Argos take the plunge as 2022 season begins with a home date vs Als

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Ryan Dinwiddie begins his second season as Argos head coach as he gets his first look at this year’s new-look team.

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No one can say with any degree of certainty what will play out Thursday night at BMO Field when the Argos kickoff the 2022 season with a date against the Montreal Alouettes.

The Argos team that will take to the field won’t be the same next week when Toronto hits the road to play the host B.C. Lions and there’s no telling what the Argos will look like in a month and deep into the season.

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It’s why Dinwiddie is both anxious and curious.

As a rookie head coach, Dinwiddie guided the Argos to a first-place finish in the East, but it was a shortened season and many of Toronto’s wins were by the thinnest of margins.

Against the Als, Dinwiddie wants to see how his players respond.

“It’s never a pretty game the first week,’’ he said. “We just need to find a way to get a win, do the fundamentals properly, take care of the football, do well on special teams and we should be fine.”

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Sounds easy enough, but rarely is anything easy in pro football when so many players in all three phases have yet to play as a group.

There are six new starters on defence, highlighted by the Argos debut of rush end Ja’Gared Davis.

There’s a new offensive line, a unit that will be missing projected starting left tackle Isiah Cage.

Brandon Banks and Andrew Harris will be making their debuts in Double Blue.

Cam Phillips will play in his first meaningful game at receiver.

There’s a new punter in Aussie John Haggerty and two new returners the Argos are hoping to showcase in Javon Leake and Isaiah Wright.

It’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s team as the QB affectionately known as Mac will start his first Argos home opener as the incumbent.

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Waiting in the wing is Chad Kelly, who has never lined up under centre for a CFL regular-season game.

There’s a first-year defensive coordinator in Corey Mace, first-time Argos special teams coordinator Mickey Donovan, who was let go by the Als following the 2021 season, and assistants not named Kevin Eiben and Josh Bell who are new to Dinwiddie’s staff.

Dinwiddie is no longer a rookie and some of the mistakes he made last season cannot be tolerated.

To his credit, he evolved as a first-year head coach, but ultimately the Argos fell short of their goal of playing for a Grey Cup when they fell to Hamilton in the East final at BMO Field.

Dinwiddie will have assistants Pete Costanza and Edwin Harrison up in the booth.

Costanza will also help oversee video challenges.

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NO SHOW EDWARDS

All-star LB Chris Edwards will not be with his teammates as he sits out a league-imposed suspension stemming from last fall’s East final.

It’s believed Edwards’ six-game suspension has been reduced to three, but Dinwiddie wouldn’t provide any details.

“I’m not sure, but it won’t be six,’’ he said.

Dinwiddie added the league will not allow Edwards access to the locker room for Thursday’s season opener and nor will he be able to be along the sideline.

“He’ll watch on TV,’’ added Dinwiddie.

PRIESTER GETS THE CALL

Robert Priester will start for Edwards, a player the Argos signed during training camp.

Priester is a versatile defender who has experience at halfback.

He attended Wyoming with Buffalo Bills marquee QB Josh Allen.

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Priester lined up in the CFL with Winnipeg and later was in Edmonton.

He was most recently with Tampa in the XFL.

Priester played with Tarvarus McFadden, who will make his Argos debut Thursday in the secondary, and was coached by Will Fields, who is Toronto’s new secondary coach.

Priester was introduced to the CFL when he suited up for the Blue Bombers in the Banjo Bowl.

In the XFL, Priester said he was used as a nickel back.

Playing the SAM spot means Priester will be used in the box, but he’ll have to drop into coverage, roles that suit his skill set.

On the eve of his debut as an Argo, Priester said he wasn’t nervous.

“I’m prepared,’’ he said. “Preparation is everything. I feel I’ve taken my attention to the film room and taken the drills to the field as well.

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“It’s a matter of flying around, play fast and have fun.”

The Argos were able to access BMO Field for Wednesday’s walkthrough, which is highly unusual.

In the past, they were relegated to the end zone area, which is covered in artificial turf.

It was the first chance for Priester to view the pristine grass surface.

“An amazing feeling,’’ he said. “I don’t mind playing on turf either, but playing on grass is great. Just a great place.”

THE 6IX AND THE SICK

The Argos listed 16 players on the injured list, including five on the six game.

Peter Nicastro isn’t injured, but he is recovering from knee surgery.

The Argos are taking the cautious route with their second-year offensive lineman, who begins the year on the six-game injured list.

His role as starting centre will be filled by first-year Argo Justin Lawrence, who can also play both guard positions

Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescacin are also on the six game.

The former Calgary teammates were limited last season, their first in Toronto.

Gregor Mackellar, Toronto’s first-round pick from this year’s CFL draft, begins his pro career on the one-game injured list.

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