Well sports fans, we are finally here, closing in on the first game of actual CFL football in over 600 days. As someone who writes and talks about the Argos, I am ready for it. In a previous article, I did talk about areas the Argos need to improve in over the first four games of the season to show they have improved from the last time we saw them. Now let’s look at the first game of the season.
What am I hoping to see? A blowout victory by the visiting team? That would be terrific and signal how far along the improvement path they are, but in my realistically optimistic view, a few games will be needed to get going. An opening week, on the road in football-starved Calgary will be a big ask but if there was ever a Stampeder team that we could steal one from, it is this one. Here are the three things I will be looking for as I enjoy a cold beverage here ensconced on the East Coast for a little while longer:
Passing successfully on first down. Regardless of the final score, I want to see the offense have a solid building day and that means putting together drives and film for self-study. To have successful drives, you must stay in front of the sticks. In an ideal world, 2nd Down and 4 to go is what I want to see a lot of. It puts the offense in control, leaving both pass and run available and that is exactly the position you want a defense in; it slows down the pass rush and ideally means a lighter box for running. So, I will be counting how many times we are in 2nd and short over the course of the game. It is a terrific barometer of a successful gameplan and of an offense that has found some timing. Deep shots are often the sign of a desperate offense that has run out of answers. Not always of course, but often. Early season games are about learning what you are good at as an offense and so I really want to see the team throw on first down with success.
Defense is certainly my favourite part of football, and while I have fewer questions, concerns, deep fears about the defense, I will also be looking for some specific goals. I am looking for two things. I feel the Argos have a chance to be an all-time great defense and absolutely become the TSX (Toronto Sack Exchange) this season. We have speed and strength at all positions on the Dline, and our linebackers should be a nightmare to pick up on blitzes. To that end, I want to see three sacks in the first game. I think the defense will catch Calgary by surprise, with no preseason film; the defense will likely have to play aggressively, and it is a perfect tone-setting opportunity. I am here to tell you this team will register a lot of sacks and Saturday night will be the reveal for the rest of Canada.
Lastly, I’m looking at the coaching staff. It is a mix of new and veteran staff, and I am really curious how well it well gel with coaches coming from a lot of different places this year to make up the staff. How aggressive will the 3rd down calls be near the middle of the field, or God help me, in Calgary’s half of the field? How ready to play at the opening whistle will the team be? What halftime adjustments on both sides of the ball will be made? These are all questions that I am excited to see answers to. I don’t expect this new staff to suddenly go out and be flawless, but I will be watching.