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  • Reeve Batstone

Who are the 2022 Toronto Argonauts!?

Wondering who the real Toronto Argonauts are this year? Expect the next few games to be very illuminating, if not pivotal.

The Argos ran into a buzz saw last Saturday night named the BC Lions. They were a well coached and prepared team with an extra week of rest against an opponent from a different time zone, visiting, and in the evening. These are well proven advantages.

Unfortunately for BC I predict that these same factors will work against them this week and Ottawa will beat the Lions because they have had an extra week to prepare and the Lions are banged up on four days rest. Classic CFL scheduling. The Lions have little chance. Ottawa is also for real unless Paul LaPolice snatches defeat from the jaws of victory with clock mismanagement for the third game in a row.

It’s a shame that while the six million cable subscribers who haven’t yet cut their cord to TSN finally get to see Nathan Rourke in prime time it will be on an extremely lopsided playing field.

Not enough of BC’s success is going to offensive coordinator, Jordan Maksymic. His play calling has been exceptional and he has really set Rourke up for success. They are getting the ball out fast, mixing the run in very well, which is giving their fledgling O-line confidence. Lions receivers came down with the contested balls Saturday and Rourke’s TDs tosses were to wide open receivers. I mean painfully wide open. By contrast, Argos’ MBT had virtually no open receivers to throw to and no running game to speak of. He looked like a pylon with a target on its side. He doesn’t help himself by holding onto the ball too long and making throws so late the receivers are past their windows. Nevertheless, to his credit MBT is one tough hombre, and he will need to be against Winnipeg.

Andrew Harris will also need to feature prominently if the Argos hope to win. He must be dying to touch the ball 25 times. The Argos also need to get the ball to Speedy B in space. These are their playmakers. They need to have 25-30 touches between them to beat Winnipeg and cannot afford to turn the ball over at all.

Argos red zone execution is where touchdowns go to die. A play from the one-yard line is not a run, it’s a plunge or at least a push. One of the reasons that Tom Brady was good at this in a league without the benefit of a yard off the ball is that he’s actually big. So is McLeod Bethel Thompson. It makes a difference. Keeping him in the game maintains the threat of pass as well. The current approach needs to go in the wood stove. It was a box of chocolates last year too. You never knew what you were going to get.

The coaching staff looks to be frozen when it comes to effective in game adjustments going back to last season. They are not all position coaches anymore and the expectations are rising. With the exception of QB and offensive tackle, management has delivered Dinwiddie very good roster depth. Unless the coaches learn to adjust better and faster this ship may run aground by mid season.

Clearly letting Van Zeyl go to Hamilton was a big mistake and they have failed to find three strong American offensive tackles who are not injury prone. It’s a big problem. Trading Ivey and Collins to Edmonton for very little was a head scratcher. It’s beginning to look catastrophic now. You cannot win the Grey Cup without stellar tackle play. You just can’t.

At this point it doesn’t look like more than two teams from the East will be making the playoffs. There will likely be a West crossover. Ottawa has the best quarterbacking in the East. Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton will be fighting for the second available playoff spot.

If you truly love Canadian football here is an uplifting thought to leave you with. The two top teams in the CFL have Canadian head coaches and Canadian GMs. One with two promising Canadian QBs, the other with Canadian running backs. Not to mention, the Argos’ best offensive player, HOF’er Andrew Harris. So much for commissioner Ambrosies’ narrative about Canadians. It’s time for the CFL to double down on support for the development of Canadian amateur football, not Global players. More Rourkes and fewer Mourtadas please.

Nathan Rourke is the most exciting thing to happen to this league in years. Let’s hope the league and its boutique broadcaster don’t fumble it.

I wonder if Milt Stegall still thinks Vernon Adams is the best QB in the league!? TSN is in serious need of broadcast competition. Most of the country has no way to watch Rourke. The CFL’s broadcast strategy is a de facto blackout to most Canadians. If the pandemic has taught business anything it’s that sole source providers are rarely a good thing. The Canadian Football League is no exception.

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