Of all the people who helped Argos defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin during his path as a player and later as a coach, one of the most impactful was Chris Jones, head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Boatmen’s opponent in Sunday’s East Division semifinal at BMO Field.
As Chamblin recounted following the Argos’ walkthrough on Tuesday, it was in the mid-1990s while he attended Tennessee Tech whre Jones worked as a graduate assistant along the defensive line of scrimmage under Mike Smith.
“That was the first time when I really talked to him,’’ began Chamblin of Jones. “The biggest thing I always say about Chris is that coming from a small school, I don’t think we ever had anyone who went to the pros in a number of years. But after the Middle Tennessee State game, Chris is like: ‘If you get your head right and do what you need to do, you’ve got a shot to go to the pros.’
“He’s actually one of the first people who help set that path. Chris and I have had a long working relationship since about that time in 1998, ’99.”
A little-known fact about Chamblin is that he intercepted Dan Marino while playing in the defensive secondary for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who ate up the Dolphins in the legendary QB’s final game, a playoff game no less.
The Chamblin-Jones connection is one of many football ties surrounding this Sunday’s East final. The last time RiderNation celebrated a Grey Cup championship was in 2013, the year Regina played host to the title game and Chamblin served as head coach.
The last time the Argos played host to an East final was in 2013, when Jones served as Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator before he moved on to Edmonton as its head coach.
Toronto’s backup quarterback in 2012, the year the Argos last won a Grey Cup, was Jarious Jackson, Saskatchewan’s current QBs coach. During Toronto’s win over Calgary in the 100th Grey Cup, Jackson threw a touchdown pass to Andre Durie.
Calgary’s starting QB that evening was Kevin Glenn, who is looking to win his first title.
Chamblin’s first CFL job was in Winnipeg, a position Jones helped secure.
As a defensive back with the Stamps, it was Jones who helped Chamblin grow.
“I’ve been around a couple of defensive co-ordinators in the NFL and CFL, but there are definitely some things I’ve taken away from Chris,’’ said Chamblin. “Chris has an aggressive mindset. I remember the first thing about Chris and what was pretty funny was he used to run cover zero a lot (no safety over the middle). I was like: ‘Chris, you’re going to give them (opponents) touchdowns in cover zero.’ And he’s like: ‘Do we give up any in cover three?’ I said yeah and he says: ‘What’s the difference?’
“It’s one of those things where you’re going to get beat, whether it’s man, zone or whatever. You just have to get your guys prepared and ready to play football.”
Jones is a risk/reward kind of coach, unafraid to push the envelope, unafraid to lose, attack first rather than allow an opponent to impose its will.
Chamblin is equally attack-happy, moving players all over the field and dropping into coverage when necessary.
Jones loves those tall, athletic players, especially along the line of scrimmage given his penchant for dropping linemen into coverage.
It’s rare to see an Argos down lineman drop into coverage.
Chamblin describes an attacking defence as a mindset.
“You can work under anyone, but if you’re not an aggressive person, you are not going to attack,’’ said Chamblin. “That’s just part of my mindset. Chris and I have that. We were a match in Calgary because we think a lot alike. He’s more of a cowboy now being on the other side, but at the same time I’m more of a secondary guy. I enjoy getting after the quarterback as much as he does.
“And you can tell by looking at the front. In fact, I probably spend more time with the front than I do with the secondary just so that I can get after the quarterback.”
When healthy, and the Argos are healthy heading into Sunday’s big game, the front four was the strength of the defence, bookend rush ends in Shawn Lemon and Victor Butler, stout inside linemen in Cleyon Laing and Dylan Wynn, who has been a revelation since the moment he filled in for an injured Ken Bishop, who is no slouch himself.
Butler, Laing and Wynn were each voted to the Eastern all-star team.
GLENN HAS TO BE CONTAINED
The story of Kevin Glenn and his underdog tag is as old as the quarterback himself, a self-effacing pro who is the epitome of low maintenance.
