TORONTO - Jim Barker didn’t find what he was seeking on Monday morning.
“I went through (tape of Sunday’s pre-season win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) looking for loafs and the guys were flying around,” the Argonauts head coach said of his team’s defence.
“When a guy is being tackled out on the edge with six, seven, eight blue helmets around him, that is what you have to have to be successful — a passion to get to the football.
“Our guys up front played well and hard. It was an all-around solid effort by those guys.”
Nothing new there.
While the Argos’ offence has been a bad smell the past few years, the defence consistently has been solid. Even last season, when Toronto stumbled to a CFL-worst 3-15 record, the defence allowed an average of just 333.2 yards a game, more than only the Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes.
The news was not all great for the defence coming out of the game, as defensive end Ben Ishola suffered a wrist injury and was scheduled to visit a doctor.
But veterans and newcomers alike didn’t have a hard time stuffing the Ticats offence at the Rogers Centre, twice stopping the Tabbies on third down.
True, Hamilton was missing several integral pieces of its attack including quarterback Kevin Glenn.
On the other hand, it’s not as though the Argos had been playing together all winter. There were a handful of new faces trying to give Barker some tough decisions as he determines who will start the pre-season closer on Saturday in Montreal, and some were playing alongside guys they had not before.
One who impressed was halfback Denatay Heard, who spent the past two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Heard became attractive to the Argos when defensive back Dovonte Edwards suffered an Achilles tendon injury in the off-season and was released.
Heard, who is also vying to be the team’s returner, led the Argos with three knockdowns against the Tiger-Cats, but a day later, was concerned that he could not turn any of those into interceptions.
“I’m kicking myself because there are some things I have to get better at,” Heard said. “I have to be more committed to catching the ball and making the right plays. (Knocking passes down) is half of it, but it will not get the job done. When you get a chance to get your hand on the ball, you need to make turnovers.”
It’s sore spot for the Argos. As effective as the defence was in 2009, it had just 11 interceptions, the fewest in the league.
For the time being, it’s not a worry for Kevin Huntley.
A year ago, the 6-foot-7, 302-pound defensive tackle was in a state of flux after he missed most of training camp with an ankle injury and was cut. But he was re-signed in Week 2 and started the remaining 17 games for the Argos, finishing with a team-high nine sacks.
Huntley is a good example of what the Argos have been able to accomplish on defence in the recent past. As good players move out, others such as Huntley move in without missing a beat.
“We had a great defence last year,” Huntley said. “We miss Jonathan Brown, who was a heart-and-soul guy, a rah-rah guy. And Zeke Moreno, he was the man in the middle. But the show must go on, and you always say you are never going to play with the same group of guys year after year.
“We will see what kind of condition we are in (on Saturday in Montreal). There will be some adversity because they are a good offensive team. We’re going to figure out what we are made of this week.”