TORONTO - No knock against Anthony Calvillo, Montreal’s pin-point pivot, but the only way to neutralize the sure-fire hall of famer is to knock him out.
Every hit, naturally, must be within the rules, every time he goes back to pass there has to be a willingness to have someone in his face disrupt any heave.
When they last played the Als, the Argos resorted to a bend-but-don’t-break defensive gameplan, a strategy that put a lot of emphasis on tackling.
Ricky Foley, who lines up at defensive end, was asked to drop back and provide coverage on underneath routes as the Argos wanted Montreal to beat them with check downs, which are often completed when downfield passes become scarce.
One of Toronto’s downfalls that evening in Montreal, besides the Argos’ penchant for turning over the ball, was its inability to wrap up quickly when short yards were gained.
When tackles weren’t executed, check-down throws led to chains being moved and the Argos’ defence staying on the field far too long.
In Thursday’s rematch at Rogers Centre, the Argos, unless they want to dare risk blitzing Calvillo which would put a heavy premium on man coverage in the secondary, the key is to wrap up and to be physical when underneath throws are made.
The way the Argos’ front four can dominate the line of scrimmage, the Argos may not have to resort to any exotic packages to confuse Calvillo or line up with schemes that has blitzing defenders coming from different angles, off the edge, from the secondary or up the middle.
“We need to do a better job of tackling,” said linebacker Ejiro Kuale. “That’s what hurt us the most in the first game. We missed too many tackles.”
The more you watch Kuale play and how relentless and physical he plays, it makes one wonder why this guy isn’t in the NFL.
Athletic and strong, he’s a machine who also plays on special teams.
It’s too bad Kuale got caught up in the league’s overreaction to protecting its quarterbacks when he got ejected from a game against Winnipeg two weeks ago in Toronto’s home opener when he unloaded on Buck Pierce.
He may have been a little late on the hit, but Kuale was merely making a football play.
If Calvillo exposes himself and if a shot presents itself, Kuale will be more than willing to deliver it.
And so he should, just like the Als should have no reservation in delivering a blow to Cleo Lemon if Lemon hasn’t learned to slide properly when running out of the pocket.
“With a quarterback like Anthony Calvillo,” added Kuale, “the only thing you can do is work on his weakness.
“One of the only weaknesses to his game, as far as I can see, is that he doesn’t like to get hit. Our job is to get to him, rattle him, so he doesn’t have that hall of fame persona on the field.”
It’s rare for the Als to lose any early-season game in the last decade; even rarer is for Montreal to enter any week having dropped two in a row.
When Montreal paid its first visit to Toronto last year, the Argos responded with one of their finest games of the season.
If a repeat is to unfold, it will have to begin with Toronto’s defence and the unit’s ability to get to Calvillo.
Jamel Richardson, whose hobbled quad prevented him from playing last month, is back in the Als lineup as is Kerry Watkins, who returned last week in Hamilton in his season debut.
Tackling and attacking Calvillo will be crucial for the Argos defence.
“Being physical at the point of attack,” Argos safety Willie Pile said. “We have to make a three-yard gain stand up as a three-yard gain and then get off the field and let Chad Owens do his thing.”
Pile was one of several Argos who fundamentally missed tackles in Montreal, the most glaring coming when Brandon Whitaker gained 43 yards on an end around.
“Got to get your head across,” Pile said of the proper mechanics behind a tackle. “You got to bring your feet. I didn’t do it on that specific play.”
The more two and outs the Argos can force, the more time the defence potentially will spend on the sideline.
In Montreal, the Als had possession for a whopping 39:38.
“I’m not going to say it didn’t bother us,” Kuale added. “But anytime you’re on the field long enough, it’s going to get to you.”