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Argos catch a huge break as Als come to town minus stud back Stanback

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The Montreal Alouettes come to town to help usher in the Argonauts campaign on Thursday, fresh off losing to the Calgary Stampeders in their own season opener as well as star running back William Stanback.

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Stanback, last season’s leading CFL rusher, is scheduled to undergo surgery on Monday to repair an ankle he broke in Cowtown.

The Als are not the same when Stanback isn’t being featured in the backfield. He’s the best in the CFL business and has a history of running roughshod over the Argos.

Amusingly enough, the Argos find themselves in first place in the East with a 0-0 record after all three of their East Division rivals lost their opening games, all out West.

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Montreal blew a lead in Calgary, while the new-look Ottawa Redblacks found ways to shoot themselves in the foot in losing a nail-biter to the two-time reigning Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were engaged in a defensive struggle in Regina until the host Roughriders began to light up the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

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The Argos were given a bye week and will clearly catch a break following the unfortunate injury to Stanback.

As recently as 2019, the Argos began the season with a bye. But in their season opener, they were destroyed by the visiting Ticats 64-14.

The loss was the beginning of a regrettable season for the Argos, who would win all of four games.
Hamilton, meanwhile, advanced to the Grey Cup, with Brandon Banks named MOP that season.

Thursday’s season and home opener for the Argos will mark the debut of Banks as a member of the Double Blue.

Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie believes the Als lost their identity in Calgary.

Montreal needs to establish the run game to set up play action. And while quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. can make plays with his arm and legs, he is prone to turning the football over when trying to throw into tight windows.

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The Als have the benefit of having a veteran in Trevor Harris, whose CFL run began as an Argo, but Montreal kept trotting out Adams against the Stamps.

Dinwiddie’s Argos began last season by playing back-to-back games out West, beating the Stamps in the opener and succumbing to the Blue Bombers before turning the tables back home in handing Winnipeg a loss.

The Argos were able to make amends in that home opener by stopping the run.
Toronto’s run defence will be under the microscope this week against the Als, even with Stanback unavailable.

“They’re probably still going to pound the rock,’’ said Dinwiddie. “We have to keep Vernon in the pocket and establish the line of scrimmage.”

COACH CLEMONS?

In the event Dinwiddie is ever unable to serve as head coach, GM Michael Clemons would move from the front office to the sideline.

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Clemons is no stranger to running a team as head coach and guided the Argos to a Grey Cup in 2004.

No one is expecting Clemons to fill in for Dinwiddie, but just in case such a scenario plays out the current club executive will fill the void.

Dinwiddie had to miss a practice last week to tend to a personal issue, which has since been resolved.

The issue of a possible replacement was broached to the head coach, who will enter his second season as Toronto’s bench boss after Dinwiddie was named coach of the year in the East in his rookie season in 2021.

“It would be Pinball as head coach,’’ said Dinwiddie. “He’s been in this situation.”

Offensively, in the event Dinwiddie isn’t available, receivers/pass game co-ordinator Pete Costanza will make the calls.

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Corey Mace, who will begin his first season as defensive co-ordinator, will continue to dial up schemes.

Special teams co-ordinator Mickey Donovan will oversee the unit.

Dinwiddie didn’t know Donovan personally before the latter joined the Boatmen.

“I was really impressed on game day in what they did,’’ said Dinwiddie of Donovan, who joined the Als as their special teams co-ordinator in 2018. “I liked his leadership. He brings a professionalism and I just like the physical element he’ll add to our special teams.”

BANKS ON IT

Banks, who will line up at wide receiver, isn’t expected to be activated in the return game as the Argos begin the season without a featured returner.

“Speedy will be our ace in the hole,’’ said Dinwiddie. “I feel comfortable with Speedy back there and we’ll let him go.”

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It won’t happen right away and it may not happen if someone else emerges.

Running back Javon Leake showed flashes during the pre-season, including a kickoff return in the exhibition finale against Hamilton, but is opening the season on the practice squad.

Veteran off-season signing Andrew Harris and holdover AJ Oullette will handle the bulk of the running game.

INJURY REPORT

Sunday’s list of injured Argos who were unable to practise featured 11 players.
Montreal listed seven players unable to practise.

Stanback moves to the six-game injured list, but no one is expecting him to return any time soon.

Als head coach Khari Jones says there’s no timeline for Stanback’s recovery from the broken ankle, but Jones is hopeful he will return at some point this season.

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On Sunday, the Als added RB Shane Simpson.

The most likely Argo to move to the six-game injured list is second-year offensive lineman Peter Nicastro, who hurt his knee late last season and required surgery.

Three offensive linemen — Isiah Cage, Dylan Giffen and Gregor Mackellar — are all dealing with head injuries, according to the team’s injury report.

Cage missed the entire 2021 season following an ankle injury he suffered in training camp.

Giffen and Mackellar, the Argos’ first-round pick from this year’s CFL draft, are considered depth pieces.

Cage, when healthy, will line up at left tackle to protect the blind side as the starter.

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