*** 2013 CFL Eastern Preview - Toronto Argonauts ***
From The Sports Network
By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - If any team in the CFL illustrated what finishing strong meant, the Grey Cup champion Argos were the poster boys.
The Argos got red-hot when it counted, winning their last five regular-season games, two playoff games, then, in front of a raucous sell-out home crowd at the Rogers Centre, beat the Calgary Stampeders, 35-22, to win the 100th Grey Cup.
The 2012 season saw the debut of Scott Milanovich as the Argos head coach and Ricky Ray as the starting quarterback. Ray, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Edmonton, admittedly took a while to get started, but when he found his mojo, he showed the people of Toronto why the Edmonton fans were so upset. Ray completed 68.6 percent of his passes, which set a club record, and also threw for 4,059 yards and 20 touchdowns in 14 games.
And, as if that wasn't enough, in the last two regular-season games, the Sacramento State grad threw for 689 yards and eight touchdowns.
During the playoffs, he threw for 869 yards and five touchdowns.
A few weeks ago, he was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him in Toronto through the 2015 season.
"Last year I was learning from scratch, trying to figure out what I was doing out there," Ray said. "This year I'm going to have a better opportunity to understand some more details that go with this offense.
"Last year I didn't really know what to expect or how I was going to do. This year I won't have to worry about where guys are lining up or what I'm supposed to do."
Ray's supporting cast isn't too shabby either.
Chad Kackert, the bull from New Hampshire, racked up 638 yards on just 100 carries, with 5 TDs. Kackert, who was named the MVP in the Argos' Grey Cup win, came to camp even bigger in his upper body, which could make him even tougher to bring down.
Chad Owens, the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2012, led the CFL in receiving last year with 94 catches for 1,328 yards and six TDs. He's joined by Andre Durie (70 receptions for 842 yards and five TDs), Jason Barnes (31 catches, 437 yards and four TDs) and Spencer Watt (34 catches, 424 yards). Add the newly acquired Romby Bryant from Calgary and third-year receiver Dontrelle Inman, and the only negative is that there can only be one football on the field at any time.
If there's a question mark heading into the 2013 season, it may be the defensive line.
Gone are: DT Armond Armstead (signed as a free agent with New England Patriots), DE Ricky Foley (Saskatchewan), DE Ejiro Kuale (Montreal) and DE Ron Flemons (released). In addition, DB Evan McCollough signed with Hamilton.
However, the Argos' inside pass rush could be frightening with the newly acquired DT Khalif Mitchell (BC) teaming up with Kevin Huntley. They'll also get relief from DT Jermaine Reid, a Canadian who played in Edmonton last year. What can be expected of the 2013 Argos?
"I expect them to come out of the gate flying," Milanovich said. "This is a team that knows it can compete at the highest level. I think there were times last year when we believed we could, but now they know it."
And if they deliver on the coach's words, that means the Argos, especially offensively, could be downright scary. And that could mean another trip to the Grey Cup, slated for November 24 in Regina.
FACTS & FIGURES: Division - East. 2012 record - 9-9, 2nd place in East. Playoff result: defeated Edmonton 42-26 in the East semifinal. Defeated Montreal Alouettes 27-20 in the East Final. Won Grey Cup. Stadium - Rogers Centre. Capacity - 49,539 Colors - Oxford Blue (dark), Cambridge Blue (light), and White.
06/10 15:43:10 ET