Week nine wraps up on Monday when the Eskimos travel east to take on the Toronto Argonauts. It’s a rematch of week one, and yet again a “homecoming” story will take centre stage. It will be Cory Boyd’s first trip back to Rogers Centre since his unceremonious release two weeks ago. I think the first time that anyone faces a former team, there will be a small measure of revenge in their motivation. I also believe, though, that these men are going there to play ball, and keep pace with the front-runners in the league. That kind of motivation is what we all we should be looking at.
However, in order to do that, the Eskimos need to put together a much better performance than what came to us in week eight. The offense made liars out of those who were starting to see cohesion, failing to produce even 300 total yards. It was definitely an off-night for Steven Jyles, who completed barely over 50% of his passes and added another interception, bringing his season total up to four. Numbers like that, combined with the sheer disappointment in the last two losses, start to add up to a heavy question: Is Jyles consistent enough to continue as the Eskimo quarterback? It’s easy to say “no” from couches, armchairs, and living room rugs, but I always have to remind myself that he’s here because the staff sees something that we don’t. Their faith in Jyles’ ability should remind all of us that there’s a reason we are on our couches, armchairs, and living room rugs.
Granted, last week’s Eskimos are not going to be able to beat last week’s Argonauts. Sure, there was life left at the end of the game when 14 points came the right way in the fourth quarter. But the disjointed feeling all through the offense did not bode well. The connections that were apparent two weeks ago against the Riders were not in evidence, and they need to be solid again if we’re to expect a win. Were the extra 3 days of practice time enough to rework the kinks? I certainly hope so. This team knows where their grooves are, it’s just a matter of settling down and working together. If the same Eskimos who played two weeks ago show up this week, the Argos are going to have their hands full. I’d also like to see the Charles/Boyd combination have some flow after a full week of practice. If that pair is working well, it should create more than a bit of confusion for the Argo defensive line.
That line is not a unit that slouches, as they are creeping up the sack list with a total of 11 so far this year. In the secondary, Jordan Younger and Patrick Watkins are #2 and #3 in the league for interceptions – they’ll certainly be hungry to add to their totals this week. Shutting the Calgary Stampeders down until the last three minutes of play could not have been an easy task, and I’ll be ready to see the same intensity flowing this week.
Defensively the Green and Gold are getting a boost, as Almondo Sewell returns to the lineup. He’s a much-needed addition as Ted Laurent, Marcus Howard and Justin Capicciotti are all sidelined for Monday’s matchup. Sewell had three sacks in five games before nursing a hamstring injury over the past two weeks. It was a stellar start to the season, and his return comes against the same Argos who handed him two sacks back in week one. I’ll be glad to see him step into a bit of a leadership role on the D-Line and cause big problems in the Argo backfield.
The secondary is going to have their hands full with a complete set of Argonaut receivers. Chad Owens, Andre Durie, and Dontrelle Inmnan own the top three spots on the Boatmen’s reception list this season, and it’s that third name that has proven he needs a second look. Having started the season as a relative unknown, Inman has emerged as a not-so-quiet downfield threat for Ray to look to. Even though he’s only hauled in 21 passes, he’s racked up 354 yards, which is a big average of almost 17 yards on every catch. Add in Owens’ 552 yards and Durie’s 475, and it’s going to be a task to shut down this corps. That is something I thought I’d never say about the Toronto Argonauts. They’ll be fighting hard this week to maintain their tie with the Als atop the east division.
It is a daunting picture, to be sure, and when looking at numbers it may seem easier to just steel oneself for a loss and look forward to Labour Day. But this team will never have a roll-over-and-die attitude. They have proven their character after two tough losses already this season, coming back the next week to win in wonderful fashion. It may be a little tougher on the road, but I’m ready to see another bounce-back from the green and gold. This is a huge game for both teams, if only to gain momentum for their respective Labour Day Classics, and that momentum belongs to the Eskimos.