Argos' defence doesn't rest

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Did six months really lapse between the Argos' last game in 2007 and their season-opening victory in Winnipeg two nights ago?

Hard to tell when it comes to Toronto's defence, which led the Canadian Football League in most categories last season. Rich Stubler has graduated to head coach from defensive co-ordinator, but his successor, Kavis Reed, has picked up the bend-but-don't-break philosophy, which was clear in the 23-16 win against the Blue Bombers Friday at Canad Inns Stadium.

"We picked up where we left off last year," linebacker Michael Fletcher said. "As a defence we want to frustrate the league, piss everybody off, keep everyone from scoring 20 points. That's our goal, our mantra."

Well, it's just one game, but so far, so good. Blue Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn managed to pile up 321 yards on 32 completions, but he could not turn that yardage into major scores. Glenn also threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, and the lone Winnipeg touchdown was on the ground, courtesy of Charles Roberts.

Among the top running backs in the CFL, the Argos held Roberts to 76 yards on 13 carries. In 16 games in 2007, there were just five outings in which Roberts had fewer than 76 yards.

"I don't think we made a statement across the league, but it's huge because it was on the road," said defensive back Kenny Wheaton, who snared a Glenn pass.

NO PRESSURE

"There is no pressure on us. I think there is pressure on every offence that has to face us. We're very good at what we do. We don't hide that."

Part of what has made the Argos defence so masterful not only is the familiarity with each other, but when new players are added, the transition phase for the newcomers is short and painless. Willie Middlebrooks demonstrated as much against Winnipeg, playing a fairly sound game on the corner and hauling in a Glenn pass.

That interception happened late in the game deep in Toronto territory and snuffed out any small hope the Bombers had of tying the game. Michael Bishop came in and ran out the clock.

"We're battle-tested a bit, but when you have a new guy like Middlebrooks making a big play like that near the end, it feels great," Fletcher said.

"But it is still a building process. It's Week 1, and Rome was not built in a day. A championship season is not built in one game."

While there were plenty of warm fuzzies to go around among the defence corps, Stubler has to know that keeping each of his quarterbacks satisfied with the plan to play both will be a large challenge. Kerry Joseph and Michael Bishop were happy with the win, but neither was trained in football to share playing time.

It will be intriguing to see how the situation plays out Thursday night at the Rogers Centre, when the Argos play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their home opener.

"This is not rocket science," Stubler said. "You just have to have no animosity between people who are playing. If we can do that, we can be successful."


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