TORONTO - The puzzle is far from complete, the pieces either returning from injury or assets that may be used as trade bait, but a glimpse of what lies ahead was provided by the Argos on Wednesday.
A day after wrapping up a 2-0 preseason that basically showed the Argos aren’t quite ready for the regular season, the team cut its roster, a predictable move that had its share of predictable casualties and a few releases that will take a few fans of the Double Blue off guard.
With much work in the days leading up to the June 30 curtain raiser in Edmonton, there’s still plenty of roster manoeuvring that awaits, names that will go through the waiver period as the Argos draw closer to naming their 46-man roster.
Technically, the Argos had until this weekend to whittle down their roster, but two preseason games and countless practice time was more than enough to shed light on who best fits Toronto’s new system on both sides of scrimmage.
At first glance, it seems obvious Chris Jones will turn to players he feels will best serve his defence, which is as logical as it seems inevitable.
The way Pacino Horne was punishing receivers and the way he stood out on special teams, he deserved more attention in the defensive backfield.
Horne is a first-year Argo who was signed by the team late last month after playing for the obscure Bloomington Edge of the Indoor Football League.
In the season finale on Tuesday against the visiting Als, Horne’s closing speed must have caught the eye of the Argos, his sure tackling and one play that no one bothered to document when so much scrutiny was on Ricky Ray.
But late in the second quarter, Horne blocked a punt, recovered it and returned it nine yards for a touchdown.
In the CFL, the biggest impressions are often made on special teams, an area that puts Horne firmly as a legitimate candidate to stick around.
With Sean Smalls now released, a new page in the Argos secondary continues to be written.
Last season, Smalls appeared in all 18 games, making all 18 starts at corner.
More than any player released on Wednesday, Smalls is the one who will garner attention across the CFL.
Smalls is the latest member of last year’s defensive backfield who won’t be lining up for the Argos this season, following in the wake of Byron Parker and Lin-J Shell, two guys who ultimately landed in B.C.
Linebacker Anthony Cannon and slotback Sammy Tranks did do some nice things for the Argos last season, but neither seemed like fits on this year’s team.
With the release of import offensive linemen Darion Smith and Stephen Good, the Argos’ plan to go with an all-Canadian line is now closer to reality, though insurance in the form of import George Bussey remains.
By releasing Ricky Santos, Trevor Harris’ status as the team’s third-string quarterback is all but a done deal, as if anyone hadn’t figured that out based on how well Harris has looked in the pre-season.
When he did play in Hamilton last week, Zach Collaros did not look out of place, but an ankle injury has felled this rookie, prompting the Argos to place him on the nine-game injured list.
BACK IT UP
Interestingly, the Argos are prepared to wait until the very last moment to decided on Cory Boyd’s backup.
The way Chad Kackert has played and the way Gerald Riggs Jr. has run downhill, it would be foolish for either to be released, giving the Argos one of those enviable problems in deciding on quality players.
When the Argos get back to work on Friday, the main issues will continue to be the health of their receivers and getting Ray comfortable in Scott Milanovich’s offence.
For the record, Samie Parker becomes yet another NFL castoff unable to show enough to stick around a CFL team, at least the Argos never thought enough of Parker, one of the 15 cut on Wednesday.
The look of the offensive line must be addressed and how best to tackle the import ratio and designated import.
Decisions will have to be back in the secondary, but the defensive line is now in better focus, especially the way rookie Armond Armstead played against the Als, albeit against mainly backups.
Rosters don’t get assembled overnight, a process that requires daily evaluation and subtraction.
Wednesday was one such day, but further cuts are necessary as even tougher decisions await the Argos.