Stop Boyd, stop the Argonauts

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

HAMILTON — Garrett McIntyre got to the heart of the matter in a matter of seconds when reminded of the ineffectiveness of Cory Boyd during the regular season.

It’s no coincidence that the Ticats, who will play host to the Argos in Sunday’s Eastern semifinal, won all three meetings during the regular season by limiting Boyd, the CFL’s second-leading rusher who accumulated more yards from scrimmage than any player this past season.

At times, the Argos rendered Boyd useless by failing to incorporate one of their few bona-fide playmakers, especially in the fourth quarter.

On other occasions, the Ticats were so stout in defending the run on first down that the Argos were placed in a predictable passing situation on second down.

Whether the Argos plan to use Boyd more as a receiving threat in the flat or downfield, go with more screens or simply hand him the pigskin out of the backfield with greater frequency, only Sunday’s visitors to the Hammer truly know.

Given the nature of one-game showdowns, no team is about to tip its hand, but McIntyre understands the key to stopping the Argos.

“Cory Boyd is the heart of that offence,’’ McIntyre said following Friday’s practice at Ivor Wynne Stadium. “The goal is to stop Boyd.

“If you stop him, it makes things easier on us.”

In three games against the Argos, the Ticats didn’t allow Boyd to rush for more than 81 yards in any game. His longest run was 17 yards.

Boyd represents the Argos’ best chance of an upset, a dual threat out of the backfield who can wear down an opposing defence if he gets enough touches.

Given the Argos’ inability to make plays through the air, it’s almost incumbent on them to get the ball in Boyd’s hands as often as possible, whether it’s on first down or second, whether the down and distance dictates a pass.

Given what’s at stake on Sunday, the Ticats are taking nothing for granted.

Any notion of the Argos being a one-trick pony is quickly dismissed, that by stopping Boyd will neutralize Toronto’s offence.

“It’s never that simple,’’ McIntyre conceded. “The Argos are a good team and they have weapons.

“I will say it’s easier to contain them when (Boyd) doesn’t become an option. When he is an option, that doesn’t mean they’re going to win the game, but it does allow them to do more things.”

The most obvious is play-action, which can only be achieved by running the ball effectively with Boyd as the featured back.

Cleo Lemon hasn’t really established himself as a running quarterback, but his athleticism always poses a threat, a dimension not lost on the Ticats.

“He can make plays with his feet,’’ McIntyre said of Lemon. “We have to make him a pocket passer, force him to make completions on second and long.

“He’s gotten better at not turning the ball over and he’s great at checking the ball.”

Whether it’s Boyd or Lemon making a play, nothing can be gained unless the Argos’ offensive line wins the battle in the trenches.

McIntyre often goes overlooked on a Ticat defence that features Stevie Baggs, Otis Floyd, Markeith Knowltown and Jamall Johnson, but he did lead the team with eight quarterback sacks, one half of his total produced against the Argos in three games.

There aren’t many front sevens better than the Ticats’ and not many teams have the luxury of rotating defensive ends who bring different looks when they hit the field.

11 sacks

In the three games played against the Argos, the Ticats accounted for 11 sacks.

“We’re a physical front and I’d put us with any unit in the league,’’ McIntyre added. “We match up well.

“Our rotation works out well because we’re able to throw teams off. We’re all a menace out there. We keep fresh and we have different styles, be it power or finesse.

“One of the things we do best is we keep teams on their toes.”

Which is fitting given the key on Sunday is to neutralize Boyd’s feet.


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