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While two of the CFL's three major quarterback health questions appear to be going well for now, with both Saskatchewan's Darian Durant and B.C.'s Travis Lulay reportedly making good progress, the converse is true in Toronto. The Argonauts placed quarterback Ricky Ray on the six-game injured list this week as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery, and while they could potentially pull him off early, it's most likely that he'll be gone for close to the first third of the season at the very least. Where does that leave Toronto?
The next man up is set to be primary backup Trevor Harris, and there's some reason for optimism about him. The Edinboro University (a Division II school in Pennsylvania) alum is headed into his fourth CFL season, all with Toronto, so he should have a good grasp of the league and of Argonauts' head coach Scott Milanovich's offence by now. He hasn't played much, only recording 59 career completions over three seasons, but 42 of those came last season. Indeed, 2014 was a pretty good year for Harris; he completed 70 per cent of his passes, threw for 449 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and generally didn't look out of place in the limited opportunities he received. More is going to be asked of him this year, though, and the conditions will be tougher.
Keep in mind that the Argonauts have one of the worst schedules in CFL history this year, and that schedule's particularly bad early thanks to their home at the Rogers Centre being used for the Pan Am Games and the Toronto Blue Jays. Their first "home game" is on opening weekend, June 27, but it's in Fort McMurray against the Edmonton Eskimos, who only have to travel 400 kilometres compared to the Argos' 2,700-km trek. After that, they travel to Saskatchewan and Calgary before a Week Four bye, then play at B.C. and at Hamilton before hosting Saskatchewan at the Rogers Centre on Aug. 8. It's possible that Ray could return by their actual first home game, but that's an awfully tough gauntlet for a lightly-tested QB like Harris to run.
There are other factors that make this difficult, too. This Toronto roster doesn't appear any better than the one that missed the playoffs last season, and there's a good argument to make that it's worse. The team didn't sign a single external free agent this year, and only brought back six of the 17 players they had hit the free market. Some of those departures could be key losses, including receiver Spencer Watt and offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers. They also saw defensive coordinator Tim Burke suddenly resign in May. Some of the issues may be about the team's pending sale to Bell and Larry Tanenbaum, which leaves them in a lame-duck position for now. Regardless of the cause, though, this roster wasn't looking better than the 2014 one before the news about Ray's recovery, and it may be substantially worse now.
The Argonauts will really need Harris to succeed in Ray's place, as their other options seem much less promising. Other backups Mitchell Gale and Logan Kilgore have some potential, but even less CFL experience than Harris. Yes, Toronto recently brought back CFL veteran Adrian McPherson, who played for Milanovich while he was Montreal's offensive coordinator, but McPherson hasn't played in the CFL since 2012 (notwithstanding a brief training camp appearance with Calgary last year before he got hurt) and hasn't regularly played professional football since spending 2013 with the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm. Relying on him would really be a long shot, especially early in the season. Thus, the Argos' early-season success or failure may largely rest on Harris' shoulders. We'll see how he does.