Argos D is all about aggression

Jordan Younger, the lone defensive holdover from the Rich Stubler era, says working under Chris...

Jordan Younger, the lone defensive holdover from the Rich Stubler era, says working under Chris Jones means working under a different philosophy. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:09 PM ET

As well as the Argos defence has played and as dominant as they’ve looked, the scary part, at least for the opposition, is that Toronto’s unit has the potential to get even better.

Just how good remains to be seen.

Toronto’s body of work now encompasses seven games, the latest produced Saturday night in Calgary, where the Argos won 22-14 to pull into a tie atop the East with Montreal.

Technically, the Argos are in first place, having beaten the Als late last month, a game that was won by the defence when Brandon Isaac forced a rare Anthony Calvillo sack that basically took Montreal out of field goal range in a three-point victory.

While there was some late-game drama in Calgary, the outcome was never in doubt after veteran free safety Jordan Younger intercepted a Kevin Glenn pass attempt, a turnover the Argos would use to kick a field goal and extend their lead to 22-6.

Calgary did mount a late touchdown drive with the Argos in some prevent defence, and added a two-point convert with 12 seconds left, but could not recover the ensuing onside kick as the Stamps would lose for the fifth consecutive time to Toronto.

Up next for the Argos is an Aug. 27 date with the visiting Edmonton Eskimos as ex-Argos running back Cory Boyd and quarterback Steven Jyles make their return to Toronto.

The Argos opened the season in Edmonton in a game that turned out to be a defensive battle, a night the Argos should have won had better discipline been exercised, had sure touchdown receptions been caught and if crisper execution in the score zone been achieved.

But no longer will the Argos offence have to answer questions about a touchdown drought that ended on the final play of the third quarter in Calgary and there’s no doubt the defence can still get better.

For many diehards of the Double Blue, defensive football has been synonymous with Rich Stubler, the team’s former co-ordinator whose unit pretty much compensated for an inferior offence to win a Grey Cup.

The old adage in football is that defences win championships, while offence attracts fans. And though the Argos are far from hapless with the ball, the biggest issue that needs to be addressed is the most obvious — execution in the red zone.

However, in Calgary, when first downs were required, when keeping the home team off-balance was essential, the Argos succeeded.

In rookie head coach Scott Milanovich’s estimation, Saturday night marked the first time in his brief tenure in Toronto that all three phases of the team played well, the caveat being his offence’s inability to produce touchdowns and settle for field goals, five on this night as Swayze Waters continues to showcase his leg and accuracy.

Younger is the only link to the Stubler era — as a player, that is — a versatile defensive back who is as smart and savvy as any player the CFL has ever seen.

Younger’s pick was his third of the season, but it’s not numbers that will define this Argos defence, much the way statistics did not do justice to the Stubler system, a scheme that yielded yards but few touchdowns.

In Chris Jones, the Argos have a defensive co-ordinator who attacks, shows multiple looks and likes to feature versatile players capable of dropping off the line of scrimmage or blitzing from both linebacker and the secondary.

“We did accomplish quite a lot under coach Stubler,’’ said Younger. “But his is a totally different philosophy. This is about aggression, going at an opponent and getting into their face, making it hard on them.

“The one piece that’s missing is that we need to anticipate better, but that comes with experience. We’ve got a lot of young guys out there and as we get more games under our belts, we’re going to get better.”

And therein lies the scary part.

When the season began, Younger was the only player in the secondary with any CFL experience.

Evan McCollough is back healthy and starting, but he’s only in his third year.

Toronto’s linebacking crew is completely rebuilt, while the defensive line rotates so many players, it’s difficult to keep track of the many moving pieces, though it does keep players fresh.

“We’ve got a combination of great athleticism,’’ added Younger. “We have a lot of team speed, physical football players, aggressive football players and we got a great defensive co-ordinator.”

ANDRE DURIE FINDING HIS WAGGLE

There’s no doubt Andre Durie has made a successful transition from running back to slotback, but occasionally a dropped ball reveals his inexperience as a receiver.

When he moved out of the backfield, one of the subtle nuances of the slot position Durie had to refine was the waggle. As he showed in Calgary on Saturday night, catching the ball first, tucking it into his body and then running upfield has to become a habit.

“I’ve got to keep practising it,” said Durie, who dropped a ball on what should have been an easy completion. “I’m so used to catching it and running after the catch. It’s just a matter of repetition.

“But in this game you have to have a short memory, you have to let it go and continue to make plays.”

Durie did atone for his drop with a 26-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the third quarter, Toronto’s first major in nine quarters.

He later recovered an onside kick that Calgary attempted in the final seconds.

“We haven’t showed our best offensively,’’ added Durie. “We have the potential moving forward and we’re all looking forward to the rest of the season.”

In Durie, Chad Owens and now Chad Kackert, the Argos have three offensive weapons who have the ability to make plays in space.

 


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