As the Argos head into week three they have adopted their 2015 persona as Road Warriors electing to stay out on the prairies to practice in Saskatchewan and then took a short flight to the left coast in preparation for their game against the B.C. Lions.
Week Two’s sendoff of Mosaic Field was a tale of two football games. In the first half a carefully scripted offensive attack picked away at the Roughriders defence and built a first half lead. The second half was all about the defence using some aggressive play to keep Saskatchewan at bay and ultimately give the Argos their first win of the season.
Heading into BC the Argos have spent the prep week looking at ways to attack the best in league defence of the Lions. The Lions have given up a paltry 21 points on defence in two games and lead the CFL in Interceptions and Forced Fumbles and while their defence has been great the Lions have been running the ball and playing the field possession and time of possession game with success.
Here are the keys to the game for the Argos
Wally Buono is back on the sidelines for the Lions and in most games it looks like he doesn’t even need a head set to lead his team but make no mistake about it, he builds a strong game plan, delegates that game plan to the coordinators and then through his CFL greatness gets the most out of his roster. His players play hard for him.
The Argos could use the week away to bond but it can also be tough on players who like a routine. Hanging out in Regina after a win is much better than a loss so hopefully the Argos keep the good times rolling in Vancouver. Players often say the challenge of road games isn’t the hostile crowd but it’s the prep time that is altered. Staying in Saskatchewan hopefully gave them as much prep time as possible.
Who is Jonathan Jennings? well he’s a mobile QB from a small school (Saginaw Valley) you’ve heard that before but consider this, the Lions made sure to re-sign him and declared him the team’s #1 QB before the season started. That’s a pretty good indication of his skill when Travis Lulay is told he’s #2 before training camp even starts.
Ricky Ray was 13 for 22 in Regina, decent numbers that took a dive in a second half when the Boatmen’s offence struggled. There were some longer pass attempts in week two and Ray’s passing looked much sharper after the loss in week one. Ray’s 2015 injury woes put him in the spotlight when it came to testing his arm strength and with a limited pre-season it was good to see the arm not only launch some long passes but they were precise.
The offence came through in tact with Ray having the same receiving corps for this game and though it hurts to have Kevin Elliot and Diontae Spencer missing for another game it was good to see Kenny Shaw get targeted. A big improvement was the use of Brandon Whitaker as his 15 touches included 4 pass receptions. Ray likes to fake the hand off to Whitaker and when the defence doesn’t bite he uses the Baylor product as a pass option checking down to the very talented hands of the 8th year CFL pro.
Tracy Robertson is on the DL which made the acquisition of the heavily traveled CFL veteran Shawn Lemon very important to the Front Four. Lemon’s addition will add some athleticism to the team push up front and with a secondary that Coach Milanovich has stressed that needs to be active and knock balls down it will help if the gang lead by Ricky Foley can cut down on the time that Jonathan Jennings gets to make plays. Jermaine Gabriel is injured after he came back from that horrific hit in the opener and tried to play in week two so Matt Black the National from Saginaw Valley State will be patrolling center-field. Rich Stubler the defensive coordinator can work magic and keeping the defensive side healthy will give him more time to make this group into the type of defence that Stubler’s won with in the past.
Special ‘Special’ Teams
Week one saw the newly acquired Larry Taylor perform poorly on punt returns. Yes, it’s a team game but Taylor struggled against Hamilton and with an extra week of practice time delivered some great yardage last week. He was patient and found the openings up field and gave the Argos some great starting field position. With a stingy B.C. defence it will be important for Taylor to help the Argos win the field position game. Liam Hajrullahu has been perfect in the Field Goal Kicking department and with the ideal conditions of playing under the BC Place Tent he can keep his perfection going.
Intangible I Almost Forgot
Usually this is a no brainer to hope for in the grid iron game but this road trip is followed by a game at BMO in less than six days. Throw in some travel and it’s a short week of rest and avoiding injuries will be a big plus as the Argos get back to business at home.
By Peter T. Kourtis.