Receiver Rasheed Bailey getting acclimated to Toronto Argonauts offence

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Receiver Rasheed Bailey getting acclimated to Toronto Argonauts offence

TORONTO — It hasn’t taken Rasheed Bailey long to make a solid first impression with the Toronto Argonauts.

The six-foot-one, 217-pound receiver has six catches for 71 yards in his first two games with Toronto (2-0), registering TD grabs in each contest. Bailey had just one catch in the Argos’ 39-36 home win over the Edmonton Elks on Saturday night but it was a 21-yard touchdown reception that made it 14-14 in the second quarter.

Yet with veteran DaVaris Daniels (groin) out, Bailey and Co. were also big contributors to a Toronto ground game that accumulated 186 yards versus Edmonton and has 306 yards so far. Blocking downfield is nothing new for Bailey, who joined the Argos as a free agent following four seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — whose rushing attack was anchored by Canadians Andrew Harris and Brady Oliveira during his time there.

Bailey had 180 catches for 2,072 yards and 20 TDs in 58 regular-season games with Winnipeg. He also helped the club make four straight Grey Cup appearances, winning two.

“Day by day, week by week you’re going to keep seeing (No.) 88,” Bailey said. “I’m working my butt off just trying to lead the group … and that touchdown turned us up, I think we were rolling after that.

“It’s important to find ways to win in this league. If you can, you’re going to be a good team come November.”

Running back Deonta McMahon registered Toronto’s opening TD on a 44-yard run that made it 7-7 in the first. Veteran Ka’Deem Carey had a game-high 104 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries as the Argos scored three of their five TDs on the ground while quarterback Cam Dukes also ran for a two-point convert.

“If you go back and watch, all of the receivers are blocking on (McMahon’s) play,” Bailey said. “That’s what it takes to win, it takes all of us.

“When you see it happen like that, it’s special. I’ve been in the trenches and to be like that brings that intensity to the group.”

The 30-year-old Philadelphia native admits he’s still getting acclimated to his new team and city, although Toronto opening the season with three straight home games has definitely helped. The Argos host the defending Grey Cup-champion Montreal Alouettes (3-0) on Friday night.

“It’s definitely been a process (but) it’s been good,” Bailey said. “Since Day 1 they put me in the first group in a leadership role and (have given) me an opportunity every single week so I just keep responding, keep making plays and just keep giving my energy to boost these guys.

“(Three home games) is making me feel at home. I find I’m buying-in a lot more, feeling the city. It’s giving me more time to settle in and be a part of this city, keep building this fan base and trying to bring a Grey Cup (here).”

A big part of Toronto’s offensive success can be attributed to Dukes’ solid play. The 25-year-old sophomore is the starter with incumbent Chad Kelly suspended for at least the first nine regular-season games for violating the CFL’s gender-based violence policy.

The six-foot-one, 205-pound Dukes is a tidy 39-of-48 passing (81.3 per cent) for 468 yards with five TDs and no interceptions. The 25-year-old American has rushed for 54 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries but also fumbled twice (one returned for a score).

“He has been phenomenal … he has grown up in front of our faces,” Bailey said. “He’s a special kid, he brings a lot of energy … to see what he’s doing is special.”

Although both Bailey and Dukes are new to their respective positions, they’ve quickly developed a rapport, on and off the field.

“We talked about that exact play (Bailey’s TD catch versus Edmonton) on FaceTime after practice and meetings,” Dukes said. “We talked about if we got that look what we’re expecting from each other.

“That’s the kind of rapport we have with everybody in the room. We’re able to talk to each other and communicate in that way where we’re all on the same page.”

A fact not lost upon Ryan Dinwiddie, Toronto’s head coach/offensive co-ordinator.

“I think Rasheed has grown into the offence, it’s a process for him,” Dinwiddie said. “We throw a lot at those guys … we probably have 115 plays going into each game plan.

“I’m not sure he’s used to that workload but he’s starting to get it and the offence is starting to work with him. Rasheed is a great player, great leader, he fits in well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2024.

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