November 10, 2023

Costabile: Pickett, Argos defence ready for EF battle with Als

Kevin Sousa/

Adarius Pickett is as versatile as they come.

It’s what made him such an integral part of the Toronto Argonauts defence, playing at the nickel spot in his first year with the Double Blue.

At his position he’s asked to play inside the box, stopping bruising running backs or blitzing the quarterback. He’s also looked to drop in pass coverage, adding a sixth body to the team’s secondary to cover receivers.

The five-foot-11, 210-pounder did all of that and more in 2023, earning himself the East Division nomination for Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Pickett said after Thursday’s practice session at BMO Field when asked about the nod.

“Being that last year I was Montreal’s defensive player of the year and being here (in Toronto) and being nominated to represent the East, that’s a big accomplishment, especially being on the defence I’m on with as much talent as we have.”

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Pickett was all over the field making plays this season, 144 of them to be exact. He hit a career-high in defensive tackles with 105 (sixth-most in franchise history) and in sacks (six). Five of his tackles on defence were for a loss. He recored seven or more defensive tackles in eight games, including a season-high against the Alouettes (13) in Week 15. He also added a pair of fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

Pickett, too, plays on special teams, adding yet another tool to his toolbox of versatility. His 19 special teams tackles led the Argos this season and was good for fifth in the CFL.

“I always take special teams very serious because that’s how I started my college career,” said Pickett. “Now, I’m only playing punt and to be able to have 20 special team tackles on punt is a huge testament to (special teams coordinator) coach Mickey (Donnovan), who was with me in my first year in Montreal.”

“(He brings) physicality, tackling around the box, tackling in space,” head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said of Pickett. “(As the) gunner with special teams, adding that other element with it. He’s done a great job of helping us change field position on special teams, blitzing off the edge (on defence). He’s done a great job.”

Pickett was part of an Argos defence that, too, did a great job throughout the regular season. The team led the league in turnovers forced with 54 and was top of the CFL in interceptions (27) and in sacks (68). The teams also had 10 non-offensive touchdowns on the season, just second to the league-leading Alouettes who had 12. No other team had more than seven on the year.

“We always talk about taking the ball away,” Pickett said. “There’s a real emphasis on taking the ball away. The more turnovers you can create on defence, the better off our team is to win the football game. We have done a pretty good job of doing that this year and we’ll try to do that in the playoff game on Saturday.”

The Argonauts welcome the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday afternoon to BMO Field, where a crowd of over 25,000 is expected, for the Eastern Final with a trip to the 110th Grey Cup on the line.

Pickett and his Argos were the best at stopping the run in the regular season, giving up a league-low 83.6 yards per game on the ground. They’ll need to keep Als running back William Stanback in check, who carried the rock 18 times for 95 yards last week in the team’s win in the Eastern Semi-Final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo used his legs in that game as well, calling his own number four times for 62 yards.

It’ll be up to Pickett and the rest of that Argos front seven to contain the Als run game and force them into pushing the ball down field to Toronto’s ballhawking secondary.

“We just have to continue to play our game, worry about our jobs, and our gaps and make sure that they don’t have the gaps that need,” Pickett said when asked about the key to stopping the run game. “William Stanback, I played with him, he’s a really good running back. He can get downhill, hit his lanes.”

The only stat that remains at zero for the first year Argo this season is interceptions, though he did have a few close calls this season.

So did he save his first one for the playoffs, when it matters the most?

“By God’s grace it’s coming now,” he smiled.

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