June 17, 2023

Hogan: the Argos Underappreciated Receiver

This would normally be a very big week in the life of Toronto Argonauts receiver DaVaris Daniels.

He and his Toronto Argonauts teammates play their first game of the 2023 season on Sunday. It’s against their hated rivals from Hamilton and he’ll see the 2022 Grey Cup banner unveiled before the game. But something even bigger happened in the Vernon Hills, Illinois native’s life this week; he and his partner welcomed their second son into the world.

Yes, it’s a pretty good time to be DaVaris Daniels.

“I’m all ready to go,” Daniels told Argonauts.ca. “I’m excited to get back to work; running off a high, got our rival team coming in. I’m just excited to get out there and show them what we’ve got.”

It’s the first time that fans will get a chance to gather at BMO Field since the Argos won the Grey Cup. That victory will be prominent in the early part of the evening, as the first 10,000 fans to enter the stadium will receive a beautiful replica Grey Cup ring. The championship banner will be unveiled in a pre-game ceremony starting at 6:45, just before the 7:00 kickoff.

Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has been preaching to the team that they can’t look back at 2022 if they want to move forward this season. He makes a strong point as winning back-to-back Grey Cups is no easy task.

Since Edmonton’s five consecutive Cup run from 1978-82 only three other teams have repeated as champs; the Argos in 1996-97, Montreal in 2009-10 and Winnipeg in 2019 and ’21.

Daniels agreed with his coach when he was asked which part of repeating is the most difficult.

“Not focusing on last year. You have to take the new year for what it is; everybody starts 0-0 so we’ve got to do our thing, make sure we’re on our p’s and q’s throughout the season and hopefully we’ll get back.”

Daniels had a productive 2022 season and not just from a team perspective. He set a career high with 61 catches, while his 860 receiving yards were just 25 shy of his best season. He turned up his game a notch in the playoffs with a 108-yard performance in the Eastern Final win over Montreal, then caught a game high seven passes in the Grey Cup win over Winnipeg.

But Daniels is never the first name out of anyone’s mouth when they’re talking about the Argos offense. This season Chad Kelly is getting most of the hype; while Andrew Harris, A.J. Ouellette and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. are all invariably mentioned before the super-steady Notre Dame product.

He’s just fine with that.

“I love it,” Daniels said matter-of-factly. “I don’t really want to be talked about; I just want to show up on game day. I’ve shown consistency throughout my career. If I can stay healthy, I think people will be talking a little more, but we’ve got a great team; there’s a lot of people to talk about.”

Coach Dinwiddie says one of the reasons Daniels may not get the same recognition as some of his peers is because he’s so versatile.

“Last year we had him moving around,” the coach explained to Argonauts.ca. “We had him down as the number one receiver to the boundary and he wasn’t getting as many touches, so we moved him in the slot. Teams do game plan for him; we’ve got to do a good job moving him and Kurleigh around so they’re not lining up in the same position all the time.”

The coach knows what an important cog Daniels is in the offensive machine.

“DaVaris is a big part of it. We’ve got a lot of good receivers so it’s tough to get all the guys the touches that they probably deserve. He’s a smooth route runner, he knows the system; he’s been in it for multiple years. There’s just that comfort he gives a quarterback; where he’s going to be, the timing of the route, and we know he’s a playmaker.”

This season that quarterback is Chad Kelly. The pair had a chance to get to know one another last year and have shown a good chemistry throughout training camp.

“He’s kind of a rebel,” a smiling receiver said of his QB. “You don’t really know what you’re going to get out of him. For a receiver, he’ll throw up anything, so you’ve got to be ready at all times. Chad’s a gunslinger so you’ve just got to be ready.”

“It is for sure and I think that’s one thing we honed in on in the off-season, getting our conditioning up, because Chad wants to throw the ball. He can move, he can scramble in the pocket, so we’ve got to be ready down the field. He can also take off and run so defences also have to take account of that.”

Daniels could be the go-to receiver on Sunday, or it could be Gittens, Phillips, Brissett or Coxie. One of the running backs may get the most touches. That’s one of the positive things about this offence, Kelly will have several options when he throws the ball, something he absolutely loves to do.