Argos on the run

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

If Jamal Robertson can deflect opposing tacklers as much as he has threats to his job at Argonauts training camp, perhaps Toronto's running game will be something for opponents to worry about this season.

A healthy Tyler Ebell and the recently acquired Jarrett Payton have designs on becoming the Argos' No. 1 ball carrier, a role that Robertson had in 2008, but the latter isn't conceding much at training camp.

"He hasn't flinched," Argos coach Bart Andrus said yesterday as the Argos chugged through their fifth day of on-field workouts in Mississauga. "He is right there competing and he has shown every day he is where we thought he would be. He has shown us nothing but professionalism in the way he has approached it, and he has been outstanding so far."

A cynic might point out that the Argos need a new running back no matter what Robertson does in camp. The 32-year-old was seventh in the Canadian Football League last year with 645 yards on the ground, but the Argos want more than the 5.5 yards Robertson averaged with each carry. The departed Dominique Dorsey averaged 6.4 yards, and quarterback Kerry Joseph rushed on average at a 6.3-yard clip.

But the offensive line got a large boost in the signings of Rob Murphy and Dominic Picard, which means that any back should benefit. No matter what, it's clear Robertson is fine with the increased competition.

"I can't do anything but what I can do," said Robertson, who spent the off-season in Atlanta but travelled often to Dayton, Ohio, to visit his 10-year-old son. "I can be Jamal and nobody else. I want to help carry the team to the big games. That's my personal goal."

At 5-foot-10 and 218 pounds, Robertson is about as compact as possible. Ebell's speed has been a revelation, as there have been no signs that he ruptured his left Achilles tendon a year ago. Fellow imports Da'shawn Thomas and Jay Lucas are in the mix, and Payton has been getting his reps.

Canadians Jeff Johnson, Andre Durie and Bryan Crawford have varying levels of experience.

Though Payton played for Andrus with Amsterdam of NFL Europa in 2005, the board is clean.

"I have no preconceived notions," Andrus said. "We cut a defensive back (Cory Peoples) the other day who played for me. When you go off anything other than total, flat-out production (at camp), you start to put together a football team that is flawed.

"I want the two or three most productive backs, whether it is import or non-import."

Andrus will have a clearer idea of how the Argos' run game will unfold after the team's pre-season games, Wednesday at the Rogers Centre when the Montreal Alouettes visit and on June 23 when the Boatmen head down the QEW to face the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton.

"The two pre-season games, when live bullets are flying, is when you find out how much a guys knows and how much he understands," Andrus said. "It will play itself out. It always does."


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