TORONTO — McLeod Bethel-Thompson is ready to face more pressure off the snap when his Toronto Argonauts host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BMO Field on Saturday.
Toronto's starting quarterback will be working behind an all-Canadian offensive line against the Ticats (2-5), who have not allowed many points despite their lowly record.
Import lineman Dejon Allen is listed as out with a back injury
"The biggest thing about their D-line is that they're a smell-blood team," Bethel-Thompson said of Hamilton. "We just can't let them smell blood early and we have to be productive on first down."
The Argos (3-3) are coming off a 23-13 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on Sunday. Some missed passes and a lack of discipline allowed their opponents to stay in the contest and pick up their first win of the season. Two different Argonauts players were assessed with objectionable conduct penalties that virtually eliminated any chance of a comeback, despite a two-possession deficit.
"We've got to make sure we don't get caught up in the B.S.," Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. "We have to talk with our pads and play sound football."
The Argonauts and Tiger-Cats will meet in their first meaningful game since Hamilton defeated Toronto in the CFL East Division Final back in December. Already a bitter rivalry, it will be further fuelled by the fact they square off against each other in four of the next five meetings.
"I kind of like it, actually," Argonauts fullback Declan Cross said. "Especially if you get to go up against the same guy."
Cross, who is from Oakville, Ont. and went to school in Hamilton at McMaster University, said Toronto's recent success in defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders in back-to-back weeks earlier this season should serve them well against their QEW rivals.
"It'll be cool because we know the personnel already know what we want to do and what they're trying to do."
With a .500 record, the Argonauts sit in first place in the East Division and the Ticats are just two points back in second place. Whichever team gets the better of the head-to-head series could create some playoff separation as the season moves into September.
While the Argos have injury issues at the O-line, they are aided by the return of receiver Eric Rogers, who will make his season debut on Saturday after missing the first six games with a hamstring injury.
"He's going to pick everyone up around him," Bethel-Thompson said of Rogers. "He brings a physicality, probably the most physical receiver in the CFL."
The move comes as Brandon Banks was moved to a backup role. The CFL's Most Outstanding Player for 2019 was slotted behind Rogers on the team's official depth chart.
The 31-year-old Rogers appeared in six games last season and made 25 receptions for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He takes on the Ticats for the first time since starting in the East Final against Hamilton, where he made six receptions for 62 yards.
Despite getting off to an 0-4 start to the season, the Ticats have won two of their last three games and will have all-star linebacker Simoni Lawrence back in the lineup. The 33-year-old missed the last three games with a groin injury.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022.
David Alter, The Canadian Press