On Monday night, the Toronto Argonauts held their annual Double Blue Scrimmage at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium. The traditional event marks the transition from training camp to preseason and serves as an opportunity to assess how the team is shaping up, which I’ve done below by position.
Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has maintained that Chad Kelly will have to earn the starting job, but I think it’s safe to say he’s done that at this point, even if it hasn’t been made official. He’s taken the first-team reps since camp opened, he’s produced at a high level, and he was sent out there for three of the first six offensive drives along with most of the projected starters.
Kelly finished the night completing 10-of-12 pass attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a one-yard score to Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and a 20-yard score to the evening’s biggest eyebrow-raiser, Lonnie Moore IV.
None of the other three quarterbacks distinguished themselves as the obvious backup to Kelly. Ben Holmes was five-of-seven for 58 yards and an interception, Brian Scott was seven-of-nine for 57 yards, and Cameron Dukes was four-of-six for 35 yards and a touchdown.
The backup job is probably still Holmes’ job to lose, but Scott has turned up the heat over the last two days.
With running plays blown dead on first contact (and sometimes earlier), stats don’t tell the full story here, but there are fewer questions surrounding this positional group.
AJ Ouellette led all backs with 17 yards on three carries, including a five-yard touchdown, walking into the end zone untouched thanks to a clever play design from Ryan Dinwiddie, who wasn’t afraid to show a few new wrinkles to Toronto’s offence. Ouellette also hauled in four passes for 12 yards.
Andrew Harris was used sparingly with only one carry for a short loss, and Javon Leake had four carries for 12 yards and a touchdown. Deonta McMahon, who has arguably been the most exciting back to watch in camp, was limited in this format, losing two yards on two carries.
There’s still a lot of preseason football to be played, but the Argos may have found their boundary slotback in CFL rookie Lonnie Moore IV.
The 175-pound Monmouth Hawk led all receivers with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. DaVaris Daniels was forced to play the boundary slot position for most of last season after Eric Rogers went down with an injury, but Daniels is far more comfortable on the outside where he was lined up for this contest. He’s been Chad Kelly’s favourite target throughout camp and caught two passes for 53 yards on a limited snap count on Monday.
Markeith Ambles, who had three receptions for 40 yards, and Kurleigh Gittens Jr., who had two catches for seven yards and a touchdown, both looked in good form.
Cam Phillips and Dejon Brissett were impressive as they continue to fight for a starting spot. Phillips had the catch of the night amid heavy contact 15 yards downfield, also adding a 20-yard catch and a two-point convert, while Brissett brought in two passes for 11 yards
with a five-yard touchdown.
Toronto elected to sit a number of their projected starting offensive linemen, so the most interesting development was newly-added Darius Ciraco taking the majority of the first team snaps at centre while 2021 East Division all-star centre Peter Nicastro played right guard.
Was this just a way to maximize the number of snaps both players took? Are the Argos trying to find a way to get both players on the field? Surely the plan is to play Dariusz Bladek at right guard with Ryan Hunter at left guard. Right?
Folarin Orimolade’s speed and spin move have caused problems for offensive linemen since the first day of camp, and that trend continued Monday night. As part of a deep rotation, Orimolade created havoc, forcing rushed passes and recording a safety for the defence.
Benoit Marion also stood out, generating pressure up the middle and single-handedly shutting down the run at times.
With Henoc Muamba, Wynton McManis, and Jack Cassar sitting out, the Argos rolled in a number of new faces at linebacker. Jordan Williams has been as good as advertised throughout camp, especially in coverage, but no one in particular stood out on this night, asked only to execute vanilla assignments.
DaShaun Amos made a highlight-reel interception, barely tapping his toes inbounds as he extended to pick off Ben Holmes on a corner route. Amos gets all the laurels, but the combination of Robert Priester at corner and Robertson Daniel at halfback on the boundary side probably had defensive coordinator Corey Mace breathing a sigh of relief.
With all-star cornerback Jamal Peters now with the Atlanta Falcons and former all-star halfback Shaq Richardson unsigned, it was an open competition on the boundary side of the secondary. Priester looked comfortable locking down the outside after playing halfback last season, and the communication between he and Daniel was on point. Daniel almost got home on a halfback blitz disguised beautifully by both he and Priester.
After Boris Bede drew a flag for sending the opening kickoff out of bounds, the specialists settled down and played mistake-free football.
John Haggerty averaged 48 yards on two punts, including one that went directly out of bounds at the 10-yard line. Bede hit his only field goal attempt from 27-yards out and knocked through all his convert attempts while 2023 Global Draft selection Alfredo Gachuz Lozada was true on 15 and 32-yard field goals.
On the kickoff return team, Javon Leake was back deep as the primary returner with Adarius Pickett to the wide side, a role he played last year in Montreal.
There was an intensity to the Double Blue scrimmage that’s difficult to duplicate in practice, but that intensity is about to ramp up further still with the Argos set to travel to Hamilton on Saturday for their preseason opener against the Tiger-Cats.