Toronto Argonauts: Running game needs to step up


Toronto Argonauts running attack needs to do a better job of complimenting the passing game

The Toronto Argonauts continued to impress (and surprise), as they won a tightly-contested affair with the Ottawa Redblacks. The 30-24 victory took them to 6-2 on the season, keeping them tied with the red-hot Hamilton Tiger-Cats, at the top of the East Division standings.

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As has often been the case so far this season, Trevor Harris continued his Most Outstanding Player-caliber campaign, with another three touchdown passes. Leading the league in completion percentage, touchdown throws and passer rating, the 29-year old must surely be a contender for the end of season award.

However, for all the success Harris and the Argonauts are having, there is still room for improvement. (Isn’t there always?) If they are going to make any noise come playoff time, they are going to need a more productive running game.

Sure, the CFL is a passing league, but you need some semblance of a threat on the ground. With an average of just 72.9 yards per game, the Double Blue currently have the second-worst rushing attack in the league.

The struggles of the running game were highlighted against the Redblacks. The Argos finished with just 44 yards, for a paltry average of 2.75 yards per carry.

Jun 26, 2014; Montreal Alouettes running back Brandon Whitaker poses for a photo. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The question is, does the team have any hope of improving the ground attack? In theory, the answer is yes.

For a start, despite all the struggles, the Argonauts have Brandon Whitaker, who has been a breath of fresh air, since being signed as a free agent just two months ago. Whitaker leads the team in rushing, with an impressive 6.0 average per carry, and currently sits sixth in the CFL as a whole.

The Edmond, Oklahoma native puts his individual success down to the offense installed by head coach Scott Milanovich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady (Whitaker is also fifth on the team in receptions and receiving yards.) All three previously worked together in Montreal.

Whitaker couldn’t wait to rejoin his two coaches, as he discussed with Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: “I’ve been waiting to get back in this scheme. It just makes sense to me and I trust it. I’ve had past success in it.

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“I didn’t really miss a beat because it’s always been in the back of my head. It’s just an offence that I know so well. Getting back into this was nothing for me.”

Of course, the 29-year old can’t do it all on his own. He was as happy as anyone to see Chad Kackert return to the field a couple of weeks ago.

Whitaker spoke to Ganter about the return of the kack-attack: “I’m just excited to be on the same field with him. Years ago it was Kack over here and me in Montreal.

‘I would be watching him: ‘What’s he doing this week?’ ”

The results have been mixed for Kackert so far, regressing against the Redblacks, after a fine first outing the week before. However, this is hardly surprising, given he last played back in 2013.

Whitaker has no concerns about his teammate: “Once he gets going, he will run away from anybody. We definitely complement each other very well.”

Another factor that will help boost the Argonauts running attack, is the impending return of Curtis Steele. The bruising runner, who led the team in rushing last season, has yet to play this year.

Overall, Milanovich is confident about the direction the running game is headed. However, as he told Ganter, he is also exercising the necessary caution.

Milanovich said: “As of today, I feel good about it, but a couple of weeks ago, I felt good about our Canadians and then we were down to pulling them off the street, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Next: Ricky Ray still not ready to return