Argo offence overhauled

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Considering Rich Stubler is a man who likes his ducks in a row, it's not surprising there were few true openings when the Argos opened training camp more than three weeks ago.

Keeping with that theme, Stubler didn't throw around jobs like candy and, as a result, the 2008 Argos will resemble closely the club that went to the Eastern final last fall, but lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Well, at least on the defensive side of the ball.

"We do have some changes, but you never want to massively change anything," Stubler said. "If we play

good defence and good on special teams, I expect good offence and expect to score. We brought in weapons to score with and I would be really disappointed if we finished last in any (offensive) category."

On defence, the Argos produced six league all-stars and virtually ran the table statistically in the major categories, limiting opposing offences to 306 total yards a game, the lowest in the league.

All-star cornerback Jordan Younger was traded to Edmonton, but the group remains a formidable one with Orlondo Steinauer, Jonathan Brown, Kevin Eiben, Byron Parker and Kenny Wheaton returning.

The offence, meanwhile, was the polar opposite last season in many ways. The Argos were last in average yards per game with 305.9 , so improvements were certainly in the forecast.

The CFL's most outstanding player, Kerry Joseph, will take snaps from the line of scrimmage and receivers Bethel Johnson and David Boston are the weapons Stubler mentioned. The Argos, in the hunt for their first Grey Cup since 2004, also should benefit from having a full year with offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto under their belts.

"It's like being a gunslinger but doing it with a little bit of intelligence rather then just going out there and doing it," Stubler said. "Time will tell, but I think we have the makings of a great offence."

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OFFENCE

QUARTERBACK

Stubler has said he will not reveal his starter until later this week, but Kerry Joseph has to be the guy. That said, Michael Bishop won't collect much rust and give the Argos the best 1-2 QB punch in the CFL. Cody Pickett, signed last September, resumes his third-string role.

RECEIVERS

Incumbents Arland Bruce, Andre Talbot and Obed Cetoute will have pivotal roles, but newcomers Bethel Johnson and David Boston, both with NFL success on their resumes, should bring the Argos up from the bottom of the offensive pack in the league. T.J. Acree, Nathan Hoffart, Tyler Scott, James Robinson and Steve Schmidt also will see action.

RUNNING BACKS

Speedy Dominique Dorsey, who can deke past the biggest defensive backs, has done it all on special teams and now gets the spotlight along with the compact Jamal Robertson as the main cogs on the ground. Jeff Johnson, and to a lesser extent, Bryan Crawford will get some touches as well.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Guards Taylor Robertson and Jude St. John are the familiar faces, along with centre Chad Folk. Brian Ramsay won the job at right tackle and Jerome Davis takes over as the full-time starter on the left side. Mark Dewit and Ross Weaver back up.

DEFENCE

DEFENSIVE LINE

Jonathan Brown will try to duplicate the play in 2007 that landed East Division outstanding defensive player honours at his feet. Riall Johnson and his 10 sacks last season, third in the CFL, is the other bookend. Backups are Ray Fontaine, Richard Seigler and Jean-Nicolas Carriere, who was the biggest surprise in camp after receiver Tyler Scott. At tackle, Adriano Belli -- 6-foot-5 and 289 pounds of East Division all-star -- anchors the interior.

LINEBACKERS

Starters Kevin Eiben, Mike O'Shea, Michael Fletcher and Willie Pile weren't going anywhere. Aaron Wagner and Adrian Mayes are in reserve.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Orlondo Steinauer and his seven interceptions, second in the CFL last season, firmly are in place at safety with Chris Hardy backing him up. Byron Parker returns as one conerback while former NFLer Willie Middlebrooks beat out Khalil Carter for the other. Wayne Shaw will come in as the reliever. Veterans Kenny Wheaton and Chuck Winters are secure in their jobs as the starting defensive backs with Kenny Heatley in reserve.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKER

Mike Vanderjagt, nearly 11 years after the fact, will boot his first football for Toronto Friday night since the 1997 Grey Cup.

RETURNERS

Bruce, Dorsey, Bethel Johnson and Parker are your men and all are potential game- breakers.


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