CFL

Argonauts' Ray replaces Calvillo as best still active

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Ben Fisher, TSN.ca
6/15/2014 12:18:23 PM
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There will be two replacements for Anthony Calvillo this season, only fitting for a player of his stature.

Troy Smith has the unenviable task of trying to fill the surefire Hall of Famer's shoes in Montreal, but Calvillo held another post, one for the entire CFL, and one that may now fall to the Toronto Argonauts' Ricky Ray.

While you could argue the face of the league is now a younger and more electric player; with Calvillo now in retirement, Ray assumes the role of patriarch, head of the league, arguably the greatest still-active player.

With 11 years CFL experience, over 250 career touchdown passes, and multiple Grey Cup wins under his belt, Ray's resume certainly lends to the idea he could be the next head of state in the CFL.

And at 35-years-old, he'll have at least a few years to hold that mantle, so long as he plays into his 40s like Calvillo or past patriarch Damon Allen. That's a lot of time to climb up the "All-Time" lists or knock off a few records. First up, hitting 50,000 career passing yards, which he should accomplish this season.

The catch however, is that Ray has to stay healthy, something that gets harder to do the older one gets. Ray was actually extremely resilient during his time with the Edmonton Eskimos, only missing a significant amount of the season in one of his nine seasons in Green and Gold.

Since coming to Toronto however, the two-time All-Star has missed 11 games, including seven last season with a shoulder injury. That is of heightened concern for the Argos as well, seeing as there is no guarantee the next Zach Collaros, now the likely starter in Hamilton, is currently on the roster.

Ray's health is vital to the Argonauts too because outside of tremendous quarterback play, there wasn't a lot going for the team's offence last year.

Had they been able to share the Most Outstanding Player award last season, Ray and Collaros surely would have given winner Jon Cornish a scare, but even with that production from the quarterback position, the Argos finished with just an 11-7 record and the fourth ranked offence.

The team will need more out of the run game, where 2012 Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert led the way for a paltry eighth-ranked attack. Kackert somewhat surprisingly retired ahead of training camp and the team now needs to rely on their backup plan.

If Ray is to succeed Calvillo as elder statesman of the CFL, and he'll certainly be given first crack at the job; like the Alouettes were, the Argonauts will always be in contention. What could push them over the edge is an improved running game and somehow figuring out how to deal with the losses on defence to improve the eighth-ranked unit.

Notes

Assistant Coaches - The Argonauts suffered two big losses to their coaching staff over the off-season when defensive coordinator Chris Jones and special teams coordinator Mike O'Shea accepted head coaching gigs with the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers respectively. While it's a compliment to head coach Scott Milanovich's staff to have his assistants coveted for head coaching vacancies, the shakeup could hurt the Argos in the short-term. Toronto did replace both Jones and O'Shea with former head coaches in Tim Burke and Jim Daley.

Expansion Draft - Toronto's biggest loss in the expansion draft was Joe Eppele, the veteran offensive lineman who proved versatile in his three years with the Double Blue. The Argos also lost veteran Canadian linebacker Jason Pottinger, a solid depth player and special teams contributor, and American defensive lineman Jonathan Williams, who was with the team just one year after arriving from BC.

Free Agency - The Argos lost some key pieces in free agency in lockdown defensive back Patrick Watkins, who joined his former defensive coordinator Chris Jones in Edmonton, and promising quarterback Zach Collaros, who chose Toronto's biggest rival, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Those losses will be tough to overcome for sure, but they weren't entirely unexpected – especially in the case of Collaros – and the team landed some big names on the market as well. Former Montreal Alouettes linebacker and solid Canadian starter Shea Emry will join the Argos as their coup of free agency.

CFL Draft - It's rare a running back goes as high as third overall, but the Toronto Argonauts, who traded up to land Manitoba product Anthony Coombs, think they drafted a potential ratio buster. With Chad Kackert retiring later in the off-season, the Coombs pick looks even better. Toronto also selected UBC DL Jaskaran Dhillon in the third round, Manitoba LB Thomas Miles and Montreal FB Alexandre Dupuis in the fourth round, St. Mary's DB Eric Black and Windsor WR Evan Pszczonak in the fifth round, Simon Fraser WR Tore Corrado in the sixth round, and Acadia DL Kirby Fletcher in the seventh round.

BMO Field - It seemed a foregone conclusion the Argonauts would move to BMO Field on Exhibition Grounds after their time at the Rogers Centre came to an end in 2017. That may not be the case however, as MLSE, who also appeared set to buy the Argonauts from David Braley – also the owner of the BC Lions – threatened to go ahead with upgrades to BMO Field that didn't include expansion for the Argos if the federal government didn't come through with some funding help. There is still time for this issue to be resolved, but for now, the Argos' future location is somewhat in the air.

Ricky Ray (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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