Phillips flourishing as he pushes for starting receiver role

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To hear Ryan Dinwiddie tell it, a new year has ushered in a new and more improved version of Cam Phillips.

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“Night and day,’’ said the head coach when discussing the receiver.

There’s a good chance Phillips will be in the lineup Thursday night when the Argos begin the 2022 season with a home date against the Montreal Alouettes.

Toronto’s game-day roster will be unveiled Wednesday.

The Argos’ roster, in general, is dotted with injuries, but none outside of offensive lineman Peter Nicastro is considered worthy of being placed on the six-game injured list.

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Phillips is healthy and has looked pretty impressive from the moment the Argos gathered at the University of Guelph for training camp.

The Argos first signed Phillips a year ago after he was cut by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during training camp.

Prior to joining the Tabbies, Phillips had a pretty distinguished run in the XFL.

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He was in the NFL briefly after playing his collegiate football at Virginia Tech.

A new season for Phillips, but it’s the same offence he first learned in 2021.

Phillips is at that all-important stage where he can play fast without thinking knowing where to line up and understanding the nuances of the Dinwiddie system.

“You can see this year how fast he’s playing,’’ said Dinwiddie, who runs a fairly complicated offence. “He gets it. He’s more confident. I’ve been very pleased with Cam.”

As for opening night, Dinwiddie said Phillips is in the conversation.

A.J. Richardson, who emerged during camp in this his first season as an Argo, is also being considered.

“We like both of those guys,’’ added Dinwiddie. “Each is savvy, even though they haven’t had much (CFL) experience.”

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Phillips attended DeMatha High School, a hoops hotbed in the Washington D.C. area.

His sporting passion involved the pigskin and he finds himself in a position to be a difference-maker with the Argos.

During a Zoom call Tuesday, Phillips was asked how much more comfortable he feels today than he did a year ago.

“I feel it’s night and day,’’ he said. “Just being aware of what’s going on on the field, the plays, the different motion, the shifts. You come in from playing in the States and players don’t understand it’s (CFL) a completely different game. You have to adjust. Just being here last season provided me with that adjustment period I needed.

“At camp this year I was way further ahead than what I even expected to be. And that’s not just me because we have a great group of vets and teammates.”

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GAME ON

Dinwiddie hasn’t been seen at practice all week.

Turns out he was in isolation following a positive test for COVID.

“I got it and my whole family got it about a week ago,’’ said Dinwiddie, who begins his second season as Argos head coach Thursday night.

“This (Tuesday) is the last day of isolation. I’ll be good to go on game day.”

He’s feeling better as are his wife and two young boys.

“Just an unfortunate circumstance,’’ he added.

For the Argos, it was business as usual at practice, even if Dinwiddie couldn’t physically be with the players and his coaching staff.

He will be present for Wednesday’s walkthrough.

DONOVAN’S DEBUT

Mickey Donovan begins his tenure as an Argos assistant Thursday night as special teams coordinator, a role he served in Montreal since 2018 before the Als parted ways following the 2021 season.

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Many changes were made this past off-season by the CFL, each designed to promote more offence.

The kicking game is always critical in three-down football, but it will become even more of a point of emphasis with a 15-yard penalty assessed for no yards.

Previously, the 15-yard penalty was applied only when the football ball had been fielded in the air and only five yards if the punt had bounced.

In addition, any punt that sails out of bounds before it reaches an opponent’s 15-yard line will be assigned a penalty.

The previous rule involved the 20-yard line.

Donovan knows Boris Bede from their time in Montreal.

Playing fast, fearless and smart until the final whistle is blown, those are the characteristics Donovan is hoping his unit embraces and executes.

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Donovan is a vocal leader who believes his voice resonates throughout the team and not just on special teams.

“If you’re making a correction you want everyone to hear it,’’ he said. “At the same time, you want to bring energy and juice to practice.”

Field position looms large each and every week and this year will be no different.

Given the changes, special teams in 2022 will be even more paramount.

As an example, following a made field goal or single point, drives will start from the 40-yard line instead of the 35.

Teams kicking off for any reason will put the ball in play from their 30-yard line instead of the 35-yard line with the lone exception following a safety, which will feature kickoffs from the 20 instead of the 25-yard line.

Donovan appreciates the sacrifices players have made and continue to make, and has always coached his unit to never look past a foe, while preaching the importance of respecting the opposition.

Admittedly, Donovan doesn’t know what he’ll feel, on a personal level, until he arrives at BMO Field and sees players on the opposing side he once coached.

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