Toronto – The Toronto Argonauts will play a rare Sunday night home game this weekend as they face off against their division foe, the Ottawa REDBLACKS, at 4:00pm ET at the Rogers Centre. Every game is important, but a win Sunday would keep the Argos tied with Hamilton for first place in the Eastern Division, which is very significant heading into the back end of the season. Should the Argos remain undefeated at home, these will be the 5 keys to the game:
1. Swayze Waters Returns
Things got off to a real rough start for the Boatman when reigning Special Teams Player of the Year, Kicker Swayze Waters, hurt his leg in the season opener and was lost for quite some time. The Argos were very fortunate to sign free agent Kicker Ronnie Pfeffer who filled in admirably while Waters was out. However, there is no replacing Swayze Waters who can pin opposing teams deep in their own end with ease and is clutch with his field goal kicking. Last season Waters hit 47 of 52 field goals and connected on all 40 extra point attempts. Getting Swayze back just adds another weapon to this already opportunistic Argo team.
2. Trevor Harris is still the man
Earlier this week it was announced that the Argonauts had placed QB, Ricky Ray, back on the 6-game injured list as his shoulder is still not ready to handle the duties that come with playing quarter back in the CFL. Though it is unfortunate and we all wish for a speedy recovery from Ray, the Argonauts are in great hands with Trevor Harris leading the team. Harris got his first professional start against these same REDBLACKS at the end of last season. Harris was just giving us a taste of what he’s capable in that game, completing 26 of 36 passing attempts for 281 yards and two touchdowns passes. Harris has built off his first start, playing well all throughout 2015 and he’s a big reason the Boatman are 5-2. With Harris the starter for the foreseeable future, he and the rest of the Argos will be looking to play a full 4 quarters of sound offensive football, as last week they were held to just 76 yards total offense in the second half. When Harris plays well, the Argos win, it is that simple.
3. A culture of winning
Over the last few weeks this young Toronto team has faced a lot of adversity and is yet to lead going into halftime so far this season. So how are they pulling out these wins? Some of them being 4th quarter deficits? They believe they can win. These Argonaut players never feel like they’re out of the game and that no score is too big to overcome. It is that belief that has helped them pull out wins in games where they were down 21-0 in a blink of an eye, or trailed 21-11 with less then 10 minutes remaining in the game. It is those same beliefs that have Boatman faithful on the edge of their seats week after week knowing “No Lead is Safe”. The most impressive part of all of this is, the Argos are getting big plays from all three phases. Sometimes it is a key interception; punt return, or 3rd down conversion. That culture of winning is infectious and can be hard to derail. No matter what goes on during the game Sunday afternoon, you better believe you won’t see anyone on the Argos side hanging their heads, knowing the turning point, is potentially just one play away.
4. Getting reinforcements
As I mentioned before, Swayze Waters makes his return to the Argos lineup, but he is not the only one. Other key starters should be back for the Argos tilt with Ottawa. Veteran running back Brandon Whitaker rejoins the double blue after missing last week’s game in Winnipeg. Kevin Elliot also returns to the Argos offence, resuming his slot back position where he’s begun to make quite the name for himself. All these men returning to the lineup is great for the Argos, but the biggest name returning is potentially LB Cory Greenwood who suffered a concussion against Hamilton two weeks ago. He has inserted himself into a leadership role right away in 2015 and along with fellow LB’s Greg Jones and Brandon Isaac has helped keep opposing teams rushers to under 100 yards a game. All of these men add some serious reinforcements to an already talented Argo team that has won two straight. If they all pick up where they left off, the Argos will be in great shape moving forward.
5. Two headed monster at RB
Last week saw the emotional return of running back Chad Kackert. Kackert not only sparked the Argos run game, but he helped keep Trevor Harris upright and caught one pass for 16 yards. This week the Argos may be fortunate enough to pair Chad Kackert with the other wisely veteran on the roster in Brandon Whitaker. Whitaker was a welcomed addition to Toronto just before the season began. In his first game with Toronto he rushed for 117 yards and caught a 57-yard touchdown pass. The two of these men may not be on the field at the same time but they can keep each other fresh and both produce at a high level consistently. If Toronto can get a consistent run game, it will create even more opportunities for Trevor Harris and his wide receivers in the passing game, making Toronto a very balanced offence. A good running game changes everything and these two veterans have a chance to do something special for Toronto in the back end of 2015. We may just see how the coaching staff plans to balance both backs this Sunday against Ottawa, and how this could change the offence moving forward.