GAME DAY: Argonauts at Roughriders

Toronto Argonauts vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders

Friday, 9 p.m., Mosaic Stadium, TSN

FIVE TO WATCH

QB or not to be

As is his nature, Chris Jones was playing coy with the local media whenever the topic of his starting quarterback was broached, a ploy all coaches tend to adopt when it serves no purpose to provide any advanced knowledge for the opposition. In Zach Collaros, Jones has a playmaking quarterback whose career began in Toronto as the fourth-stringer under incumbent Ricky Ray. Marc Trestman values experience and there’s no more experienced arm in the pass-happy CFL than Ray, who is likely playing his final season-opening game in his hall of fame career.

Sack of trouble

No question the key for the Argos is to keep Ray upright or this game can easily go sideways for the Argos. Jones will bring the heat and he’ll also do everything and anything with his looks, disguises and packages. Charleston Hughes begins his career in Green and White, a veteran who has tormented Ray in the past. On the other side at rush end is Willie Jefferson, an elite defender whose athleticism is peerless. Whether it’s quick throws, establishing a run game, the Argos need to take pressure off the O-line or trouble looms.

First kick at the can

Ronnie Pfeffer’s first kick in the CFL came in Regina at old Mosaic when he acted like he had just won a Grey Cup on his first field-goal attempt. Pfeffer is much more in control of his emotions as he begins the season as the Argos’ incumbent kicker/punter for the first time in his young career. When drives stall, Pfeffer must deliver, when directional punts are required, he must execute. He has the leg strength and all eyes will be on Pfeffer.

Tyms bits

Argos lost a major offensive weapon in DeVier Posey, who parlayed his Grey Cup MVP into a contract with the NFL’s Ravens. In his absence, the Argos had a competition at the boundary wide out, a battle Brian Tyms would earn.

Tyms joined the Argos’ practice roster last season following his release by the Ticats, a physical receiver who will be asked to make plays. He knows the system and has developed that trust factor receivers must have with their quarterbacks.

Rebel yell

Two major changes on defence for the Argos features an old face in T.J. Heath and Ronnie Yell, two accomplished DBs who will line up at halfback and cornerback, respectively. Heath was traded to Winnipeg by the Argos in a deal that, in retrospect, didn’t cost Toronto anything. He’s back with ball skills, quick feet and a playmaking ability that will serve him well in his second tour of duty. Yell came to Toronto from B.C. in free agency, a veteran of battling against Western opponents, which is big given how the Argos begin their season with six straight matchups with the West.

KEY MATCHUPS

Argos DB Alden Darby vs. Riders WR Duron Carter

Carter made some spectacular receptions last season when the Argos paid a visit, the kind of catches that provided highlight material. There’s no question Carter is the CFL’s most versatile player and a true playmaker whenever the ball is in his hands. Darby is good and he’ll have his hands full trying to contain Carter, especially in the red zone. Darby is coming off a knee injury that kept him from playing when the Argos made their run to the Grey Cup.

Marc Trestman vs. Chris Jones

A coaching duel pitting two great football minds, an offensive coach in Trestman, a defensive coach in Jones. Whether it’s two great quarterbacks or running backs, no player who lines up on the same side of scrimmage gets fixated on an individual matchup and it applies in coaching. Jones and Trestman battled wits last fall in the Eastern final, a game Toronto won when Trestman dialed up a wheel route to James Wilder Jr. on a critical third down conversion that would lead to the game-winning TD.

INSIDE THE GAME

Dynamic running back/receiver Marcus Thigpen officially begins his two-game suspension, a penalty the CFL imposed when Thigpen tested positive for a banned substance. Thigpen, who broke into the CFL with Hamilton, returned to three-down football late last season following his time in the NFL that included stops in Buffalo and Miami. By all accounts, Thigpen emerged as the best running back at camp. The good news is that Jerome Messam, the beast from Brampton, is back in Regina after he left Calgary in free agency. An area of concern heading into a new season is the state of the Riders’ offensive line, which completely broke down in a pre-season game with Collaros getting rocked. Incumbent kicker Tyler Crapigna is out for the season following surgery on his kicking leg, a vacancy Brett Lauther hopes to fill. Lauther was taken 53rd in the 2013 draft by Hamilton, but he hasn’t attempted a field goal in a regular-season game since his rookie season when he converted six of 10. Crapigna made every PAT and 85% of his field goals. The next sack for Hughes will be his 100th. It was Hughes’ blind-side hit on Ray that sidelined Ray with a shoulder injury a few years ago when Toronto played host to Calgary. Ray needs 10 TD passes from usurping Ron Lancaster (333) for fourth all-time. He also needs just 52 completions to reach 5,000 for his career and is 3,210 yards away from matching Henry Burris (63,639) for third all-time.

ZIC’S TAKE

There’s consistency on Toronto’s roster, especially on offence, uncertainty on the Riders’ offensive line, but like anything this game will come down to turnovers and which team protects the football. The Argos decided to keep their starters out of the pre-season and rust might be a factor. If Argos get off to a good start, they should find a way to prevail. Their chances are even greater if Ray is protected.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies

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