Argos' Lemon not ripe quite yet

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:42 AM ET

CALGARY — Cleo Lemon got more protection from his head coach on Thursday night than he did from his offensive line.

Jim Barker didn’t like Lemon’s performance in a 30-16 loss against the Calgary Stampeders, saying it was his fault that Lemon was not properly prepared for his first Canadian Football League game.

But as much as Barker thought it was on him, Lemon’s general lack of knowledge with the CFL game was a larger part of the problem. And there is nothing wrong with that. How many times have we heard that practising simply is not the same as playing in an actual game against real opponents?

Lemon, with the other Argos quarterbacks, reported to camp on June 2. In the four weeks that unfolded before the Argos started their 2010 regular season at McMahon Stadium, Lemon played little more than three quarters in two pre-season games.

Maybe Barker’s biggest fault was the inability to make more pre-season games appear out of thin air.

Lemon’s rookie status, and forget about his time in the National Football League, was the root of many breakdowns on offence.

Lemon has the ability to move around, but a failure to recognize what he was seeing in front of him resulted in trouble.

“He has to learn how to scramble in this league,” Barker said. “When he is in the pocket and things break down, rather than run backwards, he has to learn to take some sacks. We will look at film in terms of the run game, and see if the reads were that he should have pulled the ball.

“All of those plays he was running outside, those were run plays. We called runs, but what they did was keep the ball in Cleo’s hands. We have to be better on the perimeter when we do that.”

The offence mustered just 206 yards in net offence, with 54 coming on the ground.

The Stamps’ defence went at Lemon relentlessly, and he was sacked three times. Running back Cory Boyd, stellar in the final pre-season outing against the Montreal Alouettes, averaged just four yards on eight carries.

Lemon couldn’t get in groove, also, because of what was happening when Calgary quarterback Henry Burris was on the field. Burris, who has been a full-time CFL starter since 2004 when he was with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, used his savvy to manage the clock. True, the Stamps got just a single touchdown on offence, when Joffrey Reynolds made a one-yard jump in the second quarter, but the home team had possession for more than 42 minutes.

Another reason why it seemed like Burris and the Stamps offence was on the field all the time? A tackling deficiency in the Argos secondary. Too many times, the Stampeders eluded the initial defender, keeping drives going that otherwise should have been stopped.

“I thought we played average,” free safety Willie Pile said. “We made some great plays and some dumb plays. We did some stuff that kept us on the field — a lot of missed tackles, myself included. I missed way too many, but the good thing was we had a lot of guys hustling. But we have to get off the field.”

Why the missed tackles?

“It’s just focusing,” Pile said. “You have to run to the near hit and wrap it up. A lot of times we got there but did not wrap it up. But those things are going to happen, and we know what we did wrong.”

Barker knew he had to tear up the roster after back-to-back non-playoff seasons, during which the Argos won only seven games. Inexperience in many areas, not just under centre, is something that will be overcome only by playing the games. Along the way, maturing will need time.

“Being young right now, we have to keep growing,” slotback Jeremaine Copeland said. “The best thing is we have nowhere to go but up.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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