The Toronto ArgonautsToronto Argonauts enter week seven of the Canadian Football League season with a key home game on tap Thursday against the Calgary Stampeders. With a 3-3 record, the Argos sit first in the East Division, but the powerful Stampeders will put that ranking to the test (Toronto is 0-3 against West Division opponents in 2017). Here are five reasons why the Argos are optimistic after six games:
Ricky Ray and S.J. Green
They’re arguably the most dangerous pass-and-catch duo in the CFL. Ray leads the league in passing yardage (2,282) and is on a streak of six games with 300 or more, the longest in his career. With 16,619 career yards as an Argo, he also holds the franchise record, passing Condredge Holloway in Saturday’s road loss to the Roughriders. Ray is on pace for 6,800 yards, which would break the CFL single-season record. Green has been his most dangerous target and ranks second in the CFL with 37 receptions for 586 yards. The Argos, though, have only one rushing TD this season, something that will have to improve to take some of the burden off Ray and Green.
The Argos’ defence, led by a veteran front seven, is among the best in the league. They rank first in sacks (19) and fumble recoveries, and third in turnovers, although they’ll be without defensive linemen Victor Butler and defensive lineman Cleyon Laing for six weeks with knee injuries suffered against the Redblacks a week ago. There is a great leadership group with Bear Woods, Shawn Lemon and Marcus Ball leading the way. Defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin, the 2013 coach of the year and two-time Grey Cup winner, was a key addition to the staff in the off-season after the club’s poor defensive showing in 2016.
Some of that improvement on defence can be credited to the secondary, despite slipping in some statistical categories of late. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is having, by all accounts, a solid season at cornerback. And yet, the Argos lost in Regina on Saturday in part because of incredible catches by Saskatchewan’s Duron Carter, Owusu-Ansah’s man. That’s life in the CFL. Green has done the same to several opposing cornerbacks this season.
The Argos, thanks to Lirim Hajrullahu, lead the CFL with 21 field goals and that’s been a huge factor in the team’s success. The 27-year-old kicker has gone 21 for 26, an 80.8 per cent clip. That’s not the best in the CFL, but he has been clutch — including a game winner against Ottawa. The St. Catharines native and Western University grad is also on pace to surpass his career high of 40 field goals (on 46 tries), set in 2014 season with Winnipeg.
The receiving corps is deep. Armanti Edwards ranks seventh in the league with 31 catches and 438 yards, while Anthony Coombs is right behind with 37 and 350. Coombs, a standout the past two games, may be the one to watch moving forward. The 24-year-old Winnipeg native is just 20 catches shy of his career high, set in 2015, and closing in on his personal best in yardage — 486, that same year.