Saturday June 22nd, marks the beginning of the Corey Chamblin era as head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. It is also likely the last time we see Ricky Ray in double blue of any kind as the team will honour him 15 minutes prior to kickoff.
The last time we saw Ray and Chamblin on the same sideline was the 105th Grey Cup in which the Argos defeated Calgary 27-24. Unfortunately Ray would only suit up two more times for the Boatman before officially announcing his retirement just over a month ago.
As for the game itself, it doesn’t get much bigger then this for a season opener. The battle of the QEW will once again commence as the 1-0 Ti-cats and their first time head coach, a familiar name, Orlondo Steinauer come to town. Last season Hamilton got the better of Toronto in all three contest. If the Argos hope to avoid a similar fate this season, here are some keys to the game they could focus on.
Blanket Brandon Banks.
He could simply be known as the Argo killer. Banks has been a thorn in the Argos side for the last 5 and a half seasons and counting. The last 6 games alone he has 35 receptions for 693 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those are solid numbers for a reserve WR over an 18 game span. The fact that Banks has done that against this team in 6 games means he should be a focal point for Saturday and the most important person to stop. That duty will likely fall on newcomer Kevin Fogg who came over from the Blue Bombers during free agency. For Fogg, the key will be to not get too high or too low against Banks as he is not an easy guy to cover and to be able to shut him down all game long is likely a bit too much to ask. But if Fogg is able to limit Banks and force Ticats QB Jeremiah Masoli to look elsewhere, that should be considered a win for the Argos.
Keep Pushing the ball downfield.
The blockbuster signing of WR Derel Walker during free agency this past winter has helped completely change the identity of the Argonauts offense. For several years, the Argos have been more of a dink and dunk team who didn’t always follow the traditional CFL offensive structure. That can work perfectly fine when you have a patient veteran QB like Ray at the helm. However, with James Franklin now the teams starting QB, stretching the field and using your best athletes is the way to go. It is hard to gauge how much of the pre-season action we saw will translate onto the field come Saturday and beyond, but it is a good start. A starting trio of Walker, SJ Green and Armanti Edwards is one of the best receiving units the Argos have put out to begin a season in quite some time. Not to be overlooked are Canadians Llevi Noel and Jimmy Ralph, both of whom have big play capabilities.
Stay even keeled all game long.
This may seem less important or not as crucial to coming away with a victory on Saturday as other aspects of the game. But the ability to see the big picture and not take untimely penalties or cost your team can not be overlooked. These battles are always heated and in the past have resulted in objections of players. Now adding fuel to the fire is more crossover in personnel from each team. Long time Argo offensive tackle Chris Van Zeyl was released the day before training camp and subsequently signed with the Ticats shortly after. Former Argos GM Jim Barker is now apart of Hamilton’s front office and as of this posting, recently released Argo slotback Anthony Coombs was signed to Hamilton’s practice squad. There is no denying the tensions will be high for this game and all the new faces on Toronto’s defense will quickly get a taste of how in depth this rivalry really is. If the Argos don’t get too heated in the moment and stick to their plan, it should go a long way in securing a victory Saturday at their home opener.
Final reminder, the Argos will also be giving away Derel Walker bobble head dolls as well as a proper farewell to future Hall of Fame QB, Ricky Ray ahead of the game.