Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Containing Explosive Returner Rainey Crucial for Argos in Game versus Lions

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Containing Explosive Returner Rainey Crucial for Argos in Game versus Lions

Article excerpt

Containing Rainey crucial for Argos


TORONTO - The Toronto Argonauts will be leaning heavily on kicker/punter Lirim Hajrullahu on Wednesday as they try to contain the B.C. Lions' dangerous return game.

Toronto (4-4) hosts B.C. (6-3) looking for its first win in three games and just its second this season at BMO Field. And with Lions' star Chris Rainey leading the CFL in punt returns (17.8-yard average, two TDs), Argos head coach Scott Milanovich feels Hajrullahu's directional punting will be a crucial factor for the Double Blue.

"He's scary," Milanovich said of Rainey. "He does a great job of finding a seam straight up the field and once that happens it opens up the entire field for him.

"A huge part of the game will be Lirim's ability to directional kick and kind of pin (Rainey) inside the numbers where he doesn't have as much space to do the things he wants. Our guys are really going to have to run and understand their responsibilities in their lanes. That's common sense but Lirim has a huge part in that as far as putting our guys in situations where they don't have to cover the 65-yard width of the field."

Toronto did a solid job of containing Rainey in its 25-14 road win over the Lions on July 7. Rainey had six punt returns for 37 yards, including one for 23 yards. He also returned four kickoffs for 100 yards and a missed field goal 27 yards.

Hajrullahu also played a big role in the victory. He not only made six-of-seven field goals but also sported a 47-yard average on six punts.

But B.C. leads the CFL in punt returns (615 yards, 15.4-yard average) while Toronto is ranked seventh in punt coverage (610 yards, 12.4-yard average).

The Lions usually deploy a second punt returner in Canadian receiver Marco Iannuzzi. While that gives teams the option of kicking away from Rainey, Milanovich said there are risks with that strategy.

"The risk you run is once you start punting it to the field it's harder to cover," he said. "When you put two returners back you have less on the front line which can be a positive from a cover standpoint because maybe your guys aren't all getting matched up and you might get free releases."

B.C. is also a solid 4-1 on the road this season while Toronto is just 1-4 at BMO Field. …

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