As CFL camps open here are 5 questions Toronto needs to answer.
It’s been a whirlwind off-season in Toronto that is finally coming to an end. As training camps begin to open the nitty gritty of work outs and playbooks takes centre stage. It’s been noted that with Argos head coach Marc Trestman coming on in February that the team is desperately trying to bring everyone up to speed. Coach Trestman himself needs to reacquaint himself with a league that he hasn’t coached in for 4 years.
Toronto also starts the year with a new defensive coordinator. For Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin who sat out the 2016 season is now calling the shots on D for the Double Blue. Throw in the usual revolving door of players that characterizes every CFL season and yes getting everyone on to the field is something Toronto’s coaching staff that can’t come soon enough.
So with training camps for rookies and quarterbacks beginning today and veterans set to report on May 28, here are 5 questions that hopefully will be answered before the season opener on June 25 at BMO Field against Hamilton.
- How healthy is SJ Green?
The former Montreal Alouette receiver missed all but 2 games in 2016 with a devastating knee injury. Green has said his rehabilitation is on track and should be ready to go once the season starts. For the Argonauts and their fans we hope he’s right. If Green is healthy he provides a game changing presence in the Argo offense. A perennial 1000 yard receiver on his way to the Hall of Fame, the hope in Toronto is that there is still plenty in his tank.
- How will Ricky Ray gel with the new Receivers?
The receiving core was turned over during the 2016 season when the Argonauts released Phil Bates, Kevin Elliott, Tori Gurley and Vidal Hazelton. This offseason saw more receivers leave during free agency as both Diontae Spencer and Kenny Shaw took their talents east and signed with the Grey Cup Champion Ottawa RedBlacks.
The new guys for 2017 along with SJ Green are Jeff Fuller, Khalil Paden. Devon Wylie returns for his second season in Toronto as well as non-imports Anthony Coombs, Brian Jones, and Llevi Noel.
Fuller has battled injuries during his time in the CFL and Paden saw only limited action last year in Ottawa.
From a National perspective Brian Jones looked steady in his rookie campaign and the fourth overall pick in last years draft looks to be a safe bet to win and keep a starting role.
Ricky Ray has always been a timing quarterback rather than a gun slinger so getting comfortable with a new group of receivers as quickly as possible is vital to any success Toronto is going to have on offense.
One thing that should benefit Toronto is that 2016 offensive coordinator Marcus Brady was brought back. I’m sure Trestman will be adding some wrinkles to their playbook but at least the team won’t need to learn a completely new set of plays.
- Who protects Ricky Rays blindside?
I believe the offensive line is Toronto most talented area in terms of its overall depth and quality Canadian talent. That Canadian depth only got stronger with the addition of 2017 #10 pick overall in the CFL Draft; Mason Woods .
Toronto can start 5 Canadian offensive linemen if it so chooses and it has been something that new GM Jim Popp has been known to do.
But who exactly is set to take to the left tack spot? Last year’s tackle international Gregory VanRoten is a free agent but still may be pursuing NFL opportunities after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Recently signed and former Redblack J’Michael Deane may fill that spot but he has seen more time at the guard spot the last couple of seasons.
Last year’s third round pick Jamal Campbell may also be given a chance to win the job.
This will be one of the more pressing questions as camp rolls into pre-season games. If Ricky Ray intends on staying healthy, stellar play from the left tack position is crucial.
- Who replaces Ricky Foley?
Ricky Foleys release from the team took many fans by surprise. But at 34 and the reality of salary cap restraints the team needed to free up some money.
While overall I expect that defensive line led by Shawn Lemon and recently signed non-import Cleyon Laing along with international Alan-Michael Cash to be very good, I can’t with any degree of confidence say who takes Foley’s spot at the end spot. A question Toronto will need answering during camp.
- Can the Secondary bounce back?
It was not a great year for the Argo secondary with a lot of turnover created by either injury or trades. Starting defensive backs AJ Jefferson and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah both missed time due to injury and TJ Heath, the team leader in interceptions was traded to Winnipeg immediately after the Labour Day rematch win over Hamilton.
With Jefferson now in Ottawa, the team has to be thrilled that Owusu-Ansah is back after missing the final 13 games of the season.
Toronto also signed former TiCat Johnny Sears Jr but he too battled injury last year missing 13 games of his own including Hamilton’s playoff game against Edmonton.
Returning players like Marcus Alford and Aaron Berry will need to be better after a lack luster 2016 and will face competition from another former TiCat in Cassius Vaughn.
For any team to be successful there need to be as few questions as possible. Like every year players nobody ever knew will rise and make key contributions to some of those questions. That’s who you pay a scout to find right?
Injuries undoubtedly and fingers crossed will unfortunately not force too many more questions to be asked.
But when it’s all said and done game day is getting closer and the question #IsitJuneYet is that much closer to being answered.
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Thanks for this, Anthony. Gotta wonder about how things will shake out at the LB position also.
Venable, McFadden and R.Murray I presume