TORONTO — The Toronto Argonauts are feeling pretty good about their quarterback depth heading into the 2017 season.
Veteran Ricky Ray will be leading the charge for the Boatmen with three pivots sitting behind him that are ready to learn and ready to step in whenever necessary.
Drew Willy, who was acquired by the Argos last season, Cody Fajardo and recently inked Jeff Mathews have all impressed both Argos head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Jim Popp.
“I know Drew Willy has performed extremely high in this league,” Popp said during season preview call with the media on Tuesday. “I know Jeff Mathews has those abilities to do it and I’ve seen him step in while he was in Hamilton. Fajardo is an up-and-coming athlete that can be used in roles and is only going to get better.
“When they’re all sitting behind Ricky Ray, or you have Marc Trestman to learn from, which I watched in Montreal him get the best out of all the guys, and have a veteran coordinator and quarterback coach in Marcus Brady. We’ve got a great chance.”
Brady, Willy, Fajardo, Mathews and Ray look on at mini-camp in Florida earlier this month (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
The Argos are looking to avenge a less-than-ideal 2016 campaign where they struggled to stay afloat and ended the season tied with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the league’s worst record (5-13).
Ray missed most of the 2016 season dealing with injuries – he played in just nine games, throwing for 2,397 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Just a few days after Ray was sidelined with a fractured rib and partially deflated lung – his second injury stint last season – the Argos added Willy to the mix by trading their first round pick in the 2017 draft, their third-round pick in the 2018 draft along with defensive back T.J. Heath.
“Once Drew got here last year, (I saw that) he’s a very good teammate, he’s open minded,” Ray said of Willy. “He asks questions, he wants to learn from you. Hopefully that’s the environment we can kind of create this year is that we’re all out there to help each other out and make this football team the best that it can (be).”
Willy suited up in the double blue for four games, tossing 1,473 yards, five majors and four interceptions.
Fajardo played under centre as well last year, dressing as the team’s third quarterback and mostly being used in short yardage situations. He suited up in eight games, collecting 107 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 89 yards and three majors on the ground.
Jeff Mathews will add to the Argos depth chart after jumping ship from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Adam Gagnon/CFL.ca)
Mathews, the newest quarterback of the four, played in all 18 games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2016. He completed 62.1 per cent of his passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and one interception while also adding 16 carries for 26 yards and three majors.
After the four pivots worked together down at the Argonauts’ mini-camp in Florida earlier this month, and after getting to know each other pretty well, Ray says he’s feeling good about the chemistry the group can start to build together in Toronto.
“Drew and I get a long really well,” said Ray. “I think we have a great group of quarterbacks this year with Jeff and Cody as well. Just down in mini-camp spending three days together, it’s going to be a fun year for us. Hopefully we can all kind of teach each other stuff and learn from each other.”
And as the true team player he is, Ray says no matter who is starting under centre on any given day, they’ll all continue to work together for one common goal – winning.
“When I’m out there hopefully they’re rooting for me and if I’m not out there I’m rooting for them,” he said. “We just want to see the team do well. I’m not playing against Drew or Jeff or Cody, I’m playing against myself. I’m playing against the opponent and the defence and trying to do my best.
“We’re all going to go in there and compete hard. Everybody’s going to compete like they’re the starter and be ready if their chance comes.”