Toronto Argonauts: Can the defence make the team a contender?

Nov 29, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; The Grey Cup is carried on the field prior to the game between Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Redblacks. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; The Grey Cup is carried on the field prior to the game between Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Redblacks. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Toronto Argonauts want to be serious contenders in the East division, they will need a turnaround  from the defence which ranked last in many categories last season.

After a miserable season, the Toronto Argonauts defence got a much needed makeover this past offseason, now it is time to see if the changes will be enough to turn the Argos into contenders. The biggest change comes with a new voice in Corey Chamblin, as two-time Grey Cup Champion and the Coach of the Year in 2013.

Chamblin’s aggressive approach on the defensive side should make the Argos a more competitive unit. In preseason action, the defence showed their potential with a couple of turnovers and getting pressure on the quarterback. Whether they can sustain that during the regular season is another story but with Marc Trestman and Chamblin at the helm, it should not be a problem.

New Boys in Town

The roster turnover that the Argos had in the offseason was expected. Some of the players they were able to bring in was impressive given the late start GM Jim Popp had to free agency.

Rico Murray, Johnny Sears Jr., Cassius Vaughn, Robert Woodson, Victor Butler, Jeffrey Finley, Cleyon Laing, Alan-Michael  Cash, and Nakas Onyeka highlight the additions on the defence.

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The real story from training camp was not the players brought in prior to training camp, but two major signings during training camp that had Toronto buzzing. It started with Marcus Ball who is making his return up north after a brief stint in the NFL. Then on the eve of their first preseason game, the Argos brought in the reigning East Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bear Woods.

It is not everyday that one of the top defensive players in the league comes knocking on your door. Once the news came out that the 30-year old was released from the Montreal Alouettes, Popp did not waste much time reaching out to Florida native. He will bring stability to the middle of the field especially against the run which is where the Argos struggled with a lot last season. He along with Ball and Marshall McFadden will be a tough unit to crack moving forward.

What to expect

If the Argos defence wants to be succcesful in 2017, it will come down to two components, the play of their All-Stars and the secondary. Shawn Lemon, Woods, Laing and Ball need to play at their best if the Argos want to compete with an improving East division. Lemon is one of the premier pass rushers in the CFL, Woods and Ball are tackling machines and Laing brings much needed experience and leadership.

In the secondary, Sears Jr., Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Jermaine Gabriel, Matt Black. Woodson, and Vaugn will have their hands full. In the East, they will have to deal with Trevor Harris, Zach Collaros, and Darian Durant which is no easy task. Collaros looks to be healthy to start the season and if he is back to form then the Argos will have their hands full with an explosive offence in Hamilton. Despite Durant’s injury history and Montreal’s offensive struggles, the Double Blue cannot underestimate anyone especially Durant who has won a Grey Cup in the past.

Harris could give the Argos their biggest challenge, especially after he tore apart their defence last season. The Ottawa Redblacks have no shortage of weapons led by receiver Brad Sinopoli, and Greg Ellingson. In 2016, Harris threw for a combined 666 yards and is ready to move forward as a starting QB with no veteran to try and steal the job from him.

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If the Argos defence wants to be successful they will be judged by how much pressure they get on the QB and whether they can avoid breakdowns in the secondary.