Franklin makes first start for Argos against his former Eskimos squad

The Toronto Argonauts are now James Franklin’s team.

Franklin will make his first start with Toronto on Saturday when the club hosts the Edmonton Eskimos at BMO Field. Franklin takes over as the Argos’ No. 1 quarterback with incumbent Ricky Ray sidelined with a neck injury.

Ray was hurt in Toronto’s 41-7 home loss to the Calgary Stampeders on June 23.

Toronto acquired the rights to Franklin last December from Edmonton while Ray pondered his CFL future. Franklin skipped free agency to sign a two-year contract extension with the Argos.

The six-foot-two, 225-pound Franklin spent his first three CFL seasons (2015-17) backing up Edmonton veteran Mike Reilly, the CFL’s most outstanding player last year. Franklin appeared in 12 games with the Eskimos, going 2-1 as a starter.

Franklin replaced Ray against Calgary (3-0), completing eight of 13 passes for 65 yards. He also ran three times for 14 yards, his 10-yard TD run accounting for Toronto’s lone touchdown of the game.

It’s the ability to make plays with his feet that differentiates Franklin from Ray, a traditional drop-back passer. And that will present Edmonton’s defence with an additional challenge.

Edmonton’s defence did register five sacks against B.C., with defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng and linebacker Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, both nationals, registering two apiece.

But Toronto (0-2) finds itself at a crossroads already this season. The defending Grey Cup champions have yet to establish an identity, having struggled to mount any sort of consistency.

And now, they must try to surge ahead without their offensive leader.

The challenge for Toronto defensively will be containing Reilly, who was 22-of-30 passing for 326 yards and three TDs in rallying Edmonton (2-1) past B.C. 41-22 last week. The Lions led 11-2 heading into the second quarter but were outscored 29-3 over the second and third.

But Reilly was hardly a one-man show. Running back C.J. Gable ran for 165 yards and a TD on 23 carries while D’haquille Williams had six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown as Edmonton’s offence rolled up 517 total yards.

Prediction: Edmonton.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Thursday night)

At Regina, Jeremiah Masoli chases a record-tying ninth straight 300-yard passing effort for Hamilton (2-1) after throwing for 369 yards and a TD in last week’s 31-17 home win over Winnipeg. Saskatchewan quarterback David Watford replaced Canadian Brandon Bridge to open the second half of last week’s 23-17 home loss to Montreal, but the Roughriders (1-2) have said they’re going back to Bridge against Hamilton. The Als targeted Duron Carter, who had trouble covering speedy Chris Williams (three catches 130 yards, TD).

Prediction: Hamilton.

Ottawa Redblacks vs. Montreal Alouettes (Friday night)

At Montreal, the Alouettes (1-2) look to build off last week’s win over Saskatchewan that snapped their miserable 13-game losing streak. Jeff Mathews was 8-of-12 passing for 98 yards in relief of Drew Willy (concussion protocol). Trevor Harris completed 13-of-29 passes for 135 yards and a pick for Ottawa (1-1) in last week’s 24-14 road loss to Calgary. William Powell ran for 123 yards while Greg Ellingson had six catches for 97 yards and a TD.

Prediction: Ottawa.

B.C. Lions vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Saturday night)

At Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers (1-2) continue to chase their first home win of the season. Rookie Chris Streveler finished 17-of-28 passing for 146 yards and no TDs — for the first time in three starts — last week against Hamilton. Veteran starter Matt Nichols has been removed from the six-game injured list, so he could be back behind centre soon. B.C. (1-1) started out well enough against Edmonton but couldn’t make it stick as quarterback Jonathon Jennings finished 13-of-24 passing for 199 yards with an interception while rushing for 34 yards on five carries.

Prediction: Winnipeg.

Last week: 3-1

Overall: 8-4

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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