Argos have lost their touchdown touch

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

Jim Barker is a big picture kind of guy, a coach who doesn't put any stock in any number save for wins and losses.

More than anyone, Barker understands the process that is an 18-game schedule and the learning curve one has to experience, whether he's new to a system or new to the league.

The Argos sit at 5-4 at the mid-way point of the season, a team that has lost two in a row against one opponent.

It's an Argos team that once used to produce big plays in the fourth quarter, but has now gone two games in succession without as much as registering a point in the fourth quarter.

In hindsight, expectations became inflated in the wake of the Argos' 5-2 start, which was capped by a very dominant and decisive win over the Montreal Alouettes, a team that blew out the Argos by 31 points earlier in the season.

Progression can't always be gleaned in the wake of a setback, but Barker sees improvement and refuses to abandon his mantra.

"Our goal each week is to get better," Barker began on Wednesday, a day when two veteran warriors, Adriano Belli (foot) and Jeremaine Copeland (elbow), practised but neither will dress this Saturday in Vancouver.

"Ultimately, down the stretch is when we need to be at our best. When you play your last six games of the year, that's when you need to be at your very best."

He's right.

But that hasn't stopped pundits and the like to wonder what ails the Argos.

Certainly, the Argos aren't as good as the 5-2 team, but they're not as bad as the team that committed a total of 20 penalties and produced a total of eight turnovers in two losses to the Ticats.

Cory Boyd, through his choice of words when reporters were given access to the locker room, and Cleo Lemon, through his actions along the sideline, showed their frustration in The Hammer on Labour Day.

For the first time this season, Boyd showed a selfish characteristic that simply must end.

Of course a player of Boyd's ilk should get more touches and it's his right to voice whatever opinion he decides to express, but he's got to be careful.

Afterall, the worse thing that can happen is for teammates to sense selfishness, especially in a team sport such as football.

Boyd is a back with multi-dimensional attributes -- a player who wears down a defence, can be used in blitz pickups, run out of the backfield or be used a receiver.

Package wise, the Argos are expanding their offence, using different formations and having players go in motion a lot more frequently.

Barker isn't into any stats, dismissing whatever gains are made between the 20 yard line when the Argos are able to move the chains, whether it's through the air or along the ground.

For obvious reasons, scoring touchdowns is of greater concern, which was scarce against Hamilton.

In their 16-12 loss to the Ticats, the Argos were held out of the end zone.

In their 28-13 loss, the Argos managed to produce one major.

When he talks about his receivers, Barker describes the unit as "kind of in flux."

Chad Lucas had to leave the team to witness the birth of his child, the offensive line is going through a difficult transition and a short week to prepare for the Lions doesn't help matters, either.

But Barker remains committed to the unit and hasn't instructed any of his bird dogs to bring in additional receivers.

"I'm excited about where this group is going,'' Barker said.

"We'll be just fine at the receiving position."

What doesn't sit well with Barker is the offence's production in the red zone or score zone, an area that showed signs when the Argos forged their 5-2 record.

However one decides to break it down by looking at play calls from coaches or decision making by Lemon, the bottom line is that the Argos aren't executing.

"It's a myriad different things,'' Barker said. "Our offence in the score zone wasn't too bad earlier in the season. It's one of our emphasis points and we will be better at it."

For now, we'll believe in Barker.

If you think about, who would have believed the Argos would have five wins at the half-way mark when the team operated as if it was a half-way house for the past two seasons.


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