The Toronto Argonauts are looking to turn the page on their abysmal home record and get back on the right track in the second half of the regular season. They endured lopsided losses to the Edmonton Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in two home games in consecutive weeks. Now the Argos will have one last chance against the B.C. Lions to get a win at BMO Field in August. With fearsome returner Chris Rainey coming to town, that won’t be easy.
Offence will be key to a victory for the Argos. If the offence is on the field, their defence won’t be, and that means more opportunities for the Boatmen to score.
Argos Checking for Rainey Against Lions
Return of Ray Ray
Toronto has suffered from a lack of offence in recent weeks but all that is set to change with the return of Ricky Ray. The team announced last week that the veteran quarterback is ready to return to action after suffering a knee injury.
The Argos struggled to get any consistent offence out of backup Logan Kilgore. Kilgore is now infamous for his five-interception performance against Winnipeg and two-interception performance the following week against the Eskimos.
In practice, Ray could be seen moving around and completing passes. He appears to bring a calm to his team with his ability to put difficult throws in spots where only his teammates can catch the ball. The offence should be much better off with Ray taking the snaps for the team, giving them the ability to sustain drives and control the pace of the game.
Brandon Whitaker has been a bright spot for the Argonauts in recent weeks. In fact, he’s been getting so many touches in games that the coaching staff don’t want him overworked in practice. They need him well rested and fresh for game day.
“We’ve gotten to where, and he’d be pissed if I said this to him, I think we need to give him day two (of practice week) off, he’s getting so many touches rushing and receiving, we’re just trying to keep him fresh,” said Scott Milanovich.
Whitaker had 15 carries at an average of 7.2 yards against Edmonton. In six out of his nine games so far he has had over ten rushes per game, which takes a toll on the body. Whitaker also acts as a dual threat in the passing game.
“He’s played well since about the third game of the season. He ran the ball really well the last time we were in B.C. He’s just been really consistent. I think he had one game where he didn’t protect as well as we expect from him, but overall he’s been great and really consistent this season,” according to his head coach.
The Rainey Man
The CFL’s most deadly man on special teams is the Lions’ Chris Rainey. The returner has burned teams for nine touchdowns in nine games. Rainey has a reputation that acquires special attention. The Argos are well aware of who they will be punting to on Wednesday night.
“It seems like every time he touches the ball your afraid there’s a huge crease and if he gets it he’s going to go the distance,” Milanovich said of Rainey. “We were fortunate enough to contain him the last time we played and our guys are going to have to do that again. He plays full speed and he’s so quick and you’re trying to cut off the angle as a defender, but when you do that he sticks his foot in the ground and cuts back. He’s a really good player and we’re going to have to defend him.”
The players know what’s what when it comes to the returner and discipline will be key in special teams play. According to Argos receiver and punt coverage player Devon Wylie, Rainey’s been a topic of discussion in special teams meetings.
“You can’t get to aggressive with a guy like that. If you do he might catch you slipping on your assignments. It definitely makes you play with some heightened senses. He’s a really good returner and when he’s on the field you have to respect him and what he can do when we’re on coverage. You’ve got make sure you cover all of the field with a guy like (Rainey), otherwise he can make you pay.”
Wylie can often be found on the field making plays in one way or another. If he’s not catching the ball on offence he’s running down field full tilt on the coverage units looking to bring down ball carriers. Against Edmonton, the former Fresno State Bulldog had two special teams tackles.
“In college I was always taught to play fast and special teams is all about effort and heart. Obviously you’ve got to execute all your details but when it comes down to it, if you’re busting your ass you’re going to make a play. A lot of guys might not like covering kicks. I like covering kicks,” Wylie said.
Before the game against Edmonton, the Argos released defensive tackle Brian Bulcke. The move was in anticipation of their interior defensive line depth getting a big addition from the previously injured Tracy Robertson. Robertson was out for the majority of the season so far with a knee injury back in Week 2.
“I tore my MCL. It’s not fun coming back from that, but you’ve got to take your time with it, really. I’m ready to come back now and make an impact. I missed six games and had an extra two weeks to heal. I’m just ready to get back in the swing of things,” he said.
According to Robertson, for his own feel of the game it will be important for him to hit the ground running against B.C..
“I want to get my steps in the ground, move sideline to sideline and find myself on film (after the game) because I want to be in (on tackles) on every play I’m out there.”
In his first two games of the year Robertson had two tackles while playing in the interior defensive line rotation.