Toronto Argonauts look to solve the tough West Division

TORONTO, ON - JULY 12: Ricky Ray
TORONTO, ON - JULY 12: Ricky Ray /

After a dominating performance against the Montreal Alouettes, the Toronto Argonauts get a chance to build on that against a tougher opponent in the Calgary Stampeders.

Any question about the condition of Ricky Ray’s shoulder were emphatically answered in the Toronto Argonauts dominant win against the Montreal Alouettes.

It was something to behold as the 37-year old completed 35/43 passes for 377 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. That performance put him atop of the Argos all-time list for touchdown passes with 100 and the only quarterback to do so with two different teams (210 TD passes with the Edmonton Eskimos). Ray did not throw any passes for more than 30+ yards but he did not have to. The offence was efficient and part of the reason was the lack of penalties.

“They did a great job,’’ said Ray about his offensive line after the game. “I felt like I had time to get through my reads and get [the football] out. We ran the ball very well, we had some run.pass options that were working well for us. The coaches did a great job preparing us and the guys up front played well.”

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In the last two games Brandon Whitaker has posted double-digit carries and that increased usage has led to more production. In their Week 8 loss to the Alouettes, Whitaker rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries adding another 24 yards on four receptions. In Week 9, the 31-year old had 18 carries for 89 yards and another two catches for 30 yards.

Another factor in the victory was receiver SJ Green who turned in another dominant performance with 145 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns. It was his third game with 100+ receiving yards and his first multi-touchdown game of the season. It is clear that the 32-year old is not feeling any effects from the knee injury that saw him miss all but two games of the 2016 season.

Now it is time to see if the Argos can get over the hump against the West Division. All four of the teams victories have come against the East Division losing each of their games against the West. Saturday they will look to get some revenge against the Calgary Stampeders who dealt a big blow to the Argos in their last meeting when Ray was injured.

Calgary is dealing with some injuries on offence but their defence is one of the best in the league. The Argos defence is still banged up and got some bad news when Akwasi Owusu-Ansah left the game with a knee injury but his status for Saturday is up in the air. Cleyon Laing and Victor Butler are in the same boat with knee injuries along with Jermaine Gabriel who has been dealing with a shoulder injury.

Despite the injuries, Toronto still leads the league in sacks with 30, forced fumbles with nine and fifth in points allowed with 231. The Stamps have allowed 162 points on defence, second interceptions with 10, and third in sacks with 20.

While the defence will be an important factor, the Argos will have to rely on their offence and special teams to try and build on a dominant effort. The Argos offence ranks third in possession time which has helped the defence. Calgary won the possession battle when they beat the Argos but not significantly, where they had the advantage was their efficiency in the passing game. The Stampeders completed 80.8% of their passes while the Argos only completed 56.8% of theirs but part of that was the injury to Ray.

What it might come down to is the Argos ability to contain Roy Finch who had seven punt returns for 164 yards including a 103-yard touchdown as well as two kickoff returns for 79 yards. They did a much better job shutting down Logan Stefan who averaged 12.5 yards on six kickoff returns. If the Argos can get Martese Jackson going in the offence and special teams especially with Anthony Coombs out with a shoulder injury, it will give the Argos a chance.

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A win against Calgary could be all the Argos need to separate themselves in a struggling East Division especially with a game against the Labour Day Classic against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who are still without a win.