MONTREAL ALOUETTES (0-1) at TORONTO ARGONAUTS (0-0)
Thursday, 7:30 pm, BMO Field
TV: TSN1/5 (TSN3/4 joined in progress); Radio: 1050 AM
Line: Argos by 3.5
Weather: 25C, clear and sunny, winds 22 km/h
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1. MAC ATTACK
McLeod Bethel-Thompson first joined the Argos in 2017 when Ricky Ray was the team’s incumbent QB; James Franklin and Nick Arbuckle would follow, leaving the man known as Mac relegated to backup status. He’s now the man and will line up under centre for the first time at home to usher in a new season. He has one year under his belt running the Dinwiddie system, but needs to step up knowing Chad Kelly is waiting in the wings.
2. UP AND ADAMS
Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr. is a playmaking QB who will throw into coverage or exercise poor ball security. With William Stanback out, there isn’t a stud running back to take pressure off Adams Jr., which means he’ll have to be decisive in his reads and protect the football.
3. BACK TO THE FUTURE
Future hall of fame running back Andrew Harris begins his run as an Argo. His previous CFL stops were in B.C. and Winnipeg and he’ll now get a taste of life in the East. Harris was held out of Toronto’s two pre-season games. The Argos want to establish a downhill, physical presence, and Harris is more than capable of achieving that goal.
4. SPEEDY INTRODUCTION
Brandon Banks is quite familiar with BMO Field and its grass surface, which he enjoys. When he lined up for Hamilton, the man known as Speedy B would terrorize the Argos as a receiving threat and on special teams. The Argos don’t plan on using Banks in the return game, but they hope his presence creates down-field opportunities in the passing game.
5. OUI, OUI ANTWI
Jeshrun Antwi will fill in for Stanback, knowing full well he can’t replace the man who led the league in rushing last season. Antwi showed a burst last week in Calgary when Stanback left following an ankle injury that required surgery. Antwi, 24, is a Canadian. “Since I’ve been playing and got the chance at this level, it’s something that I’ve wanted,” he said. “Every player dreams of being a starter in the league.”
Als WR Eugene Lewis vs. Argos DB Tarvarus McFadden
McFadden emerged during camp and produced an interception in Toronto’s pre-season opener in Ottawa. He’s long and athletic, but he never has lined up in a CFL regular-season game. Lewis can do it all. He’s a physical specimen who is one of the very best. Lewis will see plenty of Robertson Daniel as well.
Following a successful run at the University of Calgary, Antwi was taken by the Als in the sixth round two years ago, making his debut last season when he dressed for every game in the league’s shortened 14-game season … Antwi becomes Montreal’s first Canadian to start at running back since the days of Eric Lapointe, whose career also included a stop in Toronto … The Als managed only three second-half points last week in their 30-27 loss to the host Stamps on a night when Adams Jr. was picked off twice … The Argos couldn’t draw flies last season and opening night vs. the Als shouldn’t be different, even though there’s plenty of entertainment to be had with pre-game festivities kicking of at 6 p.m. in the North Extended Patio featuring food trucks, a DJ, special guests and $7 beer … Montreal native Benoit Marion is one of three Canadian defensive linemen who appear on the Argos’ depth chart as backups on a unit featuring four starting Americans … RB Walter Fletcher, whom the Als acquired earlier in the week in a trade with Edmonton, begins his time with Montreal on the one-game injured list … One-time Argo receiver/returner Chandler Worthy, who first joined Toronto in 2017, will make his debut for the Als against his former team.
OUR TAKE: Als 20, Argos 19
Toronto has yet to play a regular-season game amid a new roster and didn’t have its head coach overseeing practice this week when Ryan Dinwiddie was in COVID isolation. So much depends on Adams Jr. and his ability to protect the football. If the Argos don’t contain him in the pocket, Adams Jr. becomes lethal. Argos need time to find their footing, and opening night isn’t one of those moments.