Each time people think he’s down for the count, Glenn shows his resiliency by bouncing right back.
He’s played in divisional finals, won in the big moment to help his team advance to the Grey Cup, but Glenn has never led a team to a title, a chance he’ll have if the Riders take care of business this Sunday in the East final against the host Argos.
The person chiefly responsible for keeping Glenn and Saskatchewan’s offence from finding a rhythm is Argos defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin.
Chamblin, 40, is just two years older than Glenn. The two were together with the Blue Bombers and later in Hamilton.
“We experienced a Grey Cup in Winnipeg, an Eastern final in Hamilton,’’ said Chamblin, both times being on the losing end, including the title setback that featured an injured Glenn being on the sideline as Saskatchewan prevailed in 2007. “We were together in Saskatchewan (in 2015) and here we are facing each other.”
Friends turned foes, Chamblin knows Glenn can light it up if given time in the pocket. He was lights out when Toronto visited Regina in late July, but was pulled in the return game at BMO Field when he couldn’t get into a groove.
Defensively, the Argos under Chamblin have improved and have never been as healthy heading into Sunday.
“I’m real proud of the progression they’ve made this season,’’ said Chamblin. “After (Tuesday’s) walkthrough, you can see how this is a focused bunch. They understand how this is a championship opportunity and it’ll be fun for them.
“We’ve had some ups and downs during the year and I think we’ve learned from them. I think it’s going to be a great test against a great football team.”
RAY LOOKING TO MAKE MOST OF RARE MOMENT
Moments such as this one presented to the Argonauts don’t arrive often.
In the ever-changing world that is the CFL, there is no constant — teams changing from year to year, in some cases teams undergoing dramatic, wholesale change from top to bottom — so the opportunity to play for a Grey Cup should be relished and then seized.
The Argos haven’t been in this spot since 2013, the most recent time it played host to an East final.
Matchup-wise, the Argos would have been better off had Ottawa won Sunday’s East semifinal and not Saskatchewan. But from a box-office point of view, it’s the ideal draw, much like Hamilton was the ideal opponent in 2013, a week after the Ticats won a wild semifinal played at Guelph. Hamilton’s opponent on that crazy-weather afternoon was Montreal, a team the Argos matched up well against, but had no drawing power.
This year’s backdrop is similar, only this year’s East final will be played outdoors at BMO Field and not the Rogers Centre.
Ricky Ray was the team’s starting quarterback in 2013, and the year previous when he led the Argos to their Grey Cup.
He is 38 and a pending free agent, fully aware of this moment and the potential that awaits if the Argos play solid, clean football.
“For guys like myself and the veterans on our team, we know these moments don’t come along very often,’’ said Ray, a class act and a future Hall of Famer. “When you’re young, I know for myself when you come into the league, you’re doing that stuff (playing in big games, winning titles), but you really don’t know what the feeling is when you’re not been there for a while. Just understanding that, you have to take advantage of this moment.
“You want to enjoy it as much as you can, but still have the mindset that you don’t want to let this one get away.”
The Argos are coming off a bye week, their second in three weeks, will be at home and a favourable turnout is expected, despite the fact the annual Santa Claus parade, a Raptors tip and a Marlies game are also options in the crowded Toronto market, once again underlying how no date is ideal for the Argos.
Still, this is a big chance for the Argos, and the CFL for that matter, to draw fans to the game or draw them as viewers.
One has to go back to the first Argos home game at BMO Field, the season opener in 2016, to find a crowd that approached capacity, a visit by Hamilton.
The norm at BMO has been in the range of 15,000, but Sunday’s total should approach 20,000, if not more.
Being at home will help the Argos, who went 6-3 at BMO this season, the three losses coming against B.C., Calgary and Saskatchewan.
“You’re in your stadium, you have your fans, there’s definitely that edge,’’ said Ray. “But they’ve (Riders) been able to come here and play well over the last couple of years (winning both times at BMO).
“We know we’re playing a very good team. They’re on a roll. We have to come out and play our best game.”
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies