Argos start preseason with a win

The Toronto Argos play against the Hamilton Tiger Cats in their pre-season game on June 13,...

The Toronto Argos play against the Hamilton Tiger Cats in their pre-season game on June 13, 2010. (GREG HENKENHAF/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

Dalton Bell took a couple of steps forward on Sunday afternoon.

Cleo Lemon almost kept pace.

The Argonauts won’t get many style points for their preseason victory at the Rogers Centre, a 13-10 triumph against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

And though the Argos, the lowest-scoring team in the Canadian Football League a year ago, didn’t score a touchdown, head coach Jim Barker has a greater understanding of the capabilities of his quarterbacks.

Bell, the former Saskatchewan Roughriders third-stringer, made it clear he knew the CFL game, even if his experience was limited to the preseason a year ago. The 27-year-old was composed in the pocket, made good decisions and moved the ball well.

Lemon started and was a little more sure-handed than his stats suggest. Receivers dropped catchable balls for the Argos all the time in 2009, and though Lemon is new, he was plagued by the same habit. But Lemon’s pocket presence was impressive, and he demonstrated good mobility when he tucked the ball in and ran for 18 yards during the first quarter.

Ken Dorsey came on in the fourth quarter and acknowledged later he has more to learn.

Danny Brannagan, the sentimental favourite who doesn’t have much of a chance, appeared to be overwhelmed.

On the whole, though, Barker probably was not going to lose much sleep on Sunday night.

“I thought this was a good first step,” Barker said.

“It was just important to me that we were not throwing the ball up, that we had an idea where we were going with it and had some composure.

“I thought they all did a good job of that.”

The running game didn’t happen, as the quarterbacks accounted for five of the Argos’ 15 rushes. Replacing Jamal Robertson and his 1,000-plus yards has been and will be a challenge. Cory Boyd is expected to be cleared for full workouts on Monday.

“We have to do a better job in the running game,” Barker said. “A lot of that is on the quarterbacks. They have spent so much time in terms of learning how to read and throwing the ball that maybe we have not done as good a job of reading the running game that we need to. So we will get better at that.”

Barker said he will be “whittling down” his quarterbacks this week. The Argos have one preseason game left, in Montreal on Saturday against the Alouettes.

Lemon and Bell should get the bulk of reps in that game based on what they did on Sunday, while Dorsey might not. It’s hard to envision how Brannagan gets into the top three.

Bell said his brief playing time 12 months ago helped.

“It was a different mindset,” Bell said. “I made a few wrong reads but overall I felt good about it. I threw a behind a couple of guys and they went back and got it for me.

“Last year I did not know what to expect. This year I had those reps, and I have been working out against a great defence.”

For Lemon, actually playing in a CFL game was welcome, even if it had its bumps.

“It was not a problem getting out of the huddle, Lemon said.

“It was getting adjustments at the line, I kind of got caught behind the gun with the play clock and it’s all on me.

“I took a couple of hits, especially on my run reads. They did a great job of closing down the run and making quick decisions outside the pocket really helped.”

The Ticats didn’t bring most of their starters, but when you’re coming off a 3-15 season, as the Argos are, anything better than a disaster in the preseason opener is a sign of some form of stability.

Whether the same outlook holds after a preseason game this Saturday against the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes could be debatable, but it would have been much worse had the Argos lost to their rivals from Hamilton.

Day at the office

A glance at how the Argos’ four quarterbacks performed on Sunday afternoon (in order of appearance in the game):

QB Att Com Yds Long Int TD

Cleo Lemon 10 3 41 16 0 0

Danny Brannagan 11 3 31 20 1 0

Dalton Bell 10 7 94 32 0 0

Ken Dorsey 17 8 96 44 1 0

The good

Rookies Grant Shaw and Robbie Dehaze both were perfect on field goals, succeeding on the two that each took ... Head coach Jim Barker wants an explosive offence, and he got a glimpse of that in the fourth quarter when quarterback Ken Dorsey found Derek Stanley for a 44-yard gain. That set up the winning field goal by Dehaze ... The Toronto defence held the Ticats to 235 total yards. Newcomer Denatay Heard, playing from the halfback position, was instrumental in breaking up several Hamilton plays.

The bad

The Argos had no touchdowns ... Rookie quarterback Danny Brannagan had lots of trouble finding receivers, often sailing passes over their heads ... Receiver Jeffrey Webb put a smear on quarterback Cleo Lemon’s stats when he muffed at least two catchable passes in the first quarter ... The Argos, the most penalized team in the league last year, took 16 penalties ... Brannagan and Dorsey both threw interceptions.

The ugly

Adriano Belli’s two penalties on the same play resulted in a Ticats field goal in the first quarter ... Empty seats, and plenty to go around. Announced attendance at the Rogers Centre was 12,514. There might have been 5,000 fans in the place ... Ticats wide receiver Adam Nicholson lost his helmet when he was crunched by three Argos and had blood streaming from his head when he got up ... The game itself. Not much is attractive when it comes to exhibition games in any sport, and the CFL is no different.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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