TORONTO – Losing is never fun. Not for the fans, the players, coaches or anyone else affiliated with the team. Losing miserably to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, on Labour Day weekend, however, is on a whole other level. The rematch could not have come sooner for the Boatmen as just four days after being embarrassed 42-12 at the hands of the Tabbies, they will once again strap up their chin straps and battle it out on Friday Night Football. If the Argos are going to get back into the win column for the first time since August 23, these will be the five keys to the game:
1. Avoid Big Plays
During Monday’s loss at Tim Hortons Field, the Argos’ secondary was victimized by the Ticats’ high-octane pass offence. When the Argos forced the ‘Cats into second-and-long situations, Zach Collaros calmly delivered, routinely connecting with his receivers, prolonging drives. This not only gave Hamilton momentum, but it likely squashed Toronto’s and kept the Boatmen’s offence off the field. Toronto might be wise to play less zone and blitz less in these second-and-long situations during the rematch. If Toronto relies on its front four to generate pressure, it will leave more men in the secondary to cover Hamilton’s wide receivers, naturally making it harder for the ‘Cats to stretch the field. The Tiger-Cats weren’t just creating big plays on offence as they blocked a punt early in the game swinging momentum back their way, and they created a turnover at an inopportune time for the Argos. If Toronto can protect the ball on special teams and offence, as well as find a way to limit Hamilton’s offence from big gains, it could be a different outcome from Monday’s game.
2. Balanced Offensive Attack
In two games against Hamilton this season, the Argonauts have attempted 88 passes to just 22 rushes. The lack of balance on offence has hurt Toronto in previous games. It not only keeps the defence on its heels, but it also adds to the time of possession for the offence, which, in turn, provides the Argos’ defence with some much-needed rest. The Argonauts have two very good running backs with the playmaking ability to bust plays wide open. The more touches they get, the easier they’ll be able to get into a groove within the offence. It allows the Argos’ offensive linemen to run block more often, which is something they would rather do. Running the ball also opens up the passing lanes as play action will move the linebackers up, and defensive backs often take a step towards the fake. With the Argos being a pass-heavy team, being able to have separation from the defensive backs is key. If Toronto can effectively run against Hamilton’s stingy defence, and move the ball through the air with their physical receivers, that should help keep drives alive and put more points up on the board.
3. Defensive Audible
I am not calling for anything drastic here, but after the last two performances by the Argonauts’ defence, something should be done. Getting the best 12 players on the field is key, and one way Toronto could do that is by moving Jermaine Gabriel up to linebacker, pairing him with the hard-hitting Greg Jones. Argos linebacker Cory Greenwood has been placed on the six-game injured list, so the Argos could use another physical presence in the middle of the defence. This would allow Vincent Agnew to move into his more natural position of defensive back replacing the injured Travis Hawkins. The swiss-army knife himself, Matt Black, could step in and start at safety in a pinch. Black would add some more experience on the back-end of the defence and would allow Gabriel to play closer to the line of scrimmage where his physicality could be put to better use. Like I mentioned before, the Argos would be wise to blitz less against Collaros, as he seems to thrive off of it. More man coverage from the defensive back’s and zone from the linebacker’s create fewer opportunities for Hamilton to move the ball. If the Argos make some changes on defence and are able to confuse Hamilton, it should slow down their offence and create some turnover opportunities, which, in turn, would help the Argos win the game.
4. Take Some Risks
Whether it is going for it on third down, going for two after scoring touchdowns, or running fakes on special teams, the Argos should consider taking some risks in this game. The simple reason for this is: Why not?! The Argos don’t have much to lose, as the have already lost the season series to Hamilton. They shouldn’t go crazy in the risk department, but being too conservative could come back to hurt the Argonauts. At this point in the season, coming off a pair of losses, the Argos need a spark. Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich is not necessarily known for big time risk, but in a game that could make-or-break the remainder of the Argos’ season, it might make sense to start taking some chances.
5. Use The Short Week To Their Advantage
Nobody likes to play on a short week, especially after a very physical game that occurred on Labour Day. However, the Argonauts should embrace the chance to make up for Monday’s debacle by getting to turn right around and focusing on a new game. After a loss like the one they endured just a few days ago, getting to sit and dwell on it for too long could be damaging to a team’s morale. Fortunately for the Argonauts, that won’t be the case. Just as quickly as they arrived back in Toronto from the Labour Day game, the coaching staff was back at it, getting into the film room and working on a game plan for Friday night. Coming off a huge win, and having few days to prepare, could cause a team to become complacent and not change much of their game plan. For the Argos, that certainly won’t be the case. If they can use the loss as motivation, tired legs and mind won’t be an issue on Friday. A big aspect of using the short week to their advantage will be getting off to a quick start and hoping Hamilton has some fatigue. If the Argos can do this, it will drastically increase their chances of winning the game.
Written By: Aaron McMillan
Follow Aaron on Twitter: @Awin_McMiwan3