December 15, 2019

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Argonauts will try to right the ship in Winnipeg

Andrew Lahodynskyj / The Canadian Press files</p><p>B.C. Lions receiver Jevon Cottoy (from left) is tackled by Argos defenders Ian Wild and Abdul Kanneh during CFL play this past Saturday in Toronto.</p></p>

Andrew Lahodynskyj / The Canadian Press files

B.C. Lions receiver Jevon Cottoy (from left) is tackled by Argos defenders Ian Wild and Abdul Kanneh during CFL play this past Saturday in Toronto.

At 0-3, the Toronto Argonauts shouldn’t be confused with a good football team.

But if you’re judging by the array of talent at head coach Corey Chamblin’s disposal, the chances of improvement in the wildly unpredictable CFL are real.

After being outscored 96-21 in a pair of losses to open the regular season, the Argos dropped an 18-17 decision to the B.C. Lions in Week 4, and they are in Winnipeg tonight. Toronto has lost 12 of its past 13 games dating back to the 2018 season.

Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Ian Wild, after struggling to earn a spot in Winnipeg’s starting lineup for the previous two seasons, left via free agency and found a new home on the Argos defence. Ex-Bombers defensive back Kevin Fogg is also a newcomer in the Toronto lineup.

"I think we’re just starting to come together as a team," Wild said upon his arrival at IG Field on Thursday afternoon. "The first couple of games, yeah, we did struggle and made a lot of simple mistakes. We’ve been cleaning it up in practice and getting in a groove and meshing together as a team. I think that’s gonna come with any new head coach and a bunch of new players, a little bit of time for transition.

"This off-season was a good change for me and I’m enjoying it in Toronto and enjoying building this team and getting it going in the right direction."

Against B.C., Wild registered an eye-catching 13 defensive tackles, one shy of his career best established on Aug. 22, 2014, against the Montreal Alouettes.

"He has that blue-collar work ethic and I love that," said the 42-year-old Chamblin, in his first year in charge of the Argos. "You can see right now he’s nowhere near who he’s gonna be. And the reason I say that is I know he’s had some setbacks. He’s kinda like this team right now, but you see him on the comeback. He had about 13, 14 tackles last week, but he missed about five.

"The good thing is he’s reducing the tackles that he’s missing, and when we do those tackling drills, he’s doing a lot better. I think he’s become more fundamentally sound on a game-by-game basis and I think he’s getting his confidence back."

The Argonauts need to defend better. But they also need a significant improvement on offence, where they are a CFL worst in rushing, net offence, first downs and turnovers.

Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who assumed the starting role when James Franklin went down with a hamstring injury and was placed on the six-game injured list, hasn’t lost the faith.

"We’re close, we’re closer than people think we are," Bethel-Thompson said. "Just play one play at a time and everybody doing their one job and no one letting the rope go and it’ll come together."

Getting more production out of workhorse tailback James Wilder Jr. could be the key to a turnaround. Wilder has 105 rushing yards on 22 carries and a further 148 yards on 14 catches in three games.

"He’s a force, and when he gets going, it’s hard to bring him down," Bethel-Thompson said of Wilder. "So, if we can get the ends moving side to side and get him established early, then we’re not just throwing the ball and they can’t just pin their ears back. It’s playing a balanced offence, it’s attacking their weaknesses and it’s really playing efficient ball.

"More than anything, as good as this (Bombers) defence is, if we can play our game and not make mistakes, it’s hard to stop us."

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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