2012 CFL Toronto Argonauts Season Preview: Can Ricky Ray Lead Argos to Grey Cup?
Last year, the Argos finished with a miserable 6-12 overall record, which was good for last place in the East Division. The Argos were unable to make the playoffs and it was apparent that changes were coming to the team.
In December of last year, Toronto signed new head coach Scott Milanovich. Milanovich was the assistant in Montreal last year, but in 2009 and 2010 Milanovich was the Alouettes offensive coordinator when Montreal won the back-to-back Grey Cups.
Milanovich has proven on numerous occasions that he knows how to coach a CFL offense to success. He's going to have his hands full with Toronto this year, but several key offseason moves should help ease the transition.
The big offseason move from the Argonauts this year was trading Steven Jyles, Grant Shaw and their 2012 first-round draft pick for QB Rickey Ray of the Edmonton Eskimos.
Jyles was definitely a young prospect with upside, but the Argonauts couldn't go another season with an unproven QB at the reigns. Ricky Ray instantly brings veteran leadership and skill to the poor Argos offensive unit.
Last season, Toronto averaged 233 passing yards per game (the worst in the CFL) and scored an average of 21.3 PPG, which was good for second-worst in the CFL, only ahead of the Roughriders (19.2 PPG).
Ricky Ray should be able to come in and improve the offense. Last year with the Eskimos, Ray threw for 4594 passing yards and 24 TDs, which was good for third in the CFL behind Calvillo and Lulay.
Ray did lead the CFL with his 99.3 passer rating, though. If Ray can perform like he did in Edmonton last year, the Argonauts will instantly become contenders in the wide-open East Division this season.
Toronto struggled with getting the football intercepted last season. Between the QBs last season, the Argonauts threw 27 INTs in 18 games. Ricky Ray only threw 11 INTs last season, and I can't see him throwing over 15 INTs this year.
Cory Boyd is one of the CFL's best RBs and will be able to help open the field up for Ricky Ray. Boyd ran the ball 187 times for 1141 rushing yards and six TDs last season. Boyd is expected to carry less of a load this season and slot back Andre Durie will be given more opportunities.
Last year, the Argos WRs were unproductive. Chad Owens led the team in receiving yards with 722, but Owens didn't have a TD during the entire 2011 season. Owens needs to step it up this year, but he will also have some help.
Jason Barnes is coming over from the Eskimos as well this season. Barnes is an excellent addition to the WR core in Toronto. In 2011, Barnes caught 50 passes for 869 reception yards and seven TDs. No Fred Stamps numbers, but solid nonetheless.
Toronto's offense may have been a problem last season, but so was the defense. The defense was left stranded in a lot of the Argo's games last season and was forced to play long minutes, but that's hardly an excuse for what happened.
The Argonauts gave up an average 298.2 passing YPG, 136.4 rushing YPG and 27.7 points. Toronto finished last in the CFL in each of these defensive statistical categories, so it'll be difficult for Toronto to play any worse on defense.
One move on defense that has been widely talked about is the change of position for veteran Jordan Younger. Younger is going to move into the safety position this season and will be counted on to provide leadership from his position.
Chris Jones is the new defensive coordinator for the Argonauts in 2012, and big changes are expected. The veteran players on defense have secured their spots on the starting roster already, but several positions are wide open.
Toronto plays two preseason CFL games in June against Hamilton and Montreal. Expect the new coaching staff to test a lot of different lineups out during the two preseason games to see what works.
With Ricky Ray leading the team at QB and Milanovich calling the plays from the sidelines on offense, I like the Argonauts this year and I think they'll be able to escape the basement in the East Division.
It isn't that difficult making the playoffs in the CFL, and not making the playoffs this year would be a major disappointment. Fans are excited about the addition of superstar CFL quarterback Ricky Ray and the Argos need to make sure they win.
I'm not predicting that Toronto will win the 100th Grey Cup this year at the Rogers Centre in November, but I definitely think the Argos made enough moves during the offseason to make the playoffs at the very least.
*UPDATE*: Today it was just announced that Willie Pile will retire from the Toronto Argonauts. Pile played with the Argos for five years and was a leader on the defense (defensive captain last two seasons). This is a blow to Toronto's defense, but they still have the entire camp to work new players into Pile's role.
Scott Jack is a Contributor for Bleacher Report and also writes his analysis at his blog Odds Nerd.
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