Pinball pushes offence

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

The Toronto Argonauts embark on the first leg of their toughest home-and-home series of the season today as they fly to Calgary to play the surging Stampeders tomorrow at McMahon Stadium and they will do so with their "B" running game.

First-team running back Ricky Williams is coming off 10 weeks on the injury list after breaking a radial bone in his arm against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers back in July, and John Avery is still a few weeks away from starting after he injured his ankle.

But coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons isn't looking for excuses, just some offence as the 7-5 Argos -- on a five game win streak -- get ready for the 8-5 Stamps.

Clemons said that what the Argos' current record doesn't show is that the defence has been carrying much of the load for the past six weeks.

"It will still be important for the defence to play up to their standards," he said. "The Calgary offence runs with five receivers and a couple of backs in the backfield and they'll often change the configuration of that system. So they will be tough, there is no doubt in my mind."

Clemons said that it is time for the offensive unit to step up -- regardless of injuries -- to provide the impetus for a win on the road.

"I think it's incumbent upon us to do offensively, I think, to take up a little slack that the defence has taken up for us the last several weeks," he said. "The offence has to grow and mature and not be complacent with winning.

"We have won football games but we haven't necessarily grown to where we want to offensively at this point in the season."

In spite of the current five-game run that started when general manager Adam Rita took over as offensive co-ordinator, Clemons is convinced there is still more to do on that side of the ball.

"We are starting to get a little more continuity in the unit and, as we do, we need to grow as a football team offensively," he said. "I think that's the greatest challenge -- for that unit to grow and get some points on the board."

One of the players who surely will see more footballs in the coming week is wide receiver Andre Talbot.

He said yesterday that whatever is in the game plan for Calgary he'll just be happy to contribute after he too comes back from an a strained abdomen suffered in practice last month.

Yesterday, he was on the field with the first-stringers, giving every indication he will see action tomorrow in Calgary.

"It's always the same for me," Talbot said. "All of the receivers are going to be busting their butts trying to get open."

CONFIDENCE IN BACKS

Talbot insisted that the team still has a lot of confidence in the running backs that are healthy.

"Whether it's J.J. (Jeff Johnson), Ricky, (Brian) Crawford or J.W. (John Williams), we know all of them can play well."

He does agree with the coach on one thing, though, that the whole unit has to have a good game in Calgary.

"The more we open up the passing game, the easier it will be to run the ball," Talbot said.


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