Red zone a dead zone

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

Whether it's a missed assignment or a function of miscommunication, something has been amiss with the Argonauts when they venture into the red zone, football's vernacular for the scoring area.

Touchdowns have been rare when the Toronto offence penetrates the opposition's 20 yard line. Most often, the Argos either have been forced to settle for a field-goal attempt or have come away empty-handed.

In the Argos' 19-11 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last Friday, the Argos scrimmaged inside the five-yard line on three occasions, but managed a total of six points and one errant Kerry Joseph pass that was picked off in the end zone.

As the Argos get set to play the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton tomorrow, a lot of their pre-game preparation on offence has been on finishing off drives by scoring touchdowns.

"I think with us it all comes down to chemistry,'' rookie wideout Tyler Scott said. "It's especially important when you get into the red zone because everyone has to be on the same page.

"Our chemistry is coming along and you can see it build every week. We've left points on the field and we have to eliminate that.

"We've had chances to bury teams."

With so many new faces, including Scott, the Argos haven't had any consistency on offence.

In keeping with this trend, the unit is expected to welcome yet another new face tomorrow when Reggie McNeal makes his CFL debut.

McNeal was brought in at quarterback, but the super-athletic Texan has played the receiver spot in the NFL and gives the Argos a much-needed speed presence.

McNeal has been forced to line up at wideout in the wake of an Achilles injury to rookie James Robinson, who is as raw a receiver as they come in pro football.

McNeal, whom Argos head coach Rich Stubler has known since high school, was more acclaimed in football-mad Texas than Vince Young.

Stubler believes McNeal is the Argos' best overall athlete, even better than defensive back Byron Parker.

What kind of an impact McNeal will have, if he's forced to line up tomorrow, is anyone's guess.

But Scott believes the Argos are heading in the right direction. "We've been working on different routes and different (receiving) combos this week in practice,'' he said.

Stubler isn't overly concerned, at least not publicly, at the offence's inability to produce touchdowns.

In the second halves of the Argos' past two games, against Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, the Argos have managed one field goal and two singles, including one on the game's final play last week.

"I'm excited about our offence,'' Stubler said. "As we get more cohesive, we'll become better.

"Our time of possession has improved and we've produced more first downs than last year.

"At least we're driving the ball and giving ourselves a chance to put points on the board. We're much more effective this year than last year. We're not even in the same boat."

What was that about?

Stubler dismissed his sideline blowup with special teams coach Marcello Simmons by saying: "We had a difference of opinion."

Of course, had Orlondo Steinauer not been called for contacting the kicker, there would have been nothing to discuss.

The 10-yard penalty, which kept a Bombers drive alive on Friday, was one of many blatantly wrong calls CFL officials have made this season.

One could argue the Argos were wrong in trying to block the punt rather than set up a return, which triggered the Stubler-Simmons exchange.


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