New-look Argonauts Start Again With Return to Lamport Stadium

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The Argonauts’ new look was back on the familiar field on Thursday as the team gathered at Lamport Stadium for the first time since training camp was halted and many hearts were broken following the cuts.

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Everything old is new again for Argos, who start again with some remnants on both sides of the ball from last year’s team that played in the East final.

In 2021, the CFL opted for a shortened 14-game schedule that would see Argos emerge at the top of the East with a 9-5 record before losing to Hamilton in the division final.
There is something new in the 2022 version, both in personal and coaching.

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A new defense will be led by first-year coordinator Corey Mace, while starting QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be in his second year under head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. Team coordinator Mickey Donovan begins his first season in Toronto, having served in the same capacity with the Montreal Alouettes.

There is a novelty and freshness mixed with curiosity to see how the many parts and personalities blend together.

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While the CFL officially kicked off their season on Thursday night, Argos have a goodbye to start the season and will wait until next Thursday for the bullets to fly.

Until then, they will have better control over the roster that will take to the field at BMO Field when the Als come to town.

For players like Justin Lawrence and Tarvarus McFadden, being with Argos marks the beginning of a new chapter in football.

For McFadden, it’s a continuation of a story that began at the last boot camp when he was at the U. of Guelph.

Some unfortunate circumstances would lead McFadden to return to his native Florida before finally making a resurgence with Argos in the 2021 season.

Technically, McFadden isn’t new, but he never took a single snap in a regular season game and was never exposed to the Mace system until last month. The long, athletic quarterback impressed and recorded an interception in the preseason opener and nearly had a second pick at the end of the showing.

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McFadden looks to be a lock to start the year as a starter in the back end for next Thursday.
Lawrence is familiar with offense, having spent time with Dinwiddie when the Argos coach served as Calgary’s offensive coordinator.

Lawrence is a versatile offensive lineman who came to Toronto in free agency this off-season. He will start the year as the starting center for Argos in a unit that will feature American tackles in Isiah Cage and Dejon Allen.

And once second-year pivot Peter Nicastro returns, Argos will have depth.

In keeping with the new theme, Cage missed the entire season in 2021 following an ankle injury he sustained in training. He has never appeared in a game with Dinwiddie as the head coach.
Allen filled the void left by Cage, a left tackle, but will now begin his second season at right tackle.

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“It’s been a pretty smooth transition,” said Lawrence, who knows several teammates he met in Calgary. “Getting used to the city is the craziest part, but as far as being with this team and this culture, it’s been a great adjustment since I got here.”

Lawrence lined up left, right and center. He will be the O-line quarterback.
To his left will be veteran Philip Blake, who started last season at center.

Blake injured himself, clearing the way for Nicastro to move in the center. When he returned from his injury, Blake lined up on guard.

Toronto’s starting right guard will be Dariusz Bladek who, like Blake, will begin his second season at Double Blue.

Knowing the playbook and its many nuances and forming bonds with his offensive brethren became priority items for Lawrence.

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“The tighter we go as a group, the better we play as a group,” Lawrence said of his goal at training camp.

Line play on either side of the ball defines teams.

“I’ll let next Thursday speak for what it is,” Lawrence said. “This is really going to set the pace for the season. I know what our goals and ambitions are as an O-line, but we want to come out next week and show it out there.”

McFadden has shown he can play and will have that opportunity. He came into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID at boot camp last year, which meant he had to be quarantined for two weeks.

He then injured his knee towards the end of camp, an injury that turned out to be much worse than initially thought.

After it was rehabilitated, the Argos liked the Florida State product so much that they brought it back.

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He was on the practice roster and never appeared in a game last season.

McFadden felt like a different person this time around, blending in well with the team’s new coaches and defensive players, a handful he’d met in recent training.

“Now it’s just going out and playing and having fun,” said McFadden, who was introduced to defensive backs coach Josh Bell last year.

EDWARDS SUSPENSION CUT IN HALF

As expected, Chris Edwards’ six-game suspension has been reduced.

Word is that the all-star LB will miss Argos’ first three games to start the season.

He will be eligible to make his 2022 debut on July 16 when Argos play a Nova Scotia home game against Saskatchewan at Acadia’s ground.

Edwards was in the midst of a post-game incident with Ticat supporters following last year’s Eastern final defeat to Hamilton.

The CFL was tough on Edwards, but the six-game suspension was seen as too heavy.

Edwards was able to play in both of Toronto’s exhibition games.

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