Argos special teams live on the edge
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
|Argos wide receiver Todd Lowber misses a pass during workouts at Erindale on Monday. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - The Argos special teams were for the most part extra special last season when the club needed them most.
Count on special teams coach Mike O’Shea to remember that blocked punt in the Labour Day game that was returned for a Ticats touchdown and turned the game in Hamilton’s favour. But for the most part special teams provided the Argos with much more than it cost them.
A large part of it was the trust that developed between O’Shea and his special teams captains and veterans. When the old hands saw an opportunity, they were given the freedom to exploit it.
A year further in the team’s development the tendency might be to become a little more conservative in their special teams approach, but neither O’Shea nor head coach and GM Jim Barker have any plan to do that.
“The idea is to trust your players just like you would on offence and defence,” O’Shea said Monday. “You give them something to do that they believe in and think they can get done, then they’re going to get it done out there for you.
“We have the same idea as we did last year,” O’Shea continued. “We are gonna win us games, not lose us games. We’re going to put our offence in position to have a shorter field and have our defences’ back.”
Barker has no intention of backing away from the creative ways the special teams unit used last year to help the team cause.
“I think empowering the players is what is critical,” Barker said. “If you all of a sudden think you are a better team so you don’t need that edge of having that, you are taking a step backwards and we will never take a step backwards.
“We look at special teams as plays for us. We live on the edge. We are not afraid to take chances and run different types of plays. We will always not be afraid to do that. I even look at it the other way. The better team we have, the more risk you can absorb. If you feel like your team is good, you can overcome whatever happens.”
O’Shea says the importance of special teams for the Argonauts starts at the very top with Barker.
“I think the Argos and coach Barker prioritize special teams moreso than other teams given the amount of practice time and meeting time I get,” O’Shea said.
He also feels particularly fortunate this year in terms of the time he’ll have to pick and choose those that can help him most on special teams.
“What’s night and day is the actual time the new players have to crack the squad,” O’Shea said. “Last year we had our first exhibition game in the first seven days so I had to narrow the special teams down, whereas this year we will get in both exhibition games before we have to narrow down the roster. Other guys will get a lot longer look which is rare.”
All of which suggests the Argos will get more creative, not less, in their special teams approach this year.