June 16th, 2024

Veteran defensive lineman settling into life with the Toronto Argonauts

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on May 24, 2024.

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo, left, runs from Edmonton Elks defensive lineman Jake Ceresna during first half CFL football action in Edmonton, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Ceresna has been here before. The veteran defensive lineman is settling into his new life as a Toronto Argonaut after being acquired from the Elks this off-season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

GUELPH, Ont. – Jake Ceresna has been here before.

The veteran defensive lineman is getting acclimated to life as a Toronto Argonaut at training camp after being traded to the East Division club in January by the Edmonton Elks.

But change isn’t anything new for the 29-year-old American. After starting his CFL career with Ottawa in 2017, he was sent to Alberta following that season.

“There’s a great deal to get used to,” Ceresna said. “Different city, the team here is different, we practise differently, the plays are different, almost everything is different.

“But I’ve been through this before. I know the feeling, I know what to expect going to a new team. Things have been great, honestly, I’ve been welcomed here with open arms and I’m looking forward to the season.”

Toronto acquired Ceresna and the rights to running back Khalan Laborn, who’s also in camp, for Canadian receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and a ’24 seventh-round pick.

“I was definitely surprised,” Ceresna said of the trade. “I’ve only been traded, I’ve never hit free agency in my career so I was kind of planning on being there for a while but things change and that’s life.

“I’m happy to be here now . . . and be the best player I can for the Argonauts.”

Ceresna won’t play Saturday when Toronto visits Montreal in the first CFL exhibition game for both teams. But Laborn will suit up in the backfield along with newcomer Ka’Deem Carey and sophomore Deonta McMahon.

Ceresna, 29, was named Edmonton’s top defensive player for a second straight year in 2023 after he played all 18 games and registered career highs in sacks (12) and tackles (48). The six-foot-five, 295-pound Ceresna has posted double-digits sacks the last two seasons and 35 the past four years.

Ceresna will combine with defensive end Folarin Orimolade (team-high 10 sacks last year) to give Toronto a solid 1-2 pass-rush threat.

“The fact Jake can go inside on second down and we can line him up over a guard, he’s not always outside, that gives us an added element to our defence,” said Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “And then you have a two-headed monster with him and Flo.

“I’m really excited to see him play.”

A stellar defence helped make ’23 a historic year for Toronto (16-2). The Argos established a club record for most regular-season wins while tying the CFL mark and were tops defensively in sacks (68), turnovers forced (27), interceptions (27) and fewest rushing yards (83.6 per game) while being tied with Hamilton for most fumbles recovered (15).

This off-season, the unit lost defensive linemen DeWayne Hendrix and Brandon Barlow and cornerback Jamal Peters in free agency (all to Hamilton), cornerback Qwan’tez Stiggers (NFL’s New York Jets) and linebackers Jordan Williams (traded to Ticats) and Adarius Pickett (Ottawa, free agent). Defensive co-ordinator Corey Mace is also now the Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach.

But Toronto’s defence still features Orimolade, towering tackle Shawn Oakman, Canadian defensive end Robbie Smith, linebacker Wynton McManis, safety Royce Metchie and defensive back DeShaun Amos, who returns from last year’s season-ending ankle injury. The Argos also added Canadian defensive back Tunde Adeleke in free agency.

Kevin Eiben and William Fields were serve as co-defensive co-ordinators this season. Both will also continue in their roles as linebackers coach and secondary coach, respectively.

“I think our D-line will be better than last year,” Dinwiddie said. “Jake is one of the top D-lineman in the league, Flo is one of the top D-linemen in the league, Oak is back and so is Robbie and we’ve got some young guys who’re really disruptive.

“I think (teams) will have a tough time pass protecting (against the Argos).”

While many of the faces might be different, Ceresna said the goal remains for Toronto’s defence to dominate again in 2024.

“They already have an identity here,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit into that identity and keep the standard they’ve already established and keep dominating the league.”

Exactly how Ceresna fits into Toronto’s defence is still being determined during camp.

“I’m just trying to learn the plays and schemes and understand them the best I can,” he said. “Even positions that aren’t mine so I can understand what the defence is trying to accomplish.

“It just helps me play better and know where I have to fit into my role. That’s what camp is for . . . I’m just making sure I’ve got all of the plays down and know where I am supposed to be.”

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

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