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  • Reeve Batstone

Battle of the Blues

Much better effort from the Argos last night. Winnable, but they didn’t deserve the win. MBT was too slow to get the ball out in the first half and he missed his windows again. The Banks TD in the second half was also underthrown and was actually an interception not a TD. The DB landed on the ground with the ball in his possession. Bad call.

Last week I said that in order for the Argos to win Harris and Banks would need to have 25-30 combined touches and not turn the ball over. They had 28 combined touches (30 if Banks hangs onto two drops) but lost the turnover battle decisively. Good play calling by Argos coaching staff on both sides of the ball but inconsistent execution cost the Argos the game.

Great to see improved second half adjustments from the young and inexperienced coaches. Very encouraging. Credit to Dinwiddie for not panicking and replacing MBT with, the not ready for prime time, Chad Kelly. Everybody loves a redemption story but Kelly is 2-3 years away from being a capable starter, if he proves to have the right stuff. You don’t become a successful starter at QB in the CFL in your rookie season unless you are a Canadian who has played the Canadian rules before or your name is Ricky Ray or Chuck Ealey.

Positives: Andrew Harris made his o-line look better than they are. His pass blocking is also outstanding. Best Argo offensive player after three games. No contest.

Wynton McManis is playing all star defense. He led the team with six tackles and he was a force v BC too. Great signing.

Kurleigh Gittens had another strong game. He and Harris are their most consistent performers on offence. Ambles adds a spark. What’s going on with Daniels?

Trevon Tate showed he cares. Not pretty on the sidelines but the offence picked it up. The o-line did not mail it in. Speedy B can and needs to be more consistent. I’d rather see that kind of passion than someone who cries on the bench.

Negatives: MBT is delivering the ball too late, too often. Not sure how you fix that at this stage in his career. I love his grit though. You dance with who you came with. No other option this season. They are all in with MBT. Andrew Harris is the best thing that could happen to him. Keep feeding him the rock. He is still special.

Boris Bede was a big disappointment in the last minute. You have to make those kicks. He pulled the last convert which is a hallmark of nervous kickers. Worse still, he botched the ensuing short kickoff. The ideal short kickoff travels 10 -12 yards and is very high which ensures it’s a jump ball. Bede kicked his 18 yards and the ball was caught by a sole Winnipeg player uncontested. If you kick it that far it needs to go 8 stories high. Boris needs to kick like the veteran he is.

Maple Leaf Watch

I was glad to be wrong about the Lions v REDBLACKS result. A resilient comeback performance Thursday night from the Lion King, Nathan Rourke, and teammates who are demonstrating that they are a team to be reckoned with and not a one hit wonder. Winning on the road on four days rest against a good defense like Ottawa’s is impressive. I really like their chances v Winnipeg at home next week. The Bombers will be on a four day rest and the Lions will have eight days rest. The Lions will expose the Bomber offence for what it is, not very good! The Lions are going to hand Winnipeg it’s first loss of the season and it won’t be close.

Rourke is making an early bid for MOP and the Lou Marsh trophy. Let’s hope he stays healthy. Possibly a generational Canadian player.

It seems desperate that Tre Ford was starting v Ticats but nothing about Chris Jones should surprise anyone. Ford has so much to learn and is probably not ready to start. He reminds me of Chuck Ealey in his first year, but he knows the Canadian game already. However, unlike Ealey he does not have a good defense to provide a margin for error (except v the Ticats). It was nice to see former Argos, Collins, Decoud, and Ivey played important roles in beating the Ticats.

Chandler Worthy in Montreal is also proving that the Argos special teams play is not so special. Mario Alford also excelled in Montreal after he was released by the Argos. Hmmm.

Dane Evans needs to maintain his composure. Contrast his head shaking and turf pounding (never mind the tears) with the unflappable and modest Rourke and Ford. Ford had to be reminded by a teammate to keep the game ball when he tried to hand it to the ref at games end. I’ll give him a Canadian eh for servant leadership. If a QBs job is to distribute the ball and first do no harm, he did what he had to do to win. Impressive for a rookie in his first start no matter the passport. Arbuckle got traded and benched because he could not protect the football. Dane Evans is dangerously close to following in his footsteps. If you turn the ball over you don’t get to play QB for long.

TSN Follies TSN coverage this past week was not stellar. Last night with 25 seconds left Rod Smith tried to declare the Bombers winners when Duane Forde rescued him with a reminder that the short kickoff was yet to come.

Similarly last Thursday’s night Redblacks game was not their finest hour. The camera operators missed two kickoffs and more than once the on-field officials did not communicate the calls effectively leaving the commentators (and audience) in the dark.

TSN needs a reboot on its panel including the perspective of a lineman in the mold of Chris Walby.

Subscriptions of TSN cable have been dropping an average of about 10% per year for much of the last decade as millennials cut the cord. The year over year decline explains about two thirds of the CFLs declining television ratings on its own. It’s not only a problem for TSN it’s a big problem for the CFL too. The CFL needs to unhook its wagon from TSN as its sole television platform before it’s too late and the exposure shrinks so much that the brand is invisible to the casual fan. Can you imagine the NFL only allowing broadcast on ESPN? Not in a million years, no matter how much they were paid.

Dave Naylor joining the TSN panel on a night when the featured performer was a Canadian QB was deliciously ironic. Naylor is widely known to throw shade on Canadians, especially from USports, almost to the point of contempt. His reputation for parroting anti Canadian ratio narratives from GMs and the Commissioner’s office made TSN look foolish. His suggestion that two Canadians starting at quarterback last week was proof there is no anti Canadian bias in the CFL is disingenuous. The reason that Rourke is starting is because the Canadian-heavy Lions staff had the courage to say goodbye to Michael Reilly and put their faith in a Canadian quarterback who deserved the chance as much as any of the NFL cuts that have never played a down of Canadian rules football. How many teams have MBT and Chad Kelly been cut from? Hint: It’s in the double digits.

Meanwhile, despite being drafted in the third round and making respectable relief appearances, Michael O’Connor was never given a start with Toronto. That chance may come in BC if Nathan Rourke goes to the NFL next season and Rick Campbell remains true to form.

In a couple of years watch Rourke’s younger, but bigger brother, Kurtis, become the most sought after Canadian QB since 3 quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 1973 Canadian college draft. He has game. Don’t be completely surprised if in a few years we have our own Canadian football royal family. Keep ‘em coming Rourke family.

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