September 26, 2017

Hogan: Argos secondary depth a good problem to have

Alden Darby (33), Mitchell White (12), Bear Woods (48) and Marcus Ball (6) of the Toronto Argonauts during the game against the Montreal Alouettes at BMO Field in Toronto ON, Saturday, September 23, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)


There are few things more important to a team than depth. Injuries are commonplace in a collision sport like football and championship calibre teams have capable players on the roster to replace an inevitable injury.

Take the Argos defensive line for example. Victor Butler, Cleyon Laing, Shawn Lemon, Ken Bishop, Troy Davis, Alan-Michael Cash, Daryl Waud and Jeff Finley have all missed multiple games due to injuries, yet the Double Blue D still co-leads the CFL in sacks.

That’s a remarkable achievement for the group, and now another unit is starting to enjoy the benefits of its great depth.

The Argos secondary added a couple of bodies from NFL camps with the additions of Alden Darby Jr. and Mitchell White, and the group is not only deep but very talented.

Add to the equation Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Jermaine Gabriel and Johnny Sears Jr., who are all close to returning from injury, and the Argos find themselves in a very nice predicament. Too many good starters for too few positions.

“It’s a great problem if we can keep it that way, just having that type of depth,” said defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin. “Especially at this time of the season.”

The team’s depth was tested when Josh Mitchell suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season, but the group has been pretty consistent since, despite losing the aforementioned three other starters to injury.

Rico Murray is the only member of the starting secondary to have played every game this season and says this is “probably the best defence I’ve ever played a part of,” and is not shy about giving a good chunk of the credit to his D.C.

“The fact that Coach Chamblin has played in the secondary himself in the past, I think he has a soft spot for us,” said a smiling Murray before adding, “It helps having a D.C. that’s played your position because you can see things through his eyes and he understands some of the things that we’re up against. He understands that because he’s walked in our shoes at one time.”

Chamblin was also a major reason why Mitchell White is here.

White signed with the Argos on September 10th after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Michigan State product was a starter with the Grey Cup Champion Redblacks a year ago, after spending the first two seasons of his CFL career with Montreal.

According to White, he had three or four CFL teams trying to sign him after Philly released him and he wanted to make his decision quickly because there wasn’t much time left in the season to learn a defence.

Coach Chamblin was the man most responsible for getting him in Double Blue.

“We had two different conversations, about an hour apiece,” White told, “Hearing his thoughts on defence and how he likes to coach DBs, I (thought) this was the best move for me professionally and that sealed the deal.”

The Livonia, Michigan native made his first appearance with the Argos in Saturday’s win over his first CFL team. If you only get one opportunity to make a first impression, let’s just say White passed the 6ix test nicely thanks to a pair of interceptions, including one in the end zone.

When he was kidded that he should have made a bigger impact in his first game, White started chuckling, then pumped the brakes a little.

“Listen, and I mean this in the most humble way I can say it,” said White, “Ya, obviously you get two interceptions and that’s good, but I felt a little sloppy. I felt like there could have been more attention to detail. I was able to make plays on the ball, which is just one aspect of playing football. There’s room for improvement.”

Where does he ideally play?

“He’s playing corner, but with a guy with his skill set we have to get him trained for half (back),” Chamblin told “He has a great skill set, same with Darby. With those guys it’s like, hey you’ve been at corner, but now we need to move you in. That also allows for flexibility when guys come back.”

That’s precisely what’s happening now. Some coaches say that if a starting player is injured he won’t lose his job because he got hurt. Other coaches won’t take a player out of the lineup if he’s playing well, even if the starter returns.

Chamblin has his own beliefs on how to make that decision.

“I think if a guy is playing real good, we have to look at chemistry first and ease that guy back in when it comes to guys that are vets,” said C.C. the D.C., “One guy comes back he may have to wait one week, then after that, someone goes down, we shift someone over and then the next guy goes back to his position.”

In the near future Chamblin may have White, Darby, Murray, Sears Owusu-Ansah, Gabriel, Brandon Harris and Matt Black all healthy at the same time, but only five starting spots for the eight players.

Considering where this organization was a year ago with its secondary, it’s a very nice problem to have.