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Argos head coach Dinwiddie continues to be cautious with QB Nick Arbuckle's injury

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Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie continues to be cautious with quarterback Nick Arbuckle's hamstring injury.

Dinwiddie kept Arbuckle out of Toronto's scrimmage Monday as a precaution. He took the same approach last week for the club's opening scrimmage of training camp so once again veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Antonio Pipkin took the quarterback reps.

Dinwiddie is confident Arbuckle will be ready to go when Toronto kicks off its '21 season in Calgary on Aug. 7.

"It's just one of those things when it comes to soft tissue you're so worried about having a pull," Dinwiddie said during a video conference. "Right now he's got a little thing with it but he hasn't pulled anything and I'd just hate for him to go out there too early and pull his hamstring.

"If Nick isn't ready to go, I'm comfortable with the other guys ... I like all three of our guys at this stage."

Toronto signed Arbuckle, 27, as a free agent Feb. 1. The move reunited Arbuckle with Dinwiddie, who served as Calgary's quarterback coach (2016-19) before being hired as the Argos' head coach.

Arbuckle began his CFL career in 2018 in Calgary and earned a Grey Cup ring as a rookie. Arbuckle won four-of-seven games he started in place of injured Calgary starter Bo Levi Mitchell in 2019, completing 174-of-238 passes (73.1 per cent) for 2,103 yards and 11 TDs with just five interceptions.

Arbuckle also ran for 76 yards and four TDs.

But Dinwiddie gushed about the play of Bethel-Thompson and Pipkin on Monday. After the first scrimmage, Dinwiddie was critical of his quarterbacks' management of the huddle, something that wasn't an issue this time around.

"They did a good job of that ... I knew they'd be better," Dinwiddie said. "The first one is always tough and I thought they did some good things in the first one as well.

"They were really, really good (Monday). They used their legs, they were throwing on time and handled the clock well. I was pleased with both of those guys."

Toronto opened camp with an abundance of veteran receivers, including former Stampeders Juwan Brescacin, DaVaris Daniels and Eric Rogers. But Dinwiddie said many of the veterans vying for spots with the Argos are being pushed.

"There's going to be some tough decisions, I think some of the young guys really stepped up," Dinwiddie said. "There's a lot of good competition, we're going to have some guys that are going to be on our practice roster that could be starters in other places.

"I'm happy with how those younger guys have come along, the older guys have to get out of the tub to make the club. You've got to be available."

Dinwiddie wouldn't divulge who the injured receivers were. But former Wilfrid Laurier star Kuleigh Gittens Jr., entering his second season with the Argos, was on the receiving end of a 50-plus yard toss from Bethel-Thompson in the scrimmage.

"Experience always goes a long way," the 23-year-old Ottawa native said. "I feel a lot more confident than I did my rookie season.

"I don't compare myself to the other receivers. I try to take a little bit from everyone else's game and incorporate it into mine so I can be the best football player I can."

Gittens is also sporting a different number this year. He wore No. 80 as a CFL rookie but is donning No. 19 - which he wore in college. It's the same jersey veteran slotback S.J. Green wore during his time in Toronto (2017-19).

Toronto is looking for a significant upgrade in 2021 following consecutive 4-14 seasons in 2018-19. In 2019, the Argos were ranked last overall in offensive points allowed (29.9 per game), rushing yards (118.6), TD passes (36), points off turnovers (39), tied for last in offensive TDs allowed (58) and seventh against the pass (314.6 yards per game).

So it's no surprise Toronto has added the likes of linebacker Henoc Muamba, rush ends Charleston Hughes, Shane Ray (former NFL first-round pick) and Canadian Cameron Judge, linebacker Dexter McCoil as well as defensive linemen Cordarro Law and Drake Nevis.

And like with the offence, Dinwiddie said he and his coaches will have some difficult final decisions to make.

"Our D-line is loaded, our linebacking corps is loaded," he said. "We kind of know who those guys are but at the same time we're going to have to make some decisions and let some guys go.

"Our secondary is physical, they're long and make plays as well so defensively it's going to be tough. Some guys that can play football at this level won't here and that's just the nature of the business."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press