TORONTO — A career performance could’ve been so much more for Justin Herdman-Reed.
The five-foot-10, 223-pound linebacker registered his first two career sacks and a team-high eight tackles Monday in the Toronto Argonauts’ 38-27 road loss Hamilton. But quarterback Dane Evans’ lone second-half incompletion was a pass with 5:30 remaining that went off Herdman-Reed’s finger tips at the Tiger-Cats’ 28-yard line.
Had the former Simon Fraser star coralled the pass, he would’ve had a clear path to the end zone. And a pick-six would’ve put Toronto in a position to either pull to within 35-34 or tie the score with plenty of time remaining.
Instead, it went down as the end of Evans’s streak of 19 straight completions.
“I should have (intercepted pass),” Herdman-Reed said this week. “I feel like if it touches my hands I should make the play.
“That’s one thing I’m going to go back and continue to work on and get better at.”
And there’s no doubt in Herdman-Reed’s mind he would’ve scored had he intercepted the pass.
“I believe I would have,” he said. “There were a lot of guys right there ready to work hard and block for me.
“I felt like I would’ve got to the end zone.”
It was the latest of many missed opportunities so far this season for Toronto (1-9). But Argos head coach Corey Chamblin said it wasn’t an easy play for Herdman-Reed to make.
“It didn’t hit him in his hands, it was right there at his fingertips,” Chamblin said. “It’s one of those things where if anyone works hard it’s him … but it’s one of those where you wish he’d have gotten his hands on it.
“He probably would’ve changed the game there.”
Herdman-Reed, a 25-year-old Winnipeg native, is in his second season with Toronto and first as an Argos starter. He’s registered 40 total tackles (35 defensive, five special teams) to stand fourth on the squad.
Herdman-Reed played collegiately with his twin brother, Jordan, who’s now a linebacker with the B.C. Lions. And both come by their CFL prowess honestly as their father, James, played linebacker in Canada with Winnipeg, Toronto and Saskatchewan (1979-85).
Despite the missed interception and yet another Argos loss, Herdman-Reed had plenty to be pleased about Monday. His eight tackles were the second-most for him this year, one behind the season-high nine he registered July 25 in a 26-0 road loss to Edmonton.
And then there was registering two of Toronto’s seven sacks.
“A lot of hard work went into preparing for this game and it’s great to see that hard work pay off,” he said. “I had a few more opportunities than normal.
“I felt like coaches just have more confidence in me to get there so they gave me the opportunity and I just took advantage of it. Once I got through the line my mindset was not to get blocked and just get after the quarterback and create a takeaway to get our offence back on the field.”
Toronto’s lone win this season was a 28-27 home decision over Winnipeg on Aug. 1. But the Argos have been able to give youngsters like Herdman-Reed the opportunity to play and develop.
“We know we have to get better and continue growing these guys in-house,” Chamblin said. “I use a guy like Justin Herdman-Reed, a guy who was fairly inexperienced who’s stepping up to become an experienced player.
“All these young guys are growing. It’s just going to be a growth process. It’s not going to happen overnight. You can see we’re getting stronger in some areas and the growth is there. We just have to continue to take the next step.”
Toronto’s next step is visiting the Ottawa Redblacks (3-7) on Saturday afternoon. And after being forced to play catchup in games early this season, the Argos have held half-time leads in each of their last two contests but only scored a combined nine second-half points.
Yet Herdman-Reed said he can see improvement defensively.
“I see a lot of guys who are just locked in and focused on their job,” he said. “You see a lot of big plays starting to happen, balls falling in our favour.
“You see us taking the ball away and that’s something we focus on.”