Toronto Argonauts’ veteran rush end Ja’Gared Davis showing his big-play abilities as games get bigger

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Ja’Gared Davis returns to McMahon Stadium for the first time since a devastating loss to Winnipeg in the 2019 Grey Cup.

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At the time, the defensive end was anchoring a Ticats defence that entered the game as overwhelming favourites against a Blue Bombers franchise that hadn’t won a championship since 1990.

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As it turned out, it was Blue and Gold overwhelming the Black and Gold.

Davis and Grey Cups go hand in hand.

In fact, during his five-year run in three-down football, Davis has appeared in five CFL title games.

A sixth appearance remains a possibility.

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This is the time of year when players of such as Davis step up in big moments.

He returned to the Argos’ lineup last week in Ottawa and recorded his first multi-sack game since he joined Toronto this off-season in free agency.

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“Our team is starting to hit its stride,’’ said the rush end simply known as J.D.

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Davis equates the CFL’s 18-game schedule to running a 400-metre race.

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“We’re at that stage where we’re going around the curve,’’ he added. “Guys are believing and buying in. The sky’s the limit for this team.”

In truth, the Argos have been playing well in winning four straight games heading into their matchup against the host Calgary Stampeders Saturday night.

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It’s also true all four wins were produced against two teams, the Ticats and Redblacks, with decided quarterback issues.

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The Argos haven’t tasted defeat since a visit to BMO Field by the Stamps on Aug. 20 when Jake Maier officially supplanted Bo Levi Mitchell as Calgary’s starter at quarterback.

In many ways, Saturday night is shaping up as a referendum for the Argos to determine just exactly what this unit is all about and what this group is capable of achieving.

Toronto enters the night atop the East with an 8-5 record.

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The second-place Montreal Alouettes (6-7) will be in Edmonton for an afternoon matchup Saturday.

The Argos and Als close out the regular season with a home-and-home series that could decide first place and the accompanying bye into the divisional final.

A healthy and productive Davis does give the Argos a slight edge given his pedigree.

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He hurt his meniscus during the home loss to the Stamps. Following last week’s effort in Ottawa, Davis felt good about the state of his health and play.

“It was nice being back doing what we all love again,’’ he added. “Just being able to be out there with my brothers and being able to provide my perspective and input. It felt good.”

The knee, said Davis, is fine.

“For the most part, I felt like me again,’’ he added. “It was a good game to knock the rust off and fine tune.”

Davis first joined the CFL in 2016 when he joined the Stamps.

He didn’t know much of the organization other than cousin and former collegiate teammate Taylor Reed was on the team.

Davis had his playing rights traded to Calgary by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the first day of training camp.

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“It was interesting,’’ said Davis when asked to reflect on his first day as a Stamp. “Knowing Taylor was there made me feel better.”
Reed, who lined up linebacker, became a focal point of the 2014 Grey Cup when a punt return for a touchdown by Brandon Banks was called back.

Reed was the culprit and later owned up to the illegal block following Hamilton’s heartbreaking loss at BC Place.

Two years later, Reed would win a Grey Cup as a member of the Redblacks at BMO Field when the heavily favourite Stamps lost in overtime.

The Argos came close last fall to advancing to the Grey Cup, but were denied when the visiting Ticats came back from a 12-0 halftime deficit.

Davis played a role and he seems poised to assume an even bigger role with the Argos as the games get bigger.

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And there’s no bigger game for the Argos than Saturday.

One of the keys for the Argos is staying out of second and long against a sack-happy Stamps defence.

Calgary enters the game having registered 13 sacks in its past three games, a stretch that has also seen the Stamps’ offensive line yield zero sacks.

“That’s when they get after the quarterback,’’ said Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie on avoiding second and long scenarios. “If we can keep them off-balanced by running a few things on first down with the opportunity to run the football on second down, that’s where we need to be.”

Running back A.J. Ouellette averaged 5.7 yards a carry in Ottawa on 10 attempts.

The Argos are a throwing offence, but some kind of ground game must get established.

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The offensive line, as expected, will welcome North Bay native Ryan Hunter, who is listed as the backup centre.

Hunter has practised this week at guard and even tackle.

Toronto’s other backup lineman is Shane Richards, who has played guard and tackle.

When he started at McMahon in 2019, Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw four interceptions in a loss.

When he started in last year’s season opener at McMahon, MBT led the Argos to a fourth-quarter comeback in a rare regular-season win by Toronto over Calgary.

He enters Saturday having thrown at least one pick in five straight games, a stretch that began with an ill-fated pick six against the Stamps at BMO.

The QB known as Mac needs 328 passing yards to reach 4,000 on the season.

His career high was set in 2019 when he tossed for 4,024 yards.

A solid, clean performance by MBT Saturday night will definitely add legitimacy to his resume.

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