5 Yards off the Ball: Als host Argos on Thanksgiving
Toronto – There are many great traditions in the CFL that occur throughout a season. One of my favourites is having a contest played on Thanksgiving Monday, which fortunately for me, is the Argos and Alouettes this year. So while most of you sit back and relax with your turkey dinner and pumpkin pie deserts, Toronto and Montreal fans will be on the edge of their seats as they watch their team try and get a very important victory on this holiday Monday. Here are the 5 keys to the game for the Argonauts:
- Don’t overlook Montreal
Argonauts Head Coach, Scott Milanovich, mentioned this after the Argos thrilling win against Ottawa; Montreal is a much better team than their record indicates. There are a lot of veteran players on that Alouettes team who have been on championship teams in the past. Though they sit with just five wins on the season, they are not yet out of the playoff picture in either division. Toronto needs a win to stay tied with Hamilton for first place and although they are a very healthy team that’s beginning to jell well together, today’s game is the definition of a trap game. The Argonauts cannot afford to look ahead to Saturday’s game versus the defending champions, the Calgary Stampeders. If they do that, they will most certainly pay for it in the standing, which could hurt their Grey Cup aspirations long term. Milanovich has preached it all season, and today is no different. Just take it one game at a time.
- Put the game in Trevor Harris’ Hands
Trevor Harris is the QB of the Argos, so he technically has the ball in his hands every offensive play. What I mean is, the Argos must gameplan to have Harris move the ball and ultimately win the game with his right arm. Harris proved last week that he is a legitimate Most Outstanding Player (MOP) nominee with his performance against Ottawa. Harris not only threw five touchdowns to five different receivers, but he also orchestrated a game winning drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Chad Owens, who arguably made the play of the year. Harris has matured in front of our eyes all season and now is in the midst of leading his team to the playoffs. Trevor Harris has been the most consistent player on the Argos offence this season and it is time to let him go out and sling the ball around to his playmakers, like we know he can.
- Contain Als QB Rakeem Cato
Cato is a young QB who has been sporadic in his starts so far this season. One thing that stays consistent is Cato can hurt teams when he gets out of the pocket. He does not always look to run with the ball, but Cato has the ability to move around within the pocket and outside of it, to find his wide receivers open down field. The Argonauts’ defensive line, which registered five sacks last week, will need to get to Cato in a hurry and stay in their lanes. If the Argos get caught out of position, it will not matter how good the secondary is, wide receivers will become open. I would not be surprised if the Argos use someone like Brandon Isaac as a spy on Rakeem Cato for portions of the game, to limit his escape ability and make Cato throw from the pocket. If Toronto can disrupt Cato early, it’ll affect the entire Alouettes offence and could make it a long day for the club.
- Feed Brandon Whitaker
Whitaker (who became known as two-way) spent six years with the Alouettes rushing for 3, 376 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also catching 194 passes for 1,659 yards and 13 touchdowns. When he was released from Montreal this past June, because they felt he didn’t have much left, Toronto was quick to scoop him up knowing he could add something to their offence. Scott Milanovich was Whitakers offensive coordinator for three seasons with Montreal, so he had first hand experience with him. This will be Whitakers first game against his former team and you can bet your thanksgiving stuffing on “two-way” being pumped up to play. Though I think Trevor Harris will lead the team through the air, Milanovich has expressed the desire to get the running game going to help alleviate some pressure on the passing game. This would be a great game to get the running game going as the Argos are coming off a short week. If the Argos can run the ball effectively Monday and Whitaker is making plays like he usually does, the Boatmen will be in great shape to pull out another win and move towards the playoffs.
- Stay confident but composed.
The Argonauts have had some swagger over the last few weeks, which has helped them to pull off two wins in a row against a very tough Ottawa team. They had this swagger when the season began too, which helped lead them to a 6-2 record at one point. Along the way however, that swagger and confidence turned into some arrogance and uncontrollable motions. This caused Milanovich to bench some key players for either a series or for an entire game. However, over the last few weeks it appears as though the Boatmen have found that line and now know how to remain confident but composed during the game. Late last week the Argonauts took two personal foul calls that helped Ottawa score the go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes remaining. Instead of self-destructing, the Argos gathered themselves together and, as a team, marched down the field to get the win. On Monday, the Argos face an opponent with whom they share a lot of history. The game will have a playoff atmosphere as both teams are jotting for position and both teams genuinely don’t like one another on the field. If Toronto can play with that swagger that fans have become accustomed to, but also avoid stupid penalties and bad decisions, then Toronto will have a great chance to win the game.
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