Ottawa Redblacks wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon (17) runs with the ball during first half CFL football action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Dedmon will definitely be a person of interest for Toronto (4-3) when it hosts Ottawa (2-5) on Wednesday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Argos special-teams unit faces big challenge trying to contain Ottawa returner Dedmon

Argos special-teams unit faces big challenge trying to contain Ottawa returner Dedmon

TORONTO — A night of watching the Toronto Argonauts kick off to DeVonte Dedmon would suit Mark Nelson just fine.

Dedmon will be a person of interest for Toronto (4-3) when it hosts Ottawa (2-5) on Wednesday night. The speedy five-foot-10, 200-pound Dedmon has returned punts for touchdowns in each of the Redblacks last two games, including a 73-yard effort in last week’s 34-24 victory over the Edmonton Elks.

The other was a 63-yard return in a 24-7 home loss to Hamilton on Sept. 22.

Nelson, Toronto’s veteran special-teams co-ordinator, has no visions of grandeur regarding whether Toronto will shut Dedmon down.

“Better would be to control and minimize the damage he’ll do,” Nelson said. “I don’t mind kicking to him on a kickoff because that means I’m up seven points to begin with, hopefully.

“We have our gameplan and we know what we’re going to do. We hope to execute it to the best of our ability and minimize the damage.”

Dedmon has returned 26 punts for 387 yards (14.9-yard average) with the two TDs. He’s also had three returns of 30-plus yards, tops in the CFL.

Dedmon leads the league in kickoff returns (681 yards, 27.2-yard average). He has three returns of 40-plus yards, also tops in the CFL, but so far hasn’t returned one for a TD.

However, Nelson is quick to point out Dedmon isn’t a one-man show.

“First of all, coach Dyce (Ottawa special-teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce) does an excellent job with their special teams,” Nelson said. “They’ve got a bunch of core guys that are veterans and have been coached by coach Dyce for a few years and they’re good.

“Then you add a return guy like Dedmon and that creates a lot of problems for the opposition.”

When Toronto must punt, Nelson said doing so to the short side of the field can limit the room Dedmon has to operate within. But that’s just part of the Argos’ formula to success.

“We don’t want to give him a lot of area because he’s dangerous even in a little area,” Nelson said. “But it’s a team effort.

“It starts with the snap, then we must have protection and then a good punt with great location. Then we have to cover the kick, make the wrapup and then the tackle. There are 12 guys out there and we all have to execute and do our job. If we do it, I think we’ll be OK.”

Veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson will make a second straight start for Toronto and again be backed up by Antonio Pipkin as Nick Arbuckle (hamstring) remains on the injured list. Defensive linemen Cordarro Law and Shane Ray, along with offensive lineman Phillip Blake, all return to the active roster, with Ray and Blake starting at defensive end and left guard, respectively.

Rookie Caleb Evans will make a second straight start for Ottawa. He was 15-of-22 passing for 191 yards and three TDs while rushing for a team-high 59 yards in his CFL debut versus Edmonton.

Toronto is unbeaten at home (3-0) while Ottawa is 1-2 on the road and 0-2 within the East Division. With a victory, the Argos would move atop the conference standings, two points ahead of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-4).

The Argos and Ticats will square off Monday at Tim Hortons Field while the Redblacks will visit the Montreal Alouettes (3-4).

Chandler Worthy has been Toronto’s leading returner this year (12 punts for 104 yards, eight kickoffs for 162 yards). But Nelson said the Argos haven’t always done enough for the speedy Worthy.

“He’s a tough hombre,” Nelson said. “We’ve had a few good returns from him but also to we’ve got to do a better job of blocking and I have to do a better job of coaching.

“So we have to improve upon the scheme and execution of the scheme, then we’ll be good.”

Also on Wednesday, the Argos will honour their ‘91 championship squad as head coach Adam Rita and GM Mike McCarthy, along with over 20 former players, are expected to be on hand. That year under the ownership of Canadian actor John Candy, hockey star Wayne Gretzky and American businessman Bruce McNall, the Toronto franchise posted a CFL-best 13-5 record.

Toronto capped its storybook season with a 36-21 victory over the Calgary Stampeders as former Notre Dame star Raghib (Rocket) Ismail was the game MVP.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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