Training camp for the Toronto Argonauts — which begins Wednesday afternoon at Huron Park in Mississauga when rookies and quarterbacks hit the field and gears up in earnest on Sunday when the veterans step on to the gridiron — in 2010 has more questions than can fit in this newspaper.
But we’ve whittled it down to the 10 that follow.
Camp won’t be long, as Argonauts head coach Jim Barker and his staff will have a mere two pre-season games (at home against Hamilton on June 13 and in Montreal against the Alouettes on June 19) to come up with a 46-man roster for the regular-season opener on July 1 in
There will be plenty of difficult decisions for Barker and his gang, not the least of which who will be the next No. 1 quarterback.
Barker has said that he will wipe the slate clean, so no returning player should expect to be handed a job.
And really, with seven wins in two years, no Argos veteran who counts sanity among his attributes would think that he is owed something.
Who will be the Argonauts’ QB when the season begins on Canada Day in Calgary?
As much as we would like to emphasize every question on this list, everything else after this is just details. We know for sure it won’t be Kerry Joseph (amen to that), but right now, that’s about it. The No. 1 guy will have to have the kind of personality to lead a team, and won’t be bothered if the season starts slowly. In other words, a lack of mental toughness won’t help. We figure that one of Gibran Hamdan or Cleo Lemon will be taking the first snap against the Stampeders, with Ken Dorsey a possibility. Dalton Bell seems right for a backup role, while Danny Brannagan might not want to go apartment hunting yet.
Who catches the football?
Jeremaine Copeland brought credibility in a flash when he was acquired a few months ago from Calgary, and the brass is hoping that fellow imports Jason Carter and Chad Lucas, both mid-season additions last year, will benefit from participating in training camp. The Argos’ Canadian content at receiver is not deep. The team will miss Andre Talbot, who was injured for most of last season and was traded to Edmonton during the winter. One or more of non-imports Matt Lambros, Mike Bradwell, Chad Rempel and Obed Cetoute might want to think about grabbing the bull’s horns in camp. Whoever the quarterback is, he and Copeland must become fast friends.
Who will emerge out of the backfield to take the spot of Jamal Robertson?
Robertson, one of seven CFL backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2009, took his football and went to the B.C. Lions as a free agent. The Argos did not make a lateral move at the position, but Jim Barker and Co. are high on Mississauga native Andre Durie. Whether Durie is capable of producing regularly in prime time will become known in the next few weeks. Amos Allen might get a shot, but the 5-foot-8, 185-pound import did not get that opportunity under Bart Andrus a year ago. Jeff Johnson and Bryan Crawford are durable in a pinch, while rookies Cory Boyd and DeCori Birmingham will get a look.
Who replaces Justin Medlock?
Medlock kicked and punted last year when Eddie Johnson got hurt in the season curtain-raiser, and had such a good overall performance that he signed with the Washington Redskins. Jamie Boreham was surprised when the Saskatchewan Roughriders traded him to Toronto, but unless he gets hurt, he should figure on being the punter. Import Robbie Dehaze and non-import Grant Shaw, who was an all-star defensive back in university, will compete for the kicker’s job.
Who replaces Zeke Moreno?
Moreno was tagged as a guy who did not have speed to burn, but all the linebacker did in three CFL seasons was either lead the league in defensive tackles (2008 and 2007) or finish second in the category (2009). Kevin Eiben and Willie Pile are solid, but the Argos need a third linebacker. It could be Dwaine Carpenter, another of Barker’s former player in Calgary, and Jason Pottinger might get a look after several years on special teams. No matter, Moreno, released in the off-season, will not be replaced easily. There was a sting when linebacker Cory Greenwood, selected third overall, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
What is the immediate future of Joe Eppele?
No one on the Argos’ offensive line — Rob Murphy, Taylor Robertson, Dominic Picard, Brian Ramsay or Jeff Keeping — spent the winter bragging to friends about having a great season in 2009. Eppele, the Argos’ first pick, second overall, likely will be groomed on special teams, and will have an excellent teacher in new special teams co-ordinator Mike O’Shea. But with the offensive line’s struggles a year ago, Eppele might be playing on the line sooner than expected. At 6-foot-7, 309 pounds, Eppele will be a hard guy to miss. And keep an eye on free-agent signee Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, who comes down the QEW from Hamilton.
Who returns the football?
The Argos were a mess in this special-teams department, and will miss Dominique Dorsey (even though Dorsey was not around much in 2009), who signed with Saskatchewan. The Argos depended on Will Poole, a defensive back who wound up with Hamilton in the off-season, to return punts. Durie should pick up where he left off when it comes to kickoff returns. Allen might be given an opportunity to show he can field the ball on a consistent basis.
What about the intangibles?
It’s tough to imagine the Argos, with so many new faces on the roster and at integral positions, will become a well-oiled machine in time to take on the Stamps in less than a month. There have been leadership holes since O’Shea, Jude St. John and Chad Folk retired in February 2009, but adding O’Shea and Orlondo Steinauer to the coaching staff should prove to be wise decisions by Barker. Still, it’s going to take time for this team to gel, and the hope has to be that by the time it finds its stride, a playoff spot will remain a realistic goal. One bonus is that among those returning, there aren’t any true malcontents.
How many games will the Argos win, and will they be on the right side of the scoreboard enough to make the playoffs?
Barker is banking on the idea he can get the club turned around quick enough to get into the post-season for the first time since 2007. With just three wins in 2009, it would seem to be almost impossible for this team to sink that low again. Even if everything comes together nicely, expecting more than nine victories might be a bit much. Achieving a .500 record probably would take the Argos past the regular season.
And finally, what about Barker himself as head coach?
Yes, the 53-year-old brings plenty of experience to the sideline, and yes, he has had success as a personnel man with Calgary. But he has a mere two seasons as an actual head coach in the CFL, going 9-9 with the Argos in 1999 and 5-13 with the Stamps in 2003. It’s been seven years since he has had to make a tough in-game decision. There will be some rust to shake off, and the quicker Barker does it, the better off the Argos will be. The idea remains that coaching is a one-season return for Barker, who would become the general manager in 2011 and hire his own head coach.