Argos peaking at the perfect time
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Ricky Ray is tackled by the Lions' Keron Williams earlier this season. Ray is playing at his best now and should be tough to stop in the playoffs. (Reuters)
The Argos have saved their best for last, showing signs of peaking at the absolute best time of the season.
No matter who eventually crosses over from the West, the Argos will have no excuses when the Nov. 11 Eastern semifinal gets played at Rogers Centre.
Whether it’s Edmonton or Saskatchewan, the Argos match up against either side.
When asked about his team peaking, head coach Scott Milanovich refused to take the bait.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “What I do know is that we’re playing better, there’s no doubt about that.
“I know offensively we’ve picked up the pace.”
Not surprisingly, the return of Ricky Ray has infused new life into a once moribund offence.
No quarterback enters the CFL’s second season with as much confidence as Ray, who has finally found his comfort zone with Milanovich’s offence and has finally figured out his receivers, a unit Ray has helped take to another level.
“We have our confidence and there’s nothing more important than that,’’ added Milanovich. “You got a great quarterback and you have confidence.
“When you have that, you have a chance to win and I think that’s how our guys are feeling right now.”
At no point during this inconsistent season have the Argos looked more consistent than they have in back-to-back wins over Saskatchewan and Hamilton.
It starts with Ray, but it applies to a defence that needs to just clean up its coverage on the back end to return to a form that had the Argos among the very elite defensive teams in the CFL.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s wildly entertaining 43-40 win over Hamilton, it’s quite obvious the Argos must get Johnnie Dixon on the playoff roster.
Dixon had one of those nights where jobs are earned, where teams are forced to explore every option in finding a way to play him.
Dixon would lead the Argos in tackles, but he also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Dixon has cover skills and he can clearly tackle.
Of the many new faces thrown into the game, Dixon was by far the one who would stand out most, especially on defence.
Offensively, rookies Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros impressed, but neither will supplant Ray.
With Ray throwing the ball like he has in recent weeks, with Swayze Waters regaining his confidence, these are two areas the Argos must seize.
Football is often referred to as a game of turnovers, among other descriptions, but it becomes more pronounced come playoff time.
Virtually every team that advances wins the turnover battle and the Argos may have finally discovered a way not to beat themselves.
There’s a veteran presence in Noel Prefontaine and a proven returner in Chad Owens to help win the battle of field position.
“Playoff football, more than any other type of football, comes down to field position and turnovers. Special teams will be critical.
“I’m happy Swayze is going into this game (East semi) with a ton of confidence.”
There’s a swagger with these Argos that hasn’t always existed.
When it has arrived, it was proven to be fleeting, but now they’ve been given a chance to make a meaningful post-season run, regardless of the opposition.