The Argonauts defense managed just one two-and-out in last week’s narrow season-opening win over the visiting Alouettes.
It played out on the opening drive of the night when Montreal was forced to punt the ball away after a short run and then a sack.
Whether it was a lack of familiarity with each other, their new defensive co-ordinator and system, or fatigue simply became a factor as the night wore on, Toronto’s defense could not finish.
The offense lacked finish as well and yet the Argos escaped with a 20-19 win when Montreal missed a short field goal late in the game.
The Boatmen probably won’t be as fortunate this week in Vancouver when the host BC Lions provide the opposition if the visitors repeat their lack of finish on both sides of the ball.
In the second half last week, Toronto’s defense couldn’t get off the field. Trailing 11-6, the Als began the third quarter with a 12-play drive that resulted in a field goal. Then came a drive that netted another three points followed by a possession that resulted in a touchdown.
On the Als’ final possession, they converted from their side of midfield on third and long to move the chains and set up the late-game dramatics.
Tackling, according to head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, was an issue for Toronto’s defense.
“Arm-tackling, leaving our feet, it wasn’t clean,” said Dinwiddie. “We had too many missed tackles. There were probably three or four plays where we had multiple missed tackles.”
Most of those, emphasized Dinwiddie, came in the second half.
“A lot had to do with fatigue,” he said. “First game and the team just struggled.”
The Argos went light for Wednesday’s practice, hoping to give some of the team’s walking wounded extra time to heal.
Besides cornerback Robertson Daniel — who started for the Argos against the Als, but suffered a torn hamstring and will be sidelined from six to eight weeks — Dinwiddie reported no other long-term injuries, though several players are being hampered by soft-tissue issues.
“We wanted to make sure guys get their legs underneath them,” said Dinwiddie. “We’ll have a good solid day (Thursday) before we take off.”
The Argos will charter to Vancouver in the hours following Thursday’s practice.
A handful of players were present, but did not practise, including tailback Andrew Harris.
“He’s a full go,” said Dinwiddie of Harris, who left the season opener in the second half with tightness in his left hamstring.
BC will put the ball in the hands of Nathan Rourke, who will be making his fourth career start while hoping to become the second Canadian quarterback to begin his career with a 3-1 record.
Rourke attended Holy Trinity in Oakville, the same school that produced Argos fullback/tight end Declan Cross.
At Ohio University, one of Rourke’s teammates was Argos running back AJ Ouellette.
The Argos haven’t faced a starting Canadian QB since Oct. 27, 1996, when, coincidentally, they played the Leos and the legendary Giulio Caravatta, the team’s current radio analyst.
Caravatta played his high school football at Scarlett Heights in Etobicoke on a team featuring Ontario premier Doug Ford and the late Rob Ford and coached by none other than good guy TSN personality Gino Reda.
There was some interest by the Argos when Rourke was eligible for the 2020 CFL draft after he went undrafted by the NFL.
When BC’s turn came in the second round (15th overall), the Argos had already picked Dejon Brissett (second overall), Theren Churchill (ninth overall) and Jack Cassar (11th overall).
None were on Toronto’s active roster last week.
“He makes plays with his feet,” said Dinwiddie, who played quarterback when discussing Rourke.
“He can throw it as well. He’s multi-dimensional. He’s a threat and we have to be ready for those quarterback runs and designed quarterback runs.
“When things break down, he can create off-script. And he can throw from the pocket. We have to make sure we confuse him early and make sure he’s second guessing his decision-making of him.
Defensively, Dinwiddie couldn’t glean much from BC’s blowout 59-15 win over the Elks.
It got ugly early and the Lions didn’t do anything in the way of presenting exotic looks on defence.
“Once they got that big lead, they probably had a bunch of calls they didn’t get to,” said Dinwiddie. “They weren’t going to show them. They were pretty standard on defense. We expect to see a lot more difficult fronts, pressure and some mixture in the back end.”
As expected, offensive lineman Dejon Allen was fined by the CFL for his part in last week’s altercation with Alouettes LB Tre Watson, who also was fined an undisclosed amount by the league. Montreal’s Mike Moore was fined for a high hit on Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Allen was replaced by Shane Richards following the ejection, but he’ll be back at right tackle this week. Allen started at left tackle last season, his first in the CFL… In his first CFL game, Tarvarus McFadden recorded an interception when he picked off Trevor Harris late in the first half that led to a field goal. McFadden kept the football as a souvenir. “It’s a nice memorabilia,” the cornerback said.