Argonauts release veteran RB Cory Boyd

The Toronto Argonauts announced on Sunday that CFL rushing leader Cory Boyd has been released.
Cory Boyd, left, was the CFL's leading rusher this season with 447 yards and was averaging a solid 5.5-yards per carry. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

Leading the Canadian Football League in rushing wasn't enough to save Cory Boyd's job with the Toronto Argonauts.

The Argos made the shocking announcement Sunday that they had released the third-year tailback. Sophomore Chad Kackert, who has spent most of the season on the practice roster as Boyd's backup, replaces him in the starting lineup.

What made the move so stunning was the six-foot-one, 209-pound Boyd had run for a league-high 447 yards this season and averaged a solid 5.5-yards per carry. He was on pace to end the year with over 1,300 yards.

But after rushing for 168 yards and a TD in a 36-27 loss to Hamilton on July 14, Boyd had run for 130 yards combined over his last three contests, including just 23 yards on eight carries in Toronto's 18-9 home loss to B.C. on Aug. 6.

"Numbers are going to mislead you from time to time," Argos first-year head coach Scott Milanovich said. "Cory certainly did a lot of good things this year and you can argue the fact he is leading the league in rushing but there's more to playing tailback than the numbers.

"You can read between the lines. The bottom line is we felt like we needed to get more production there and whether than happens or not remains to be seen but we're moving ahead. Chad is going to have a great opportunity to do that and we'll see what he can do with his opportunity."

With Boyd firmly entrenched in the starting lineup, the five-foot-nine, 198-pound Kackert had just two carries for minus-three yards in 2012. But he did rush for 349 yards (6.1-yard average) and four TDs while adding four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in spot duty last year. But he also had three fumbles.

Milanovich said the Argos are planning to sign another running back.

Boyd might not be unemployed long as Edmonton is said to be interested in the former South Carolina Gamecock. That's curious, considering Eskimos tailback Hugh Charles is fifth overall in CFL rushing with 400 yards.

Caught off guard

Boyd also finished second overall in league rushing in each of the last two seasons and admitted to being caught off guard by the club's decision.

"Man, my Life just took a huge 360 turn....Bless up to God," Boyd tweeted following the Argos' announcement.

Boyd wasn't alone.

"Wow .speechless," tweeted Calgary Stampeders offensive tackle Edwin Harrison.

"Really???" former Saskatchewan receiver Matt Dominguez said on his Twitter account.

But Rob Murphy, a former Argos offensive lineman and teammate of Boyd's, wasn't nearly as conciliatory.

"My thoughts on Cory Boyd? He was a fraud who fooled the media for 2yrs Good player when healthy but not a good teammate Media just ate it up," Murphy tweeted.

The Argos (3-3) are tied with Hamilton and Montreal atop the East Division standings and return to action Saturday in Calgary. While Toronto is showing signs of marked improvement — the club missed the CFL playoffs last year with a 6-12 record — Milanovich, who won two Grey Cups as Montreal's offensive co-ordinator before joining the Double Blue, has much loftier goals than a .500 record.

"Three-and-three, while some people are pleased with that we're not and we understand we have to get better to go where we want to get in November," Milanovich said. "Sometimes you have to something that maybe is a bit unpopular but I think the fans in the city will recognize in the long run we're doing what's best for the Argos.

"Chad is a dynamic player. That's not to say Cory wasn't but sometimes you just have to do things like this to take a step forward."

Argos prefer passing game

Boyd had established himself as one of the CFL's top runners, finishing second overall in rushing the last two seasons. But Toronto's offensive emphasis this season had gone more towards the passing game under Milanovich — himself a former NFL and CFL quarterback — and veteran passer Ricky Ray, acquired in a huge off-season deal with the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Argos' offensive gameplan this season had changed immensely under the direction of new head coach Scott Milanovich and veteran quarterback Ricky Ray, acquired in a huge off-season deal with the Edmonton Eskimos.

While Boyd was a definite asset in the rushing game he didn't exactly flourish as a receiver with 23 catches for just 70 yards. And staying in to pass block and provide protection for Ray wasn't necessarily Boyd's forte.

However after six weeks, Toronto's offence isn't exactly striking fear in the hearts of rival defensive co-ordinators. The Argos are ranked fourth overall in passing, fifth in total yards and sixth in rushing despite leading the CFL in time of possession.

All of which, Milanovich said, could mean further changes in Argosland.

"There are a number of issues offensively that need to be addressed and this was just one of them," Milanovich said. "We need to get tougher offensively, we need to get more physical and that may be the No. 1 thing we need to address as a unit.

"Today was Cory and Chad. We'll see how it goes down the line for everybody else."

Argos general manager Jim Barker said the decision was made purely for football reasons.

"After evaluating our entire football team through the first third of the season, we felt this was one of the changes necessary to move our team forward," Barker said in a statement. "We believe a different style of play is needed at running back to heighten the success of our new offence and, considering the personnel we already have on our team, this move will help to improve the overall play of our offence and lead us to greater on-field success."