As the new look Argos embark on the 2017 season the team’s new brain trust chose their starting QB in the middle of winter and decided that an old look made sense.
Ricky Ray was anointed the Argos starting QB when coach Marc Trestman took over. Originally it seemed like a move to combat training camp rumours that a future CFL Hall of Famer would have to compete for his job but ultimately it meant that last year’s quick re-build was going to be continued into 2017 as the team fights for relevance in a Toronto sports market that loves winners and at times doesn’t handle the re-build process unless it’s for the beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.
What do the Argos get with Ray starting? They get a touch passer who doesn’t need to learn a playbook. If you spend a few minutes in a practice you realize he’s in coach mode with the receivers and running backs but just as important he’s talking shop with fellow QBs.
The goal for Jim Popp the new GM and his Head Coach is to build an offensive line that allows Ray to finish the season with limited damage. We’ve heard a lot about Ricky Ray being asked to work on mechanics and a quicker release but ultimately they need Ricky Ray to survive an 18 game season. It takes a tried and tested approach, give him an O-Line that blocks and then make sure that your RB is a blocker who can slide out for a 3-yard gain when all else fails.
Ricky Ray will be successful if he has time to put his magic touch on the ball and put it in a good spot for the receivers.
How important is QB depth in the CFL? Remember the Argos survived in previous seasons with the very surprising debuts Zach Collaros and Trevor Harris. They almost pulled off a late run with Dan LeFevour as well in 2016.
The CFL champion Ottawa REDBLACKS needed two QBs to win a Grey Cup and when you look at the disappointment in Hamilton and Montreal last season it revolved around injuries and failed play in the most important position on the 150 yard by 65 yard field(that includes the deep end zones).
Cody Fajardo has been listed as the Argos back-up and last year was his first year playing the pro game. Fajardo’s speed makes him the holder on field goals and a short yardage specialist. An injury forced him to miss the end of the season but it’s interesting to see him get the #2 spot. He had a very good NCAA career at Nevada and set video game like numbers for a QB with his rushing numbers. There is a tendency to discount a mobile QB when it comes to passing but Fajardo invested the time to attend the Manning Passing Academy in three collegiate seasons. He has built a nice repertoire of passes from the pocket and passes from out in the wide field where the threat to run or pass is helped by the wide field. These is some surprise to see him listed in the 2 spot but I’m not going to question what Marc Trestman sees in his game. We had a QB Whisperer in Scott Milanovich who molded Zach Collaros and Trevor Harris so think of coach Trestman in the same light. Fajardo played in the first pre-season game and was 9 for 11 on passing and showed some arm strength on short timing routes but also connected for some long passes.
Cody Fajardo will be successful if he uses his mobility when needed and doesn’t leave the pocket in a hurry.
Jeff Matthews drops onto the Argos roster and it’s hard to believe he’s just 25 years old. He played a full season in 2015 for the Ti-cats and showed some great vision and patience in the pre-season. He’s a product of a pass happy Cornell program where they ran a very complex offense. You are getting a big QB with no interest in running so when he drops back he’s going to be patient with his progressions and look to find a receiver. Why am I surprised he’s just 25? Well he’s rare he has veteran like poise and experience and that was created by the fact he started all 4 years in college and set IVY league records in almost every category for passing. At 6’4 he’s ready to look over the O-Line and showed some big arm strength in the training camp sessions I watched.
Jeff Matthews will be successful if he uses his Football IQ and passing acumen to move the ball.
It’s interesting to see the veteran backed up by two interesting prospects for CFL QBs. It’s taken a while for the CFL to regenerate at the QB position and when you look at what B.C. and Calgary have done with well trained QBs who were not household names then you can start to put some faith that yes you can develop Quarterbacks in the CFL. In the case of the Argos they hope that development comes from their back-ups watching their veteran starter all season long.
By Peter T. Kourtis