It has been an exceptionally hot week of practices for the Argos in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Eskimos at BMO Field (5:30, TSN, TSN 1050).
Needless to say there was a lot of work to be done after the 41-7 loss to Calgary, a performance Head Coach Marc Trestman termed “unacceptable.”
The Argos spent the week working out the kinks at their new practice home, Lamport Stadium. The facility is about a five-minute walk from the locker rooms at BMO Field, but the players hop on a bus to get there, much appreciated this week when the humidex was in the low 40s.
You knew some moves were coming after the Calgary loss. Most notably the Argos released two players, receiver Brian Tyms and linebacker Khalil Bass. The club also completed a trade with Saskatchewan, acquiring defensive end Eric Striker for a player on the negotiation list.
When you first see Striker the first thing that you notice is his size. He’s a shade under six feet tall, undersized for that position. There’s no question that he plays big though.
Striker was a star at Oklahoma, starting 39 games in four seasons. As an end he recorded 22.5 sacks, adding 45 tackles for loss. He was an All-Big 12 player twice and a two-time AP All-American.
He begins his Argo career on the one-game injured list.
THE X MAN
With the release of Tyms the Argos needed someone to step up and start at the boundary, or ‘X’ receiver position. The first opportunity to take that job and run with it belongs to Llevi Noel.
A local product who played his high school ball at Western Tech and in the OVFL for the Etobicoke Eagles, Noel started his post-secondary career at the University of Toronto, where he posted some monster games, including a 200-yard effort against Carleton.
Noel would then play one season of junior ball in Windsor before the Argos selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 CFL draft.
As an Argo, Noel has established himself on special teams, though he does have one TD catch in each of his first two years. He’s 6’2” and posted a 36” vertical at the CFL Combine, which makes him a physically appealing target for quarterback James Franklin, who like Noel is making his first start of the season.
Getting the start gives Noel a lot to think about, but unlike Franklin, being from Toronto gives the receiver something else to think about, tickets.
Historically, when a local player finds out he’s starting for the first time he receives an inordinate amount of tickets. Family, friends, high-school teammates, family of friends of high-school teammates all seem to want freebies to the game.
Noel pulled a veteran move in this regard, he didn’t tell anyone he was starting.
“To be honest I haven’t talked to my family about any of this yet,” chuckled Noel after Thursday’s practice. “I usually get a handful of family members because I’m local so they come out anyway, so I kind of want to surprise them at the game and just let them see you on the field.”
Defensive Coordinator Mike Archer has a versatile group of athletes at his disposal in the secondary. He has many options on who plays which position. If you attended practice early in the week you would have seen members of the secondary playing in spots they did not start in versus Calgary.
Archer moves his players around so they learn other spots in the secondary. The versatility becomes vital should a need for an in-game adjustment arise. As the week progressed things were back to normal.
PFEFFER’s PRODIGIOUS PUNTING
Let’s be honest. From a statistical standpoint, there are not too many categories the Argos are happy with after the first two games, though one positive they can point to is the punting of Ronnie Pfeffer.
The Laurier product won the job in training camp, beating out veteran Swayze Waters for the job.
Pfeffer has averaged 48.9 yards per kick, second-best in the league. The kicks have been high and for the most part to the sidelines, though Terry Williams 102-yard return for a TD killed his net.