Beating the Calgary Stampeders won’t all be in the hands of quarterback Cleo Lemon on Wednesday night.
But as the Argonauts’ home opener against the Stamps reveals itself at the Rogers Centre, much of what Lemon does will determine whether the Argos move above .500 for the first time since they won their season opener last year.
The Stamps’ defence effectively pressured Lemon in the first game of 2010 for both teams on Canada Day, confusing the Canadian Football League rookie and keeping him on his toes. It worked, as Lemon and the offence didn’t get into a rhythm and produced just one touchdown.
The Stamps brought one extra player at Lemon and Argos head coach Jim Barker figured the same will go down in Week 3. It’s how Lemon adjusts that will be key.
“Cleo has to deal with it, and he was much better at getting the ball out of his hands against Winnipeg (last Friday),” Barker said. “Winnipeg tried to pressure him also.
“I think he learned a lot from that first game, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it, because (Calgary’s) defence is as fast as there is in the league and they will pressure more than any other defence in the league.”
Lemon has been working on making decisions faster during practice, but simulating an actual game is difficult. For one, the Argos defence isn’t trying to take Lemon’s head off during workouts the team’s training facility at Erindale in Mississauga.
“(Stamps defensive co-ordinator Chris) Jones will have those guys coming after him again,” Barker said. “It’s not really on the offensive linemen, because they are always going to have a free guy. It’s the scheme that is the problem. Jones is always going to get a guy free, and the next question is can the receivers get open and make plays? That’s the challenge.”
One bonus for both sides is they are playing each other so soon after their previous meeting. And if there is one small advantage for the Argos, perhaps it is that Calgary has had one less day to prepare following their victory on Saturday afternoon in Hamilton versus the Tiger-Cats.
Though Barker has taken the linemen out of the equation to an extent, left tackle Rob Murphy said his group will be better prepared.
“They showed stuff (in Week 1) that they did not show in the pre-season,” Murphy said. “Now that we know what they are capable of, it is a good thing.
“Their defensive front is finesse. They want you to get in mismatches, try to trick you. They can’t line up and mash you, so they try to schematically come out and trick you with bringing extra guys to a side and stuff like that.
“We’re ready for it now. There are only so many things you can do under the sun, and we have seen most of everything. Of course, I say that and I’ve jinxed it.”
It will be integral for the Argos defence to get off the field quicker (though a comfortable Lemon should mean the offence eats up more of the clock) and keeping Stamps running back Joffrey Reynolds to under 100 yards will be vital. And tackling better, as Barker pointed out, will be crucial.
With two games on his CFL resume after he had none when he first faced Calgary, Lemon sounds like a guy who will react with more poise against the pressuring Stampeders.
“You have to take care of the football, and that is one thing we will be concentrating on,” Lemon said. “We’re familiar with what they are going to do. Winnipeg has a great front seven and we kind of controlled them throughout the game and dictated to them what we wanted to do.
“If we go in with that mindset, we will be okay.”