October 20, 2017

Hogan: Argos top offensive player a tight race between vets

SJ Green (19), Cody Fajardo (17), Cam McDaniel (27) and Declan Cross (38) of the Toronto Argonauts during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at BMO Field in Toronto, ON, Saturday, September 16, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

It’s the time of the season to consider individual achievements in the CFL. It won’t be long before local members of the Football Reporters of Canada will make their votes for each team’s top players.

Today Argonauts.ca examines what amounts to a two-way race in determining who the team’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player is. It’s not an official category, but we will deal with the defensive side of the ball in the next column.

Two veterans have had remarkable seasons, especially when you consider there were major questions about both players heading into the campaign.

Who has been the better of the pair? You decide.

Ricky Ray

In the off-season, the Argos quarterback was not sure about his future. It seems almost comical now, but the team gave up a substantial bounty to acquire Drew Willy from Winnipeg and he wasn’t acquired to be a backup. Ray wasn’t sure if he’d be the starter in Toronto, the backup, or even back at all.

Many fans were ready to move on from the veteran. Now just a few days away from his 38th birthday, Ray has silenced those critics by posting one of the best seasons of his 15-year CFL career.

He’s currently in second place in CFL passing, just 73 yards behind Mike Reilly. With an average performance against Winnipeg, Ray will surpass the 5,000-yard passing mark for the fourth time in his Hall-of-Fame career. It’s doubtful he will equal his career high of 5,663 set in 2008 with Edmonton, but if he can average 364 yards per game in the Argos final two outings, he’ll post the second-best passing season of his career. A tough task to be sure, but he’s thrown for 362 yards or more six times this year, cracking the 300-yard barrier on 11 occasions.

He’s thrown 24 touchdown passes this year, which would be higher save for some end-zone drops, particularly early in the season. He’s only hit the 25-TD mark four other times in his career.

He’s provided leadership, shown incredible toughness, and has been the steadying force on an offence that at times looks remarkably efficient.

When you’ve had the type of career Ray has had and can count this as one of his best individual seasons, it makes a strong case that he’s the Argos top offensive player.

S.J. Green

If the concept of Ricky Ray backing up Drew Willy seems laughable at this stage, remember that S.J. Green was acquired from Montreal in April for a sixth-round draft pick in 2017 and a conditional pick in 2018.

In retrospect, the Alouettes got Popped in the deal.

Green sits in third place in the CFL with 1,337 yards, just 57 yards behind second-place Greg Ellingson, and the Argos have a game in hand on Ottawa.

The veteran pass catcher suffered a major knee injury last season, leaving most observers wondering if he could bounce back. Obviously, the Als were in that camp as well.

Remarkably, the Florida native has not only returned to form, but he’s posted the top statistical season of his CFL career. He’s already set a personal best in receiving yards, and is one TD away from tying his second-best season in that category. He’d need four in his final two games to tie his career high, but would anybody be even remotely surprised if he did that?

Green has time and time again brought fans out of their seats with remarkable catches. In his Argos debut against Hamilton, he had a handful of catches that would appear on anyone’s highlight reel.

There’s no official CFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but if there was, there’s little question who would win it.

Green and Ray have been a remarkable tandem to watch this season. Two veterans, both heading to the Hall-of-Fame when their careers are over, having seasons that defy logic and show that pre-season prognostications are for fools.

It truly has been a symbiotic relationship. Ray has greatly benefitted from the return to form by Green, Green has been fantastic in large part because of the incredible accuracy of Ray. The chemistry the pair has developed is obvious.

It’s tough to imagine one having the kind of season he’s having without the other being his teammate. That’s what makes this vote so incredibly difficult.