It’s been a bit of a surprise at how poorly the Toronto Argonauts season has gone to this point. Perhaps one could make the argument that they wouldn’t be as good as 2017 as soon as Ricky Ray went down. The counterpoint to that would be the two quarterbacks behind Ray in James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Franklin made four starts after Ray was knocked out for the year and Bethel-Thompson has been the starter since August 2nd. While both showed flashes at times, it simply hasn’t been enough.
The 3-9 Toronto Argonauts are playing the rest of the season out for pride as well as jobs in 2019 at this point. If that’s the case, there are some things Argos fans need to see down the stretch to keep some optimism for 2019.
4. More Duron Carter
The Toronto Argonauts have been without a legitimate third weapon for all three quarterbacks almost all season long. It’s mainly been only S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards. The Argos tried Bryan Tyms early on and that ended quickly. They circulated through others like Rodney Smith, Malcolm Williams, and Mario Alford. None showed much of anything.
Duron Carter signed with Toronto back in late August before Labour Day. Carter has only played in two games to this point and has yet to catch a football. Marc Trestman stated this week that Carter’s reps would increase. S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards are both back in 2019. The final set of games for the Argonauts will be key to get Carter integrated into the offence and end 2018 on a high note. This trio could do some big things in 2019 if they stay healthy.
3. Signs of Life in the Pass Rush
The 2017 Argonauts defence was quite good and a major reason for their second-half dominance to win the East. It’s been an entirely different story under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Archer. Archer has a ton of CFL experience and talent at linebacker and in the secondary, but they’ve been overworked and torched by opposing offences. Perhaps a part of that is due to little to no pass rush this entire season.
The Argonauts have 13 sacks in 2018. That’s barely over a sack a game. The Edmonton Eskimos have 34 sacks, which averages to over two and a half sacks per game. Shawn Lemon was the best pass rusher but was moved to the B.C. Lions early in 2018. Since, the defensive line was largely been anchored by Frank Beltre, Dylan Wynn, Cleyon Laing, and Troy Davis. Laing has four sacks, Wynn and Beltre have two each and Davis has one. That simply isn’t good enough. There will need to be an off-season move to address this, but Beltre and Davis are playing for jobs in 2019.
2. James Wilder Jr.
James Wilder Jr. took the CFL by storm after he took the starting job away from Brandon Whitaker in 2017 when Whitaker went down with an injury. Many thought Wilder could be the first 1000-1000 running back in CFL history and that it be between him and Andrew Harris for the rushing title. While Wilder hasn’t been as explosive in 2018 as evidenced by his 4.7 yards per carry compared to 7.1 in 2017, he’s been quietly steady.
Wilder has 665 rushing yards with three touchdowns and has 521 receiving yards with one touchdown. The Argonauts have six games left this season. Perhaps if James Wilder can catch fire and find his explosive 2017 form for a few games, the Argonauts could make a last gasp charge in the standings to prevent a crossover. In no way is this suggesting Wilder hasn’t been good, but his impact in 2017 hasn’t felt the same in 2018. Argos fans would love to see Wilder close the season out strong like 2017, even if it’s not for the post-season run like last year.
1. James Franklin
Now that the Toronto Argonauts season is 95% closed and there will not be a chance to repeat as Grey Cup champions, the Argonauts should take the reins off of McLeod Bethel-Thompson to see what James Franklin can do as the season winds down. Bethel-Thompson has posted some good numbers and doesn’t deserve to lose his starting job, but Franklin is still considered the quarterback of the future.
It would be nice for the Argonauts to head into the off-season with Bethel-Thompson and James Franklin ending their seasons on high notes. If they end Bethel-Thompson’s season soon, he ends feeling pretty good about his play despite it not translating into wins. Franklin could once again have a chance to show why many feel he’s the next great CFL quarterback. If he ends high, the Argos have two legit options at quarterback in 2019 and perhaps the loser of the job in camp gets dealt for an area of need. Regardless, it’s time to see what James Franklin can do again as this is likely the biggest key for the Argonauts in 2019, having a franchise quarterback to officially take over from Ricky Ray.
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