Hogan: Argos playing numbers game heading into Eastern Final

Mike Hogan
11/12/2013 6:54:13 PM
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It's a nice situation to be in.

As the Toronto Argonauts prepare to face their hated enemies from down the QEW, the Hamilton Tiger Cats, in this Sunday's Eastern Final, they're faced with something they haven't experienced all season - a healthy receiving corps.

There hasn't been one game this season where all five import receivers have been healthy, mainly because newcomer Romby Bryant suffered six broken ribs in a preseason game and wasn't able to get back in the lineup until Week 17.

A CFL lineup consists of 42 players. At least 20 must be non-imports, with seven of them being starters.

All of a sudden the Argos have a decision to make. Do they dress four or five import receivers? This season the Argos have dressed four import and three non-import receivers. Two of the spots have been filled with starting Canadians, Andre Durie and Spencer Watt, with Mike Bradwell and/or Julian Feoli-Gudino dressing as backups who also play special teams. Is there a chance they could dress five American receivers?

"I don't know if we're going to make major changes there" said head coach Scott Milanovich. "It will still probably be pretty similar (to what they've done all season)."

If that's the case, the Argos now have to deal with which four import receivers will run through the tunnel to play on Sunday. Here are the options.

Chad Owens
There's no doubt he will play. Owens won the league's Most Outstanding Player award in 2012 and led all CFL receivers with 94 catches this year. He's also their primary returner. Owens missed all four games of a western road trip due to a rib injury.

Dontrelle Inman
Inman is also a lock. The 6'2 second-year Argo battled hamstring problems early in the season. He's back and is a major threat in the red zone. There are very few defensive backs who can beat him on a jump ball in the end zone.

Jason Barnes
A favourite of QB Ricky Ray's, especially in the red zone. The two were teammates for three years in Edmonton before both headed to Toronto in 2012. Barnes had 44 catches this season, with seven of those being for touchdowns, and is the only one of the group that did not miss a game due to injury.

John Chiles
Perhaps the fastest receiver in the league. Clocked with a stopwatch at a free agent camp this year at 4.24 in the 40 (his fastest electronic time being a 4.29) He stretches defences and is a legitimate game breaker. Of the rookie's 44 catches this year, eight were for touchdowns. He missed four games in October with a hamstring injury, but returned to the lineup in the season finale against Montreal.

Romby Bryant
The six-year veteran is the wild card here. Bryant suffered six broken ribs in an exhibition game this year, finally returning to the lineup late in the season. In Week 18, Bryant caught seven passes, two of them for touchdowns. He also possesses eight games of playoff experience.

During Tuesday's practice, judging by the number of reps, Bryant seemed to be the odd man out. After the workout was over, asked Milanovich whether Bryant would be the man who got the short straw when it came to dressing on Sunday.

"We have not made that decision yet" said the second-year head coach. "That's going to be one that's going to take a couple of days in practice (to figure out)."

How do they make that decision?

"It's a comfort level with the game plan" continued Milanovich. "It's performance based off this week of practice. It's health."

Figuring out any changes to the ratio is not a unilateral decision. Milanovich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady discuss what they need on offence with defensive coordinator Chris Jones.

"You have certain guys that you know have played and can play at this level" Jones told "Those (players) are identified very early during the process of deciding who are going to be the Canadian players for you. Then, of course, injury has to play into the factor; you have to see who is healthy and who is not."

The playoff bye week, coupled with most of the veterans being rested for the final regular-season game, have allowed the Argos to become as healthy as they have been all season.

It will be interesting to see which receivers and which Canadians will be donning the double blue Sunday as they attempt to get to a second-consecutive Grey Cup final.

Mike Hogan is the play by play voice of the Argos on TSN 1050 radio. You can listen to the game at 1pm Sunday on TSN 1050 or with a one hour pre-game show kicking off at noon.

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