Tackling woes have to go

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

Kevin Eiben plans to discard a cumbersome knee brace that limited the veteran linebacker's effectiveness in his return.

If only it were that simple for the Argos to shed their label as a poor tackling team, a disturbing trend that surfaced in last week's humiliating setback in Steeltown.

One of the basic fundamentals to this Argos unit has been its emphasis on football's most fundamental defensive component -- making tackles.

The 3-4 Argos have been forced to tackle several issues during this inconsistent season, but the art of tackling has never been one of them.

That is until the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were able to impose their will en route to a decisive 45-21 laugher that left many in Argoland feeling red-faced and some privately wondering if the defence is getting too long in the tooth.

When head coach Rich Stubler was done adding up the missed tackles, the number had reached a season-high 20.

Considering the Ticats lined up on offence for 64 plays, the Argos' tally is downright shocking, if not embarrassing.

In other words, for almost every third play from scrimmage, the Argos missed a tackle.

On some plays, there were as many as three defenders who couldn't wrap up a Ticat.

And there was plenty of guilt to go around, from defensive linemen, to linebackers to defenders lining up in the secondary.

"A lot of missed tackles, a lot of missed assignments,'' Eiben lamented yesterday as the Argos returned to the practice field following a much-needed two days of inactivity.

"There were a lot of mistakes out there and we need to correct them."

Eiben is one of the heart and soul defenders on a unit laden with experience.

Eiben underwent a first-time experience by wearing a brace to protect a right knee that was damaged on July 20 in a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos.

In retrospect, Stubler believes he should have kept Eiben, one of the more sure-handed tacklers in the CFL, on the sideline for another week.

Being able to move sideline to sideline and make tackles in the open field have become Eiben's calling cards.

When he reflects on last week's return, Eiben was succinct in his self-appraisal.

"It wasn't one of my better games,'' he said. "It's going to take time for me to gain trust in the knee.

"I just can't sit on the sideline because I go stir crazy. I never wore a brace before, but it's coming off."

Short of using tackling dummies, the Argos plan on reverting to the tried and true formula of tackling.

"When you watch film, it makes you realize that you have to focus on the little things involved in tackling,'' defensive back Kenny Heatly said.

"You can't be looking at a ball-handlers eyes. You have to look at their hips. You have to wrap them up.

"When you're in a position to make a play, you have to come under control. Missing tackles happens sometimes, but obviously it happened more than we would have liked."

In a quiet transition, Heatly, a first-year Argo, has stepped into a starting role in the defensive backfield ahead of veteran Chuck Winters.

The move was made during the Argos' win over Winnipeg two weeks ago, but only last week did Heatly receive most of the reps in practice.

"I feel good,'' the soft-spoken Heatly said of his new-found responsibility.

"But it's more about the team.

"We have to find a way to correct the things we're not doing."


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