After practice Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Argonauts huddled up around head caoch Scott Milanovich and the legendary Michael Pinball Clemons.
It went on for 25 minutes.
Milanovich’s message was constant — the Argos have a must-win road match against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday at Canad Inns Stadium.
Following two disappointing losses to top calibre teams, Toronto sits second in the East and are without the services of starting quarterback Ricky Ray.
The thirty-two-year-old will miss this week after injuring his left knee in a 31-10 loss last Sunday to the division leading Montreal Alouettes.
Toronto now turns to veteran backup Jarious Jackson, who will be making his starting debut for the Double Blue. Jackson signed as a free agent this year after a seven-year career with the Grey Cup champion Lions.
His backup will be Trevor Harris, with Zach Collaros coming off the injured list as the third stringer.
During last week’s loss, Jackson completed 15 of 31 passes en route to 198 yards and an interception.
While the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish hasn’t started in over two years, Milanovich reaffirmed his confidence in the CFL veteran and applauds his different skillet.
“Jackson is focused as can be and he is really locked in,” said Milanovich, at the University of Toronto Mississauga facility. “He has arm strength and is a powerful runner.
“In certain situations we want him to just take off to try and get that first down.”
The agile Jackson will have a great opportunity to exploit a Bombers’ rush defence that has allowed 394 yards in the past three contests.
“I’m definitely going to have to use my legs against them otherwise I will be a dead dog,” Jackson said. “Still, I will take it in doses and I’ll see what the D [defence] gives me.”
Toronto faces a Winnipeg squad that leads the league in sacks with two and are anchored by defensive end Alex Hall, who has eight to his name. They also feature defensive ends Jason Vega, Kenny Mainor and defensive tackle Bryant Turner — who collectively have 15 sacks.
Jackson and his speedy pair of feet will be integral to play calling so expect the Argos to be a bit more creative — blending in runs, options and routes.
But for the Argos to be successful, they will need to capitalize against a porous Bombers defence that has conceded 133 points in their previous four outings — including a 52-0 thumping by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Labour Day weekend.
Also, Jackson needs to limit turnovers and improve on his career completion percentage of 54.1 per cent, possibly favouring the long ball as opposed to quick passing.
“Were gonna balance his plays,” said Milanovich. “But the bottom line is if they don’t score, we don’t lose.”
- Toronto has won the four of the past six head to head matches against Winnipeg
- All of Winnipeg’s three wins have come at home
- Winnipeg posts the worst offence in the CFL with only 237 points scored
- Winnipeg has the second worst defence in the CFL with 377 points against
- Toronto is 3-4-0 away from the Rogers Centre.