Week 1 of the CFL season is in the books and for the Toronto Argonauts and their fans, things could not have felt more night and day from the kickoff to when the clock showed 0:00. The Argos were celebrating being in their new permanent home of BMO field, while the fans enjoyed a legitimate CFL tailgating experience and the scenery of the new digs. However, once the kickoff occurred the celebrating was few and far between for the next 60:00 minutes of action as the hated rival Hamilton Ti-cats defeated Toronto 42-20. Here are the five things to watch for as the Boatman attempt to get into the win column this Thursday in Saskatchewan.
Last Time at Mosaic:
This will be the Argos last game ever at the iconic Mosaic Stadium in Regina, and they’ll hope to make it a memorable one. Toronto has been a part of a few classic games over the years, the most recent coming just last season as Toronto and Saskatchewan wen to double overtime and the Argos escaped with a 42-40 victory. Earlier in the week Argos HC Scott Milanovich said he will miss the stadium as it has a college atmosphere and he has fond memories of the place, including clinching a playoff spot in his first year with the Argos in 2012. With Toronto having their home opener spoiled just last week, I am sure the team relishes the idea of doing the same to Saskatchewan. Thursday they get that chance.
Tempo must be faster:
If the Argos are going to leave Regina with a victory, they’ll need to do a much better job in the first half of the game producing points. Toronto had far too many two and outs last week and the offense failed to get into any kind of rhythm until late. Once they started with some quicker tempo they moved the ball with ease but unfortunately costly turnovers halted those drives. The Argos had tremendous energy in the 3rd quarter and it led to two touchdowns in under a minute of play. If Toronto can duplicate that kind of play and do it more consistently, it will go a long way towards leaving Mosaic Stadium on a high note.
Injuries piling up already:
The game of musical cheers has already begun across the CFL and for the Argos it is no different. Going into week two they will be down two and possibly three starters from the opening day roster. Safety Jermain Gabriel left the game late last week after suffering an accidental blow to the head from a teammate. He was later released from the hospital and is questionable for Thursdays game. If he can’t go, expect either National veteran Matt Black or newcomer Joe Rankin to take his place. The news however was not as promising for second year WR Kevin Elliot as he suffered a dislocated shoulder and is out for a few weeks. Wallace Miles replaces Elliot last week and had 4 catches for 37 yards in his CFL debut. The Argos will also be without rookie MLB Marshall McFadden who suffered an MCL sprain and is out 4-6 weeks. The Argos signed Kyler Elsworth to potentially take his place this Thursday. Elsworth was with the Alouettes in 2015.
Toronto can’t forget about “2-Way” and “Kack Attack”:
It is no secret Scott Milanovich likes to throw the ball and throw a lot, which is necessary in the CFL game. However, it would be prudent for the Argos not to forget about their weapons in the backfield. Much of the reason the Argos could not run the ball effectively last week was because they were down 18-0 in a flash, and the Ti-cats blitz heavy scheme is designed to clogs up holes. Brandon Whitaker was the only running back who dressed last week, but it is hard to believe we will see that again. With Henry Josey sidelined for the foreseeable future, look to see Chad Kackert back in the lineup and spelling Whitaker when needed. Each guy brings something different to the table and the Argos could find success with outside runs designed around Kackerts sneaky speed. Toronto may have a plethora of weapons in the receiving game but it could be these two men who help make the difference in the offense on Thursday.
DL needs to feast:
The Argos spent a lot of money in the off-season acquiring three former ti-cats in free agency for their defensive line. One currently sits on the 6-game injured list in DT Brian Buckle, but the other two, Bryan Hall and Justin Hickman have the capability of single handily taking over a football game. Unfortunately last week we only saw flashes of that and as the defensive unit still gets acclimated to one another and the system, there will be growing pains. The Argos may be smart to just allow their front four do what they do best, which is aggressively work up field and attack the QB, while the back half of the defense works out the kinks. Both DE’s Ricky Foley and Justin Hickman have been double digit sack guys in this league and there is no reason they can’t do it again this season. Though neither one was overly impressive on the stat sheet last week, their presence can be felt when getting underneath the offensive tackles and disrupting plays. Should the DL do that this Thursday night it will likely play dividends for the unit as a whole. An effective pass rush can change the whole game, so the Argos should put a premium focus on that each week, but for now, they just need to let these boys eat.