Tackling a bigger role

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Kevin Eiben has worn many hats during his distinguished time in Argoland and been asked to go beyond the call of duty on many occasions.

Eiben is the ultimate gridiron warrior who will captain an Argos defence that is as raw as rookie head coach Bart Andrus' exposure to three-down football.

It speaks to Eiben's longevity and ability that his peers would vote him as captain.

It also reinforces the depth of change the Argos have engineered as they get set to open the regular season with tomorrow's visit to Hamilton.

Eiben knew well before training camp began some two weeks ago that his responsibilities would expand in the wake of the Argos releasing many defensive stalwarts who excelled under Rich Stubler's scheme.

He has been part tutor, part coach and now full-time captain, a distinction that means a lot to Eiben because it was voted by the players.

"I am truly honoured,'' the linebacker said yesterday. "What makes it special is that it was voted by the players.

"I think they see me coming to work and practising hard every day. They see me helping the younger guys and I want to step up and be the leader."

There is much anticipation surrounding the Argos because so little is known.

Andrus comes to the CFL with an offensive background.

He's going to call every play from scrimmage and promises to establish a vertical game.

Kerry Joseph won't have to deal with any quarterback controversies and will line up behind a revamped offensive line that will play with an edge and will pass-block better.

Special teams will be a work in progress and no decision (as of yesterday at least publicly) has been made regarding the starting punter/kicker.

The Argos made the move from Stubler's trademark 3-4 defence to a 4-3 look when Don Matthews replaced Stubler midway through last season, but the results were the same.

"Our defence will be a 4-3, but we'll also have a 5-2 and a 3-4 look,'' Eiben said.

"I thought we had a great training camp. We were disciplined, our pace of practice was fast and all the new faces had a chance to get comfortable."

But now comes the regular season when the proverbial light comes on and when players begin to get exposed.

Defence used to be the Argos' identity and the team rode its strength to winning the Grey Cup five years ago, which now seems like an eternity.

Eiben can't say how well the defence will perform and no one else can because the Argos have yet to play a meaningful game.

Until teams caught up to Stubler's way of doing things, the Argos were this bend-but-not-break defence that limited big pays.

They were vulnerable against the run because undersized linebackers were used.

The Argos defence enters tomorrow's opener under a backdrop of mystery because so much is unknown.

"A lot will depend on how quickly we adjust on the fly,'' Eiben said. "As players we'll have input to let the coaches know what's going on."

Chances are good that Eiben will have plenty to say during tomorrow's game, only this time he won't be stepping on anyone's toes.


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