With four games remaining in the 2016 season, the Toronto Argonauts are still in the playoff hunt. This year’s squad had its own share of trials that could span multiple years. After making a trade for quarterback Drew Willy a month ago, the Argos front office made another bold move in releasing international receivers Kevin Elliot, Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley and Phil Bates. After parting ways with these four players, Acadia Axeman Brian Jones and Llevi Noel are expected to step up.
Keeping up With Brian Jones
In his rookie season with the Argos, Jones primarily made an impact on the special teams unit. However, the team always expected him to make a jump into a starting role based on his athleticism and unique physical attributes.
Standing at 6’4 and weighing just over 230 lbs, Jones blew away scouts with his performance at the CFL combine last spring. Jones ran a 4.69 40-yard dash, had a 34″ vertical jump, and pushed out 24 repetitions at 225 lbs on the bench press.
With these numbers, along with his All-Star performance in his final season at Acadia, the Argos proudly used their first round selection on the Enfield, Nova Scotia native this year.
The 22 year old receiver Jones describes himself as the team’s versatile Swiss Army Knife. “I bring a cocktail of everything,” Jones said.
“I tried to learn from everyone, from our smoother route runners like [Anthony] Coombs and the bigger guys on how to elevate and get jump balls from [Tori Gurley] while he was here. I tried to be the biggest sponge and learn from everyone, to implement it into my game,” he continued.
One consistent opinion on Jones is that he is an athlete like no other on the roster. Jones is built like a linebacker, but moves fast and fluid like a nimble possession receiver. Jones said that his size gives him the biggest advantage. He can high point the ball and go for jump balls, and also block in pass protection.
According to head coach Scott Milanovich there are a number of qualities that Jones brings to the Boatmen offence. Milanovich echoes Jones in praising his size.
“For a man that big he’s a really good athlete, he can jump and he can and change direction. We expect him to be a positive blocker for us and he can do multiple things. We’re going to ease him into it,” Milanovich said.
“In the long term future I see him developing into a lot of things for us. We can consider him a fullback body if we want and not have to change personnel. At some point hopefully he can do all those things.”
The Facts of Pro Football
Any professional is held accountable for their work, and in the world of pro football that microscope for scrutiny is magnified ten-fold. The Argos struggled this year and Milanovich reiterated the facts of life at practice on Saturday afternoon, with guys returning to the lineup and hope that the return of players like Corey Greenwood can stabilize the defensive core of the team.
“You hope that continuity creates some more consistent play. We’ve had some flashes on all three sides of the ball, but we haven’t had the consistency throughout a full game yet,” Milanovich said. “You start to run out of excuses, it’s time for guys to either play well or be replaced.”
The Argos are one win back of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks with four games remaining. The best option for the Boatmen is to win out the remainder of the season so they can control their own destiny, a task easier said than done. The Double Blue must treat this match-up against Calgary like a play-off game – just like every game remaining on the Toronto schedule.