Argos defence preparing to face Alouettes ground game even without Stanback

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Shawn Oakman isn't breathing a huge sigh of releif because the Toronto Argonauts defence won't have to contend with William Stanback on Thursday night.

The Montreal running back suffered an ankle injury in the club's season-opening 30-27 loss to the Calgary Stampeders. Stanback, who ran for a CFL-high 1,176 yards last season, is currently on the six-game injured list and won't play when the Alouettes visit Toronto in the Argonauts' season opener.

The six-foot-nine, 287-pound Oakman, starting his second season on Toronto's defensive line, said Montreal's offence tries to establish the run and doesn't expect that to change without Stanback.

"It's hard to get away from your gameplan," Oakman said. "They've been running that system for a long time (and) just because he's out doesn't mean they're not going to run their plays.

"I'm pretty sure they've got someone else back there."

Sophomore Canadian Jeshrun Antwi rushed for 98 yards on seven carries against Calgary. That included a 70-yard scamper, the longest in the CFL since Stanback had a 72-yard run against Toronto in October 2018.

Toronto had its issues stopping Stanback last year. The burly running back ran for 336 yards on 43 carries in two games versus the Argos, including 203 yards on 24 attempts in Montreal's 37-16 victory Oct, 22, 2021.

And even without Stanback, Montreal didn't abandon the run versus Calgary. The Alouettes rolled up 140 rushing yards on 19 carries (7.4-yard average) with two touchdowns.

"Once (Stanback) went down last week, then they started to run the ball a little bit more," said Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. "They have the ability to do that without him.

"Obviously he's a really good player they're going to miss, but I still think that's going to be their approach: Run the ball downhill and bring Vernon (starter Vernon Adams Jr.) along as the game develops."

Adams finished 18-of-32 passing for 250 yards with a TD and two interceptions against Calgary. He also rushed five times for 22 yards and a TD.

Calgary also finished with three sacks, while Montreal managed one.

Pick: Toronto.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Ottawa Redblacks (Friday night)

At Ottawa, the two teams complete a home-and-home series to start the season. Winnipeg (1-0) needed Marc Liegghio's 25-yard field goal with six seconds remaining to secure a 19-17 home win last weekend. And backup Dru Brown engineered the game-winning drive as starter Zach Collaros was pulled from the game by the injury spotter following a hit to his head. Collaros practised this week and is expected to play. Jeremiah Masoli threw for 380 yards and a TD with an interception in his debut with the Redblacks (0-1).

Pick: Winnipeg.

Calgary Stampeders versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Saturday night)

At Hamilton, Bo Levi Mitchell is expected to start for Calgary (1-0) after rolling his ankle in last weekend's home win over Montreal. Backup Jake Maier moved the Stampeders downfield, setting up Rene Paredes' game-winning 38-yard boot with under a minute to play. The Ticats are coming off a 30-13 road loss to Saskatchewan but return to Tim Hortons Field in search of their fourth straight home-opening victory. Starter Dane Evans was 18-of-28 passing for 222 yards and a TD and two picks versus the Riders.

Pick: Calgary.

Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Edmonton Elks (Saturday night)

At Edmonton, Riders starter Cody Fajardo has the chance to make Elks coach/GM Chris Jones eat his words. In the off-season, Jones said he didn't believe Fajardo was a top-five quarterback or that Fajardo was much of a passer. Fajardo was 22-of-32 passing for 311 yards and a TD while rushing for a team-high 42 yards on 10 carries last week versus Hamilton. Jones has plenty to concern himself with regarding his own team, which limped home following a lopsided 59-15 road loss to the B.C. Lions.

Pick: Saskatchewan.

Last week: 4-0.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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