Why does Argos offence stink?

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

The Toronto Argonauts do not have anyone on offence named Larry, Curly and Moe.

Sometimes they just look like stooges.

And, we mean that in the nicest way possible.

Although that isn't always easy when the only offensive category in which the team leads the league is singles off missed field goals.

And fumbles.

"It's a matter of focus and execution. We move the ball ... but we usually have a turnover or something crazy that stops us. It's just a matter of doing stupid mental mistakes," receiver and team captain Jeremaine Copeland said yesterday in the wake of an embarrassing 30-3 loss to Hamilton.

The Argonauts can run the ball, they play well defensively and the special teams are, well ... special.

But when it comes to the quarterback, receivers and blocking, this is a team with glaring issues.

Who's to blame?

It's not the quarterback, Copeland said.

And, don't blame the coaches.

"It has nothing to do with the coaches. Players play the game. Coaches just put you in the situation to give you a chance to win the game," said Copeland.

"It comes from within the locker room."

It's not the receivers, said special-teams stalwart Jeff Johnson.

So, who, or what, is it?

It's not the play-calling or the schemes, said head coach Jim Barker.

And, it's not the offensive line, either.

So, if it's not a talent gap and it's not the strategy mucking things up, then what?

"It's hard to nail down to one thing. It's getting on the same page and believing in each other. You see it happening in one game -- then you kind of don't," Johnson said.

With three weeks to go before the playoffs this is a team running out of time. So, yesterday as the club began practicing for this weekend's game in Winnipeg, Barker spent more time working with the offence and co-ordinator Jaime Elizondo.

In two previous reincarnations as an offensive co-ordinator, Barker took teams to the Grey Cup -- but this year he hesitated to get too involved, too quickly.

"I'm an offensive guy that hasn't been very involved in that phase of it and that's my fault," said Barker.

Losing 30-3 has gotten him involved.

"I should've had a better grasp of things, and that's not a slight on Jaime. He's growing and he does a great job of game-planning and he's gonna be a great coach, but there's some issues right now. My job as a head coach is to find those issues and get them solved ... it's execution and attention to detail.

"That's what it's about."

When this all started back on a hot July afternoon back in pre-season; when Barker had not yet turned a hair greyer watching the post-game video; he promised a new beginning for an Argonaut team that had forgot-ten how to win. He brought in new players, new coaches and promised exciting football with a dazzling offence that combined ingenuity, guile and speed. It was just going to take time.

Even he didn't realize how much time.

"A little bit," he said yesterday, when asked if his offence had developed slower than he envisioned that July day.

The Argos have scored just 19.1 points a game, lowest in the league and are last in points scored with 286 -- almost half that of league-leading Calgary's 505.

"Are we going to get to work to fix things. Absolutely. And, we have three weeks to do that. We don't throw the ball well enough right now to be able to do the things that we want to do."

So some of it is the quarterback.

Of the 10 quarterbacks in the CFL with the most snaps, Cleo Lemon has an efficiency rating of 76.3, the lowest.

He has the highest interception rate.

But the issue runs deeper. It's also about receivers busting routes and blockers missing assignments.

It's about trust ; about a team still learning to rely on each other's abilities.

"We have to get to the point where (Lemon) gets the ball out of his hand and he trusts that the guy is going to be where he's supposed to be," said Barker.

"There's a lot of reasons our pass game is poor. I'm not going into specifics but ... a lot of it starts with trust in each other; that the guy next to you is going to block the proper guy, that the receiver is going to be where he's supposed to be -- that's our major problem.

"We have trust issues. That happens when you have a new team."

It seemed a reasonable explanation on a sweaty July day.

Early in the season there was still unwavering hope.

But now, 15 games into this bumptious season, it feels somehow less bona fide.

And old.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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