Not much to cheer for Argos

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

Upon Jim Barker’s reincarnation in Double Blue, he immediately became the face of the franchise, a voice of reason who was forced out of town for no apparent reason in what now seems like another era.

Unlike Rich Stubler’s ill-fated run, when his brilliance as a defensive co-ordinator couldn’t translate as a head coach, or the ill-conceived appointment of Bart Andrus, Barker’s presence along the sideline promised to usher in an exciting time in Argoland.

With so many changes needed and initiated, it was a given the new-look Argos would be a work in progress, a team where success would be measured in the small gains made each week.

Three games into Barker’s second run and the excuses are beginning to sound old and too inconvenient, even if they did manage to win their home opener, which in reality was more a case of the Stamps losing it.

A quarterback with no CFL experience is supposed to be learning on the fly, but there comes a point where Cleo Lemon has to put pressure on opposing defences by using his legs.

On the move

If you watch three-down football this season, lining up a quarterback in a shotgun formation has become the in-thing to do in a single-back set.

In theory, the extra time to read defences gives the signal caller that slight edge in dissecting an area of vulnerability.

It also makes a quarterback more of a target, where misdirection isn’t as well concealed because he stands out so much in the backfield.

Whether he lines up under centre or remains in a shotgun, the Argos have to find more creative ways to get Lemon outside the pocket.

CFL football, after all, is a quarterback-friendly league, but so far Lemon has been overly friendly on opposing defences.

It was wise of Barker to entrust the play calling to his staff, allowing Lemon to concentrate on executing the play that gets called and making the necessary pre-snap adjustments when it merits.

But the Argos have to expand the playbook, begin to take advantage of Lemon’s athletic ability and also find a way to get the ball in the hands of Chad Owens, a kick returner who has quickly emerged as the team’s only legitimate big-play threat.

By not expanding, experimenting and being more creative, the Argos are putting too much pressure on their defence and to their special teams, which yielded a blocked punt in Wednesday’s game.

By playing a more creative and imaginative offence, fans will have more reason to attend their home games.

With so little to cheer in the last two desultory seasons, it is little wonder how only 20,242 bothered to show up.

The offensive line has managed to incorporate new faces, compensate for inexperience, but as a group it too is a work in progress.

Eventually, it has to break down or have moments of vulnerability and it arrived against the Stamps, whose defence stopped the Argos on two short third-down situations that resulted in turnovers and one lost opportunity to find the end zone.

The blueprint was scripted in last week’s win in Winnipeg, where the Argos didn’t turn the ball over, scored a special teams touchdown and made just enough plays to move the sticks on offence.

Unsustainable

But it’s not sustainable; eventually the offence has to be productive, impose its will when it ventures near the goalline and capitalize when its defence provides for great field position.

Two safeties, two field goals and zero touchdowns in one half just doesn’t add up to success.

Unimaginative, predictable, conservative play are not included in any recipe for long-term attraction.

When Calgary took a 17-13 lead in the third quarter, its defence stopped Lemon on a third and short, a sequence marred by passivity.

Another turnover led to yet another Stamps major and a 24-13 lead.

The Argos don’t play until next Friday, at home against the B.C. Lions in Braley Bowl I.

Maybe by then the Argos offence will show more creativity and imagination.

They simply can’t rely on their defence to win games.

Toronto beat the Stamps 27-24 because of its defence, which forced Henry Burris into making some terrible throws and decisions in the fourth quarter.


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