Argos continue to evaluate as player cuts approach

Argonauts defensive back Jalil Carter (left) breaks up a pass intended for Bombers slotback Isaac...

Argonauts defensive back Jalil Carter (left) breaks up a pass intended for Bombers slotback Isaac Anderson Wednesday night in Winnipeg. (REUTERS)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:17 AM ET

TORONTO - The Argonauts spent the better part of Thursday reviewing film from Wednesday’s pre-season game in Winnipeg, a session that will have a bearing on Toronto’s roster.

With so many new faces lining up against the host Blue Bombers, one of the most encouraging signs to emerge was the discipline the Argos embraced.

With so many new faces looking to make an impression, the Argos played fast, especially on defence when defenders ran to the football.

With so many new faces, there were times when players had a hard time lining up offensively.

Admittedly, head coach Scott Milanovich said the game plan he devised was not an easy scheme to execute for a pre-season game.

“We asked them to do more than we would have a year ago,’’ said Milanovich. “It was harder on the rookies, some struggled and some didn’t. It’s part of the evaluation process.”

The process continues on Friday and it’ll become more intense as next Thursday’s exhibition finale draws nearer.

The Argos haven’t reached the stage where major decisions must be made, but it’s getting closer, a time of anxious moments for those on the roster bubble.

“You try to tighten it up (roster size) because you now have a better feel,’’ added Milanovich. “At this point, I’d say there are fewer jobs available, but by no means is anything locked up.”

Whatever change awaits, the area that will feature the biggest shift is on defence, which was inevitable given the amount of players who are no longer with the Argos from last season’s Grey Cup champion unit.

Offensively, there are probably two or three positions up for grabs.

“We all want to make it as hard as possible for the coaches when it comes to cut day,’’ said safety Matt Black, who recorded two interceptions on Wednesday. “That’s what we talked about prior to kickoff, guys were hungry and that’s the biggest sense I got.”

The switch to go with a non-import at free safety gives the Argos the luxury of lining up an extra import at another position.

Jordan Younger manned the secondary, but he notified the Double Blue at their ring ceremony that he was retiring.

A year ago, the Argos started one Canadian on defence, defensive end Ricky Foley, who signed with Saskatchewan this off-season as a free agent.

Black had a presence against the Bombers as did Jermaine Gabriel, a non-import who is football savvy and physical.

Teams aren’t going to show anything in the pre-season, electing to run their base offence and defence.

In Toronto’s case, the Argos played a lot of man coverage against the Bombers.

Winnipeg’s defence didn’t provide a lot of different looks, a dimension that can blur the evaluation process.

Overall, though, Milanovich and his staff were able to get a good look at their roster.

The Argos are a much more polished attack when Ricky Ray is in the shot gun. His understudies, Trevor Harris, who started in Winnipeg, and Zach Collaros looked much more comfortable than either did during their rookie season.

“They looked liked quarterbacks,’’ Milanovich said of his second-year pivots. “They looked like confident quarterbacks out there and they managed the team.”

The dilemma is not knowing whether Harris or Collaros can command a team if forced to start for a period, a scenario that will only play out in the event of Ray being injured.

“You’re never going to know until he has the team,’’ said Milanovich. “Look at how long it took Ricky to get comfortable. You just know because you need a game, three games, to get your feet wet.”

That one year of experience in the Milanovich system has made both Harris and Collaros further along in their evolution.

“Ricky is our guy,’’ said Harris. “He’s the best quarterback in our league and we have to ensure that we’re the backups.

“By hitting the ground running, Zach and I are using our instincts more and just playing.

“Once you understand the ins and outs, the spacing, footwork, yards, depth and timing — you feel you have the answers.”

FAST PRACTICES GAVE ROGERS DOSE OF REALITY

Sir Vincent Rogers had an inkling the CFL game would be fast based on the pace of practice the Argonauts coaching staff demands.

On Wednesday night, Rogers experienced first-hand the challenges three-down football present. The offensive lineman is one of many new faces with the Scullers who are looking to make an impression.

“It was fun, it was fast paced,’’ said Rogers, who played three quarters in Toronto’s 24-6 win at the new Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. “The way we practise prepared players such as myself, but until you actually play in a game you never know.

“I didn’t get winded and now you keep grinding it out, hoping to get better.”

The Double Blue didn’t bring Tony Washington — an import who started at left tackle last season once the team went away from its all-Canadian line — to Winnipeg, one of many established players who did not accompany the team.

The offensive line provided solid protection, especially when veteran left guard Wayne Smith and centre Jeff Keeping were on the field.

One guy who did get exposed was Joel Reinders, who got beat on an outside rush against the Bombers.


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