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TORONTO – There is only so much that one can take out of a game in the regular season finale that is of little consequence to most, other than the goal of trying not to get hurt.
Five of the eight CFL teams played this weekend with their first round playoff matchups already mapped out. For the Argos, however, one could argue that Sunday’s contest with the Montreal Alouettes was as good a measuring stick as any as to how far they have come since this point last year.
In the final week of the 2009 regular season, the Boatmen closed out a forgettable campaign against the same Alouettes team. Montreal was, once again, preparing for the playoffs and did not play their starters. Meanwhile, the Argos, who’s playoff aspirations had quickly vanished three weeks earlier, fielded a rookie quarterback but surrounded him with the best talent that the club had to offer. The Boatmen’s ‘starters’ fell to the Alouettes ‘backups’ 42-17.
Fast-forward 365 days later and the Argonauts have re-tooled – they patiently and methodically weaved their way through the 2010 CFL Canadian Draft, established who their playmakers were to be, and began building a solid corps of what many like to call ‘depth players’.
Sunday’s matchup was a true evaluation of how Argos’ management and coaching staff have graded as it relates to both depth and building for the long-term.
Impressive outings by WR Spencer Watt, QB’s Dalton Bell and Danny Brannagan, DB/K Grant Shaw, RB Dwayne Wright and a host of others may have proved that the Argos are on their way to building a nucleolus of players that can sustain successful seasons for consecutive years.
Watt, who was by far the most impressive on either sideline on Sunday, finally got the opportunity to play every down and did the most with the four quarters he had to work with.
“It was an opportunity for me to showcase my skills to see if I could actually play with the CFL starters, so it was good,” Watt told The Canadian Press. “I didn’t really expect much this year; I’m a rookie. I just wanted to grind out this year and see what happens. A couple of coaches said this would be my breakout game and I guess it was.”
Coach Jim Barker, who has been a strong advocate of Watt all season long, was happy to see the youngster get a chance along with fellow 2010 draft pick Grant Shaw.
“We felt Watt was the best receiver in the draft and we were ecstatic to get him,” said coach Jim Barker. “And what do you say about Grant Shaw? To step in pre-game when [Noel] Prefontaine had a bit of a pull – we didn’t want to risk it – and to punt the way he punted and kick the way he kicked, what do you say? A great job by our young draft picks.”
Short term, Sunday’s win in Montreal means virtually nothing, especially with the season’s biggest game occurring next week in Hamilton. The poise, confidence and potential showcased by the Argos’ ‘depth players’ is a comforting look at what may lay ahead for this team down the road.
– With files from The Canadian Press