The Toronto Argonauts are heading into a Grey Cup rematch with the Calgary Stampeders for Week 2. It’s the Argos home opener for 2018 and fans heading down to the game will be treated to a replica Grey Cup ring in the Shipyard. There will also be the Grey Cup banner unveiling. Needless to say, there will be tons of excitement in the air ahead of the Argos home opener.
That excitement could quickly be zapped from BMO Field if the Argos don’t improve on a few keys areas of their game that were severely lacking last week in Saskatchewan. The good news for Argos fans is that they still had a shot at pulling out a win versus Saskatchewan. Here are the three major things the Toronto Argonauts need to quickly improve on if they want to avoid a 0-2 start before their bye week.
It was a big question mark coming into the season as to who would be the pass rusher to replace the loss of Victor Butler. Butler had a great season in 2017 for the Argonauts but decided to violate his two-year contract with the Argos due to renewed NFL interest in the former starting linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Argos sacked Zach Collaros twice early on, courtesy of Cleyon Laing and Shawn Lemon. After the two sacks, the Roughriders’ offensive line stiffened and pressure on Collaros was virtually a non-issue. Laing and Lemon will be the mainstays on the defensive line this whole year and it was encouraging to see them each contribute with sacks.
Beyond Laing and Lemon, Toronto will need a third pass rusher to step up and especially so with no Bear Woods or Taylor Reed. Justin Tuggle was highly praised by Glen Suitor during the broadcast and Tuggle does have a good chance at filling the void of Butler. The rest of the defensive line was quiet as Frank Beltre only registered two tackles and Canadian Linden Gaydosh had one.
If the Argos are going to contain Bo Levi Mitchell on Saturday night, there will need to be sustained pressure on him all game long from the Argo defence. It can’t just be Lemon or Laing. Someone needs to step up on Saturday.
Establish the Run
Key number two for the Toronto Argonauts heading into Saturday’s game kind of goes hand-in-hand with key number one. The Argos were unable to establish the running game in Saskatchewan as James Wilder Jr. had just five carries and 16 yards rushing.
The running game was the true spark to the Argos run in the second half of the 2017 season to first place in the East and an eventual Grey Cup title. Wilder Jr. had a fantastic rookie season with 872 yards rushing on 122 carries. He also added 533 receiving yards. The dynamic rookie season led many to believe that he could very well be the first CFL player in history to have 1000 yards rushing and 1000 yards receiving.
It was a disappointing first game for Wilder Jr. in the rushing department. He did have 68 receiving yards on four receptions which was a good sign but the running game was not established at all at the beginning of the game. Once the Argos got down in the game, the running game was all but abandoned.
The Argos will need to run early and often against the Calgary defence to get Wilder Jr. more involved in the game. Wilder Jr. was the biggest reason the Argos went on their Grey Cup run a season ago and he will need to be a bigger focus on Saturday. Improved offensive line play would help too.
Protect Ricky Ray
This is the biggest key heading into Saturday’s game. Hopefully, Ricky Ray won’t be seeing ghosts of Charleston Hughes as Hughes was able to record three sacks last Friday. It was a dream debut for the longtime Stampeder in Rider Green but he made life terrible for Ray.
It truly looked as if Ray was under pressure every single drop back that he made. Even if there were only three sacks recorded, the Roughriders pass rush looked great and disrupted the timing of Ray with his receivers early and often. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Ray finally got some more protection and it’s when he did most of his damage through the air.
The Argos offensive line is anchored by Sean McEwen at center and Chris Van Zeyl at right tackle. Tyler Holmes is typically a reliable left guard but for whatever reason, it seemed as if the entire offensive line struggled to protect Ray to find his receivers or open up running lanes for James Wilder Jr. William Campbell and Brandon Washington round out the offensive line and all five of these men need to keep Ray upright.
If Ricky Ray is protected better by the offensive line, he will find S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards much more than he did on Friday. This is the biggest key heading into the game as the Toronto Argonauts will need their future Hall of Fame quarterback to be upright and being the regular great Ricky Ray.
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images