Argos coach Dinwiddie to wait before naming starting quarterback for opener

·4 min read

Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie wants another practice day before deciding who'll be his starting quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts' home opener.

Dinwiddie said Nick Arbuckle got the bulk of reps Tuesday but only because the rookie head coach felt Arbuckle needed the work. Dinwiddie plans to decide Wednesday whether Arbuckle or veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson will start when Toronto (1-1) hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-0) on Saturday at BMO Field.

"Mac had the majority of (reps) through training camp and then the first week of the season," Dinwiddie said during a video conference. "I thought (Tuesday) was a day to see where Nick is at, throw a bunch at him and then we'll make our mind up (Wednesday)."

Arbuckle relieved Bethel-Thompson in the third quarter with Toronto trailing 10-0 and promptly marched the offence to its lone TD of the game, John White's 30-yard scoring run. But that's as close as the Argos got as the defending Grey Cup champions scored 10 fourth-quarter points to cement the win.

Arbuckle finished 10-of-19 passing for 96 yards with an interception. Bethel-Thompson completed 10-of-20 attempts for 70 yards.

"I thought (Arbuckle) was getting the ball out of his hands getting to the right spot on the field," Dinwiddie said. "The one pick he had was a bad decision, he thought it was open and lost track of the boundary halfback and threw it right to him so we've got to clean that up.

"We can't have turnovers, especially against this great defence, that's kind of what they live off of. I thought he gave us a spark and the ball was coming out a little bit quicker."

But Dinwiddie also came to Bethel-Thompson's defence.

"It had nothing to do with Mac's play," Dinwiddie said. "Guys around him weren't playing (well) and it kind of makes it look like it falls on the quarterback.

"By no means was it McLeod's fault that we weren't successful in the first half, that's for sure."

Last week's action was Arbuckle's first since 2019 when he was with the Calgary Stampeders. The 27-year-old dealt with a hamstring issue during training camp but said he's been healthy since the start of the season.

"I felt excited, I kind of forgot what it felt like to play again," he said. "We didn't get the result we wanted but being out there . . . it was just a fun experience."

Arbuckle is preparing as if he'll start Saturday, something he does every week.

"I wouldn't say expecting, just preparing and hoping," he said. "If it's me that's great,(but) if it's Mac then it's my job to do whatever I can to help him get ready and help him prepare as the starter."

The good news for Arbuckle and the Argos, they're facing the same opponent they did last week. Unfortunately, that means facing a Bombers' defence anchored by defensive lineman Willie Jefferson — the CFL's top defensive player in 2019 — and stalwart middle linebacker Adam Bighill.

"When you're a competitor and want to be the best, it's fun and exciting to play against the best," Arbuckle said. "It's a fun challenge but it's not always easy.

"I do love and relish playing against guys like that, guys who you talk about all week and scheme against and have to change some of the things you do."

Receiver Juwan Brescasin suffered a knee injury against Winnipeg. And while the Argos were still waiting for test results Tuesday, Dinwiddie wasn't banking on Brescasin suiting up for the rematch with the Bombers.

"He's probably going to be down this week for sure," Dinwiddie said.

Something Dinwiddie would like to see cleaned up is his club's penchant for penalties. Toronto has been flagged 25 times for 204 yards this season.

"I just think (it's) guys getting physically tired and not locking in," Dinwiddie said. "I told those guys I understand the first two games are like pre-season games, that's fine.

"We've got to get that out of our system. I addressed it with the team (Tuesday), we all know we have to be better. We're shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties."

Veteran rush end Charleston Hughes is also searching for his first sack of 2021. The six-time CFL all-star has led the league in sacks five times since 2013, including the previous four seasons.

"He's been close a few different times . . . we know who he is and I'm not concerned quite yet," Dinwiddie said. "He's been great in the run game stopping that as well.

"He's been doing what we need to do to be successful but we have to get hold the quarterback here soon."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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