Lions at the gate

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

It looms as the game within the game, a matchup that pits the Argos' ever-changing offensive line versus B.C.'s ferocious front four.

If the Argos are to have any hope of upsetting the heavily favoured Lions tomorrow night, somehow the offensive line has to provide quarterback Kerry Joseph with enough protection in the pocket and enough running lanes to give Toronto a chance of ending its four-game losing streak.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us,'' veteran guard Jude St. John yesterday.

St. John returns to the roster after missing the team's home-and-home series versus the Calgary Stampeders.

The embodiment of professionalism, St. John tried to play through a troublesome hamstring until the ailment began to bother his back.

He injured it in the Argos' Labour Day win in Hamilton, persevered through the discomfort and suited up the following week against Winnipeg, only to realize he wasn't healthy.

"I'm ready to go now,'' he proclaimed.

When St. John watches video of the Lions' front four, he sees a group that combines both speed and strength, athleticism and experience.

The Lions lead the CFL in sacks with 52.

The team's sultan of sack is Cameron Wake, who yesterday was chosen defensive player of the week by the league.

Wake has produced a league-leading 18 sacks this season.

When Wake isn't terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, Brent Johnson and Aaron Hunt are more than capable of disrupting backfields, each having recorded nine sacks.

Tyrone Williams is the least acclaimed of the Lions' front four, but St. John believes Williams is the quicker of the tackles.

"This is one of the toughest matchups we'll face all year and it comes at a point in the season where it's crucial we play well,'' St. John said.

Joseph is very familiar with B.C.'s defence and the problems it poses.

"They're very talented,'' Joseph said. "The key for us is to get on them early.

"We must have success on first down because if we allow those guys to pin their ears back, it could be a long night for us."

MAKING STRIDES

Since Don Matthews took over as head coach, the Argos have made more strides on defence by using a 4-3 setup.

Matthews has modified the offence's blocking schemes by utilizing a two-back set and by having running backs chip and check.

Regardless of schemes or personnel, the Argos are in desperate need of a win.

Since their 34-31 triumph over the Tiger-Cats, the Argos have been outscored 162-48.

No one can pinpoint why the offence has struggled so badly, leaving receiver Arland Bruce to borrow a mangled metaphor not uttered since the days of Charles Oakley.

"We're used to big mama's cooking on Sundays,'' Bruce began. "Big mama is sick and she's not cooking on Sundays, but there are other great cooks in the family.

"You're just used to big mama's food that even if your mama, auntie or sister or anyone else cooks, you're really not satisfied."

Chances are if the Argos' offensive line doesn't step up, the team's famine will continue.


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