Boatmen at the break

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

TOP SURPRISES

1. Cory Boyd

No one could have imagined the impact this rookie CFL running back would have in three-down football. Powerful, with breakaway speed, the Argos haven't lost when Boyd rushes for at least 100 yards. Boyd needs to get even more touches and be used more as a pass catcher, on screens and when mismatches arise.

2. Chad Owens

You knew the guy was good because any player who has been exposed with the Alouettes system is good. But he's proven to be even better returning kicks as an Argo and is always a threat on special teams. He also has filled in for Copeland at the slot, but has to do a better job catching the football and refining the art of route running.

3. Andre Durie

Opposing defences must now gameplan for this running back turned slotback. Like Owens, he must improve his route-running, but will not be caught from behind in the open field. The Argos simply must find more ways to use Durie, who twice has emerged from games as the team's leading receiver, unfortunately both in losses.

4. Jason Pottinger

Highly unsung player who continues to get better at linebacker. He can be exposed when matched up against quick backs in the open field, but that speaks more to the scheme because he shouldn't be in that position. He has started all eight games -- also seeing duty on special teams -- and has yet to commit a penalty.

5. Chris Van Zeyl

Another solid Canadian on a team full of them, which explains in part the 5-3 record. Argos' right offensive tackle has bounced back from a foot injury that would normally keep a guy out much longer, but it speaks to his toughness. He is nowhere near as accomplished as left tackle Rob Murphy, but he is emerging.

TOP DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. Passing game

This isn't an indictment on Cleo Lemon, but this dimension to the offence should be further along than it is. Brandon Rideau and Owens have to be more detail oriented. The deep ball is sporadic, at best, and you know the aerial game is a work in progress when gadget plays are called ... but at least they've worked.

2. Jeremaine Copeland

His leadership can't be measured in receptions and TDs, but more was expected, production-wise, from a veteran who has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards five times in his career. A sixth will not happen. He got hurt when caught from behind by two Als defenders, which exposed his declining speed.

3. Pass rush

Numbers, granted, are deceiving and the object is to disrupt a quarterback, apply pressure and make him uncomfortable. But nine sacks in eight games is not nearly good enough, especially considering that seven of those were recorded in the first three weeks.

4. Attendance

Fans haven't had any reason to cheer for the team in the past two years, but this group is actually worth supporting. Four home games and a 3-1 home record later, the Argos are averaging 21,688. The next home date isn't until Sept. 19 followed by another, only that one will be staged in Moncton, N.B.

5. Grant Shaw

Technically, the kid placekicker hasn't cost the Argos a game, but he failed to come through against Hamilton when a lead could have been extended and he now appears unsettled. The Argos should go out and bring in a veteran to push Shaw.

INJURIES

An update on DT Adriano Belli (foot) will be available on Tuesday when the Argos return to the practice field; SB Jeremaine Copeland (elbow) is not expected to play in Hamilton and it's not known when he'll be back; DB Willie Middlebrooks (hamstring) appears ready, but more will be known this week; OG Cedric Gagne-Marcoux (calf) is likely doubtful for the rumble in the Hammer. All three are starters, representing by far the most impactful injured players.

Whither McNeal

One of the biggest decisions awaiting the Argos is the future of WR Reggie McNeal, who is eligible to come off the nine-game injured list following the Labour Day tussle; McNeal's been out with an injured groin, his role with the team very much uncertain; possibility exists for the Argos to release McNeal outright.

CHARTING CLEO

Week 1

30-16 loss in Calgary

16-for-28, 192 yards, 1 TD, 1 int. Rush: 3-for-11

- Late-game fumble the Stamps recovered for a TD was the dagger. This one showed his CFL inexperience in not knowing where pressure was coming from.

Week 2

36-34 win in Winnipeg

15-for-23, 162 yards, 0 TDs, 0 ints; Rush: 3-for-22

- More than anything, he managed game; bounced back from a hit to the head and scored his first rushing major; clutch completion to move chains led to a FG.

Week 3

27-24 win over Calgary

18-for-37, 187 yds., 1 int; Rush: 2-for-13 yards.

- The Argos won, in spite of their QB, who managed only 74 second-half passing yards. Fortunately, Stamps QB was Henry Burris.

Week 4

24-20 win over B.C.

19-for-28 for 222 yards 2 TDs, 2 ints; Rush: 2-for-13

- Led team on a scoring drive that fuelled fourth-quarter comeback; times when he simply held onto the ball too long.

Week 5

41-10 loss in Montreal

8-for-17 for 143 yards 0 TDs, 0 ints; Rush: 5-for-35

- This was the perfect opportunity to give backup Dalton Bell some extended playing time. But Lemon stayed in the blowout resulting in miscommunication with receivers and misreads.

Week 6

29-28 win in Edmonton

23-for-34, 294 yards, 1 TD, 1 int; Rush: 1-for-19

- Best statistical game, but numbers don't reflect some terrible officiating, calls that deprived Lemon of his first 300-yard passing game.

Week 7

37-22 win over Montreal

13-for-19 for 269 yards, 3 TDs, 0 ints; Rush: 1-for-8

- Finest moment on a night when the Argos were at their very best. The Lemon-led offence staked the team to a 14-0 lead, scoring majors on its first two possessions.

Week 8

16-12 loss to Hamilton

8-for-17, 143 yards, 0 TDs, 0 int; Rush: 5-for-35

- Took a step back in his development, wasn't as accurate and wasn't able to make any plays on a night when a play was needed.

Overall Rating: C-

The Argos need Lemon to step up, be more decisive and provide options where he can use his legs. They haven't done enough to get him outside the pocket and upgrading his receiving corps would help.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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