Guelph – The 2016 CFL season is less than 1 month away. Final training camp preparations are being made across the league. It’s the time of year where hope springs eternal. Impact free agent signings were done months ago and the league just injected more fountains of youth with the completion of the 2016 CFL Draft on May 10.
As the Toronto Argonauts prepare to head out to Guelph for their camp GM Jim Barker, Head Coach Scott Milanovich and the entire organization know that a successful 2016 season hinge on a variety of factors. Some of those factors, like an injury to a star player, they can’t control. Other factors like execution and continuity are what training camps are all about. Yes there will be a ton of evaluation and competition for roster spots but make no mistake about it the 2016 season for the Double Blue is all about winning.
With that being said here are my 5 top story lines or factors that will ensure if the first ever CFL season at BMO Field will be a success one.
The future Hall of Fame Quarterbacks return was the biggest signing or re-signing the Argos made this off-season. Ray missed most of the last season and started only 2 games as his season war marred by off-season shoulder surgery in 2015. The analysis here is simple if Ray can stay healthy the Argos will move the ball and score points. You can play with a lot of other roster pieces on a CFL squad but it’s a Quarterbacks league and the success of the Argos hinges on Rays ability to stay healthy for all of 2016.
The Wide Receivers
Okay yes this is a large grouping in that it doesn’t necessarily involve only 1 player. But last year the receiving corp. headlined by rookies Kevin Elliot, Tori Gurley, Vidal Hazelton and Diontae Spencer was one of the more surprising story lines of 2015. They made huge impacts in 2015 quickly developing solid chemistry with then starter Trevor Harris who is now a REDBLACK. With Chad Owens now in Hamilton these Receivers ability to not only duplicate but surpass last years success while again having to develop a comfort level with another Quarterback will be a vital cog in the success of the Argo offense.
The kicking game was a bit of a carousel for the Double Blue in 2015. A leg injury to Swayze Waters in the first game of the year against Edmonton left the position in flux for most of 2015. This year the duties fall to National kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, a free signee who last year had a season he’d like to forget for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Hitting on only 22 of 32 field goal attempts is simply not good enough. That’s points left on the board and will be hard to overcome in what should be a very competitive Eastern Division. For the Argos and its fans lets hope Hajrullahu returns to his 2014 form where he was a nominee for Special Teams Player of the Year.
The old adage you win in the CFL with your Canadian talent is more than statement. It’s a fact. And the Argos potentially may have 1 of the best at the linebacker position in the entire league. Cory Greenwood from Kingston Ontario is entering his third season as a member of the Double Blue. Last year Greenwoods season was cut short and he missed 10 regular season games while recovering from a concussion. He returned for the East Semi-Final versus Hamilton and had a monster game leading the team in tackles with 9. With the departure of Gregory Jones to Riderville, 2016 can be the year where Greenwood, if healthy, can look to take over the reign as leader of not just the linebacking core but of the defense as a whole.
At the age of 33 he may be an elder statesman of the team but from a marketing perspective he’s also the face of the franchise. Foley chose to forego free agency in 2016 and signed a 3 year contract to remain in Toronto shortly after the 2015 season. Of all the changes to the roster the most intriguing ones may be on the defensive line. Off to the NFL are Tristan Okpalaugo and Cleyon Laing. Incoming are 3 members of the 2015 Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Brian Buckle, Justin Hickman and Bryan Hall. If this line is going to wreak havoc on opposing Quarterbacks this season Foley must lead that charge by improving on his total of 6 sacks last season.
written by: Anthony Ciardulli @comicanthony