June 9, 2019

Hogan: The new kid

It’s amazing how much of a difference two people can make.

The Toronto Argonauts offence over the last few years has been effective at times, but not the most visually appealing to the fan base. It’s hard to complain about an offence that helped win two Grey Cups, it was a system that was perfect for Ricky Ray, the quarterback in charge of running it.

Last year without Ray the offence struggled, averaging just 20 points per game – only Montreal’s offence was worse. You would think that major changes would be made in the off-season, but that wasn’t the case. Ray is gone, as is Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman. Four of the five starting linemen are back, and there’s just one addition to the receiving corps – but what an acquisition it is.

Free Agent Derel Walker joins the Double Blue from Edmonton, while new Offensive Coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine is opening up the offence a great deal, evident in the two pre-season wins. The days of the dink-and-dunk are over.

That’s just one of the reasons Walker is loving it in Toronto.

“It’s just amazing being out there,” he told Argonauts.ca. “I just enjoy being out there with a great group of guys and do what we do, and that’s put points up on the board, catch footballs and have fun.”

Fun would be a perfect way to describe how S.J. Green feels about the new offence, and that he’ll see very few double teams this year because of the attention that opponents will have to pay to Walker.

“I’m ecstatic about that,” said a thrilled Green. “It was a frustrating year last year going through some of those things, but we’ve got three big monsters over here (with Armanti Edwards) that can get the job done. They want to double one, there’s going to be two of us one-on-one, so good luck.”

Walker has looked great at camp, and in the two exhibition games has shown he’s capable of getting open deep with relative ease. Against Hamilton, he had catches of 12, 45, and 75 yards, the latter being for a touchdown. He showed off a great move on the 45-yarder to add major yards after the catch, then just ran by a DB on the deep touchdown pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

It was a very impressive night, but the head coach says the newcomer is just scratching the surface.

“Once he starts to find his groove I think he’ll really open that offence up for us,” said Corey Chamblin.

Excuse me? Three catches for 132 yards and a TD in about a quarter and a half seemed pretty darn impressive.

“He’s getting there, he still has a way to go.” continued the coach. “He still has to knock some of that rust off (after missing the end of last year with a knee injury). I expect more out of him regardless. He’s one of our top signings, he has a ceiling that he hasn’t reached yet in terms of being a great player in this league.”

That is, in all likelihood, the last thing any opposing defensive coordinator needed to hear.

A curious thing happened after the Ticats game. When Argonauts.ca caught up with Green and Walker in the locker room, the two star receivers were asked what they liked the most about Chapdelaine’s offence.

“I like the freedom,” said Green. “We have options on almost everything that we do. We just have to see the defence and make the right decision.”

About five minutes later the same question was posed to Walker, who was in the shower when Green responded. Walker’s reply?

“Just the freedom,” said Walker. “The freedom on certain routes to read the coverage and just get open based off the conversion on that route due to that coverage. A lot of freedom gives us the opportunity to go out there and just play free football and just have fun and enjoy it out there.”

Interesting. Two answers independent of one another, yet the two veterans said essentially the same thing. When the offence has had more time to work together, when the first-unit is taking more reps after the reduction of the roster, there little doubt the group will gel even more.

As an aside, Argonauts.ca asked Walker what he thought of his bobblehead, which will be handed out at the Argos home opener, Saturday, June 22nd at 4:00 at BMO Field.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said a smiling Walker. “It’s pretty cool. It’s an awesome experience just to have one, I’m thankful for that. Hopefully I can have a couple of them that I can hang onto for some family members and some friends.”

The way to make sure you get your bobblehead is to be one of the first 7,000 fans through the gate. You’ll also get a chance to see Ricky Ray honoured before the Argos go out and beat the Ticats. It should be a memorable afternoon.