July 4, 2023

Steinberg’s MMQB: The Champs are (still) here

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

When the Toronto Argonauts denied the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a Grey Cup three-peat in November, it was understandably billed as an upset. But as the Argos are now 3-0 in their defence of that championship, perhaps the scale of that upset is feeling a little smaller. These guys are reigning champs for a reason.

In what was billed by many as a possible Grey Cup preview, Toronto finished Week 4 with an emphatic 45-24 win at home over BC. While not a start-to-finish domination, there was no doubt coming out of Monday who the better team was that night. Which, quite honestly, has been the case in all three Argonauts wins so far.

This defensive group looks like they picked up where they left off in November, as Corey Mace’s unit has been downright frightening thus far. What’s even scarier is the fact you can’t pinpoint the one area most responsible for Toronto’s defensive success.

» Stamps bring back WR Marken Michel, activate WR Reggie Begelton
» Play CFL Pick ‘Em presented by Old Dutch
» Watch: All six Argos’ INTs from Monday
» Sign up and watch CFL games on CFL+ in the U.S. and Internationally

The front four has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. That’s been led by the always disruptive presence of Shawn Oakman in the middle and augmented by all kinds of pressure off the edge from the likes of Folarin Orimolade, Thomas Costigan, and Robbie Smith.

Even with injuries here and there around him, Wynton McManis has been dynamite with whomever he’s been paired with at linebacker. And over at SAM, Adarius Pickett has fit like a tailor-made glove in his first season with the Argos.

Toronto’s secondary is so riddled with playmakers it’s bordering on unfair. Monday, for instance, saw Robertson Daniel lead the way with three interceptions from his boundary halfback position. But on any given night it could easily be Jamal Peters, Royce Metchie, DaShaun Amos or Tarvarus McFadden making that big play (or plays).

And we haven’t even gotten to what we’re seeing on offence. Through three starts, quarterback Chad Kelly has shut down any doubts as to whether the Argonauts should have given him the ball after McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s departure. Kelly has looked poised, mobile, confident and dynamic in three wins with plenty more to be unlocked.

Tailback A.J. Ouellette is turning into a star in front of our eyes. He added 70 more rushing yards and another touchdown against the Lions and is showing last year’s emergence was only the beginning. On top of all of that, Ouellette is one of the league’s most entertaining players to watch right now, as he truck-sticks his way over opposing defenders with his bruising, physical brand of running.

So, yes, Toronto did pull off an upset by winning the 109th Grey Cup. But let’s not forget they put together an 11-7 regular season last year and were the East Division’s best team from wire-to-wire. What the Argos are showing us now is that last season was no fluke.

This group is here to stay, which is bad news for the rest of the East trying to play catchup.

Quick hits


I thought Tyrie Adams gave Ottawa exactly what it needed in his first CFL start. I loved the way Adams broke contain and extended plays with his legs while also showing considerable discipline as the REDBLACKS took a 26-7 win over Edmonton.

It was Adams’s decision making that stood out the most, because that’s something mobile quarterbacks sometimes struggle with early in CFL starting tenures. But Adams made smart choices, didn’t force things, and took what was given to him. As we continue to wait for Jeremiah Masoli’s return, I’m excited to see where things go with Adams.

There seem to be questions every year about whether age is catching up to certain members of the Blue Bombers. If you wondered that about Willie Jefferson, he’s having none of it. Jefferson was at it again with two sacks and a pass knockdown as Winnipeg bounced back with a 17-3 road win over Montreal. Jefferson looks as good as ever early this season.

It was interesting to see head coach Chris Jones make the call to go back to Taylor Cornelius at quarterback as Edmonton looks for its first win of the season this week in Saskatchewan. Cornelius took a backseat to Jarret Doege in Friday’s loss to Ottawa, which dropped the Elks to 0-4 on the year.

Doege struggled in his first professional start and Jones made the decision to go right back to Cornelius for Week 5. I think it’s the right choice. Cornelius has the team’s best arm and provides the most immediate upside, even if his game still needs refining.

Finally, I’m excited to see Marken Michel back north of the border. After a four-year stint in the NFL, Michel signed with Calgary over the weekend to give a beat-up receiving group a little shot in the arm. It’s much needed as the 1-2 Stamps will be without Malik Henry for the rest of the season. On the bright side, however, Reggie Begelton seems close to a return. That and the addition of Michel couldn’t come at a better time.

The comment system on this website is now powered by the CFL.ca Forums. We'd love for you to be part of the conversation; click the Start Discussion button below to register an account and join the community!