Scott Milanovich and Offensive Coordinator Marcus Brady like to use misdirection and sweeps from the slotback position. Coombs could be lined up in the slot position and come down the line towards the QB to get the handoff with the running back providing the lead block. He could also be lined up in a splitback position with the running back behind the quarterback. The play designs are endless when you have a talent such as Coombs or Durie in that RB/SB role. Last season in limited action, Coombs had 8 rushing attempts for 75 yards coming from both the running back and slot position.
Anthony Coombs knew he was going to be incorporated into the offence in some fashion this season. Being the hard worker and as detail oriented as Coombs is, he did his best to learn every wide receiver position in the offence. That should now be paying off immensely as Coombs is a full time starter and is expected to contribute in the passing game. Last season with Toronto Coombs accumulated 22 receptions for 214 yards and no touchdowns. Not a bad performance overall considering he was a rookie and it was just 6 games. However, now that Coombs will be starting the remainder of the season at the RB/SB position, expect his numbers to make a big jump. Normally that position acts as a safety net for the QB, by having shorter routes designed to get you into open field. Once you get the ball in your hands, your running back instincts take over and it is game on. In Milanovich’s first two seasons as Head Coach, Durie was the primary RB/SB and in 32 games he amassed 162 receptions, 1,828 yards and 8 touchdown catches. Durie also had 22 rushes for 141 yards. This offence is tailor made for guys in the Durie and Coombs role and Anthony Coombs has a great opportunity in front of him to really make a name for himself now that he is a full time starter.
The one thing that is currently unknown is whether or not Coombs will remain as the starter on kick returns now that his role will drastically increase on offence. In the past Chad Owens was the main returner until too many nicks and bumps on kick returns were causing problems for him on offense. Knowing there are other potential returners on the roster, such as Henry Josey and recently re-signed wide receiver Kevin Bradfield, it would not really be a surprise to see Coombs taken off return duties. However, Coombs is currently second in the league in kick return yards with 139, so head coach Scott Milanovich may decide that field position is more important than keeping Coombs rested.
As unfortunate as it was to see Andre Durie go down with another devastating injury, it is hard not to get excited about the potential of Anthony Coombs and to finally see him in a full time role with the offence. He could cement himself as a future All-Star and really help the Argos continue their winning ways. However, just like the Argos have the mantra of “Next Man Up”, they also preach “one game at a time” and for right now, Anthony Coombs and the Argos should be solely focused on getting a win against the defending Grey Cup Champs Calgary Stampeders.
Written by: Aaron McMillan