In 2010 the young, overachieving Toronto Argonauts were anchored by running back Cory Boyd. Boyd led the CFL in that year with 1,722 yards from scrimmage, and was second, only to Winnipeg's Fred Reid, in rushing yards with 1,359 despite missing three games.
The Argo's finished 9-9 and there was a tremendous amount of optimism around this young team, led by a gutsy and explosive Boyd.
However, the success of a young football team can only be established if it continues to evolve into a team that is multi-dimensional and presents several legitimate offensive threats.
In order to complement Boyd, head coach Jim Barker made an aggressive trade in the off-season to acquire veteran quarterback Steven Jyles. Barker understood that a one-dimensional offensive football team will not have consistent success moving forwards. Jyles presented Barker with a quarterback that could take advantage of easy yards with his legs and break down defences fast enough to introduce an effective passing attack, along with a strong ground game. Everything was in place for the Argos to take the next step in 2011.
Plans put on hold
Unfortunately, Barker's plans were put on hold until halfway through the season, as Jyles recovered from an injured shoulder. The ball was then handed over Cleo Lemon. Once again, Boyd would need to shoulder the team in order for the Argos to stay competitive.
Optimism grew as Toronto started with a 2-0 record through the exhibition games and an encouraging victory over the Stampeders in Week 1. With strong rushing performances by Boyd (17 carries for 100 yards) and some solid defence, the Argos looked pretty good.
But having balance on offence is everything. If you don't have it, defences will clamp down on the one aspect of your game that is strong and force you to beat them with where you are weak. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers proved that point in Week 2, when they crushed Toronto offensively, holding Boyd to 14 yards on seven attempts. Boyd received plenty of attention from a swarming Bomber defence and he ended up injuring his knee, keeping him out for five weeks.
Boyd returned to the Argos in Week 7, but the explosive inside rusher that he had been prior to the injury had yet to return. Wearing a knee brace against the Ticats, Boyd struggled noticeably to make the powerful lateral steps needed to break tough interior runs for large gains. As a player, you feel the pressure to return to the field in an attempt to help your team. I feel that Boyd rushed back to soon, and should have taken the time he needed to fully heal.
Prior to Boyd's knee injury, he was one of the toughest running backs to bring down. Between the offensive tackles, he often demonstrated an explosiveness and lateral quickness that made the first defender miss and then quickly side step the second to power for extra yards. After his knee injury, his lateral quickness wasn't the same. Returning from injuries through the season is very difficult both mentally and physically.
Counting on Jyles
Jyles is the future of the Toronto Argonauts. Barker made this very clear halfway through the season when he released Lemon.
Boyd, on the other hand, expressed his displeasure through a Tweet this week with the reduction of touches he was receiving. First, if a player has something to say that is football related, they need to get face-to-face with their coach rather than use a social media to express themselves. Second, I find his frustrations hard to understand as he has averaged double-digit touches all season.
Boyd was challenged by his coach and team this week to step up and back up his public words by his performance on the field. Many would argue that Boyd responded to the challenge as he rushed for 148 yards in a 31-29 victory over the Stamps last Friday.
I would argue that the victory is a perfect example of why the Argos need to continue down the road laid out by Barker, who wants see the offence evolve behind the performance of quarterback Jyles.
Yes, Boyd had a solid game statistically, but I believe Toronto was fortunate to grab a victory for these reasons:
A few nice runs
Boyd had a few nice outside runs in the game, but there was nothing to suggest he's back to pre-injury form. With Toronto leading 28-9 at the half, the ball was placed into the hands of Boyd, but the Argos managed just three second-half points. If teams contain Boyd to the middle of the field, I don't believe that he is the type of threat he once was.
The success of a football team is not determined by how many touches a player gets, or how many yards he accumulates. It's determined by how many games the club wins. Boyd needs to be more concerned about how he can contribute to the strength the Argos.
Football is an amazing experience when you are healthy and winning. Boyd has had a frustrating year and it will take a few months for him to wash the bad taste out of his mouth and begin mentally preparing himself for a fresh start next year.
Hopefully Boyd will regain his explosiveness in the off-season, and figures out his role with his team.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?