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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 1:37 am 
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Despite being the biggest players on the field, they live in relative anonymity. When other players hear their names called during a game its because theyve done something right, but members of this group only hear their name when they do something wrong. They are offensive linemen. The Toronto Argonauts are preparing to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final this Sunday. As they do, theres less worry about this group than there was as they entered the 2012 playoffs, a season that culminated with a Grey Cup Championship. To be kind, the Argos o-line wasnt great last year. There was a great deal of worry about how well the group was playing as the post-season run began. That level of concern has been greatly reduced heading into this years playoffs. "Similar guys at this point, with the exception of Tyler (Holmes)," said head coach Scott Milanovich. "I just think theyve played together in the system a little bit longer. I dont think its a whole lot different other than were a year and a half into it now." Holmes is the newcomer, essentially replacing Marc Parenteau as a starter. The Argos first-round pick in the 2011 draft joined the club in September after being released by the Minnesota Vikings. He made his CFL debut against the Ticats in October and hasnt looked back, playing admirably at left guard while starting the final three games of the regular season. He has a lot of respect for the guys across the line in black and gold. "Theyre a talented bunch up front" said Holmes, whose father Richard played for three CFL teams, including the Argos. "We just need to execute our game plan and handle what we can handle." Holmes says theres one area that really improved in the time hes been up here. "Getting in there and seeing the different looks, everything really slows down for you," the Ottawa native told TSN.ca "When you first get in there your head is spinning a little bit, so its been really nice to just get in there and settle in." Joe Eppele has moved from left guard to right guard. He played the best football of his career in the playoffs a year ago and hasnt looked back. "I think I played some of my best football then, but I think Ive improved a lot this season." said the second-overall pick in the 2010 CFL draft. "I think the biggest part has been my field recognition. Ive noticed that for me, mentally, the game has slowed down quite a lot. I can read the defences a lot better than I used to be able to." For the layman, the move from one side of the center to the other may not seem like that big of a deal, but everything changes, especially the footwork. Hes handling it well though. "It just creates a little bit of lag in the decision making" explained the 68" BC native. "You have to flip everything around in your head before you make the decisions, and just the small changes in your footwork. When youve been working on one side of the ball for so long youre just so used to having your feet in a certain stance, and when you make that switch it slows down your game a little bit at first." As the left tackle, Tony Washington protects Ricky Rays blind side. Its been an unusual season for the second-year Argo, as hes been in and out of the lineup due to injury. He even found himself playing some defensive tackle at times. He feels hes playing his best football at the perfect time of the year. "I dealt with a lot of injuries at the beginning of the season," said the New Orleans native. "I was trying to come back from that and keep my conditioning up." Washington feels as a group the line has been playing more aggressively this season. Hes also been impressed with Holmes, who starts to his immediate right. "For him to have come in as a rookie, hes picked it up really well" said the 67", 320 pound veteran. "He looks good, hes been playing really well." Like both Washington and Eppele, right tackle Chris Van Zeyl has found himself moved around. He was the right tackle last season, moved to right guard for the most part this year, but has been moved back to tackle lately. He doesnt care which position he plays. "Ill play wherever the coaches play me," said the McMaster grad. "I dont have a preference. I like playing tackle, I like playing guard. Guard allows me to be more physical, tackle allows me to be more athletic." Hes ready to go against a tough Hamilton front seven. What concerns him the most about that group? "I think more the system than the actual players themselves," said the native of Font Hill, Ontario. "I think the players are all pretty well-rounded, but I think the system gives teams a lot more trouble than the players themselves do." The leader of the group is center Jeff Keeping. Over the course of his nine seasons in the CFL, eight of which have been spent in Toronto, hes played defensive line, fullback, tight end and all along the offensive line. Hes been a very low profile member of the team,but this year was recognized for his tremendous play by being voted the East nominee for the CFLs Outstanding Offensive Lineman. He admits he sees an improvement in his game. "I think I played better" Keeping told TSN.ca before immediately giving accolades to his fellow linemen. "With any award like that you know its the result of the unit. I cant speak for each of the guys, but I think I played more consistent and I know I played at a higher level more consistently. I feel the same way about everybody across the line, so I think that as a whole really made us successful as a line." 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