Paging Argos' 'D'

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- It takes more than a quick glance to locate the Argos in the CFL's defensive rankings.

After dominating play at key times in last year's championship season, the Argos' veteran defensive unit looks like a bit of a work in progress heading into another Grey Cup rematch against the B.C. Lions (2-0) tonight at B.C. Place.

Ranked seventh in the nine-team CFL in average yards allowed per game, the Argos (2-1) need to step up on defence tonight and prevent Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson from repeating his season-opening heroics. On June 25 at the Rogers Centre, Dickenson's 16-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter led the Lions to a 27-20 win.

"I think the offence is leagues ahead of where it was last year," Argos linebacker Michael Fletcher said. "The defence and special teams need to get back on track to where we were. It's coming, but to be 2-1 in this position right now is really not that bad considering we haven't even played near our best yet.

"All off-season people prepare for you. We have to adjust to what they do now. It takes more on our part. We've got to understand how people are going to try to attack us."

With every starter back on defence, many thought the Argos would pick up where they left off last year. During one stretch last season, the Argos did not allow an offensive touchdown for 15 consecutive quarters. In the playoffs, the Argos held the Hamilton Tiger-Cats off the scoreboard until the final play of the East semi-final and knocked Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo out of the East final.

This season hasn't been terrible for the defence, but it is a unit capable of bigger and better things. If Damon Allen and the offence wouldn't have rescued the team in a come-from-behind 27-26 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week, the Argos would be 1-2 heading into tough road games in B.C. and Montreal

"We became a great defence by outworking opponents," Argos coach Pinball Clemons said. "We can't just show up and be dominant ... We have a really good group and a group that has a chance to be special."

Really, there is no reason to panic. The Argos have given up less points per game (23) than any team in the East.

"In the back of your mind, you worry about that kind of thing (Dickenson's long drive)," Argos defensive lineman Eric England said. "But the only thing that matters is wins or losses. You can run for one million yards, but if you're not scoring points it doesn't make a difference."

In time, Fletcher thinks, the Argos' highly-regarded defence will be making headlines again.

"We're in contention to win every game and that's all you can ask for right now," he said. "It's going to come. We've got our heads up. We're looking forward to still being the best defence in the league."


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