Argos' Lemon learning as he goes

FRANK ZICARELLI,QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:37 PM ET

Cleo Lemon continues to learn on the fly, a work in progress where progress is not always evident to the naked eye. But in football, the eye in the sky, as coaches and players say are known to say, don’t lie.

In the wake of a humbling setback to the defending Grey Cup champion Als in Montreal, the Argos got back on the proverbial horse holiday Monday. When he huddled with the media for his daily gathering, Argos head coach Jim Barker confided that an over-thrown pass heaved by Lemon for a wide open Chad Owens that fell incomplete wasn’t the quarterback’s fault.

For those watching on television and the many written accounts of the game, the impression was that Lemon never took the time to set his feet in the pocket, and that poor mechanics resulted in the incompletion.

But there was Barker, not necessarily coming to the defence of his quarterback but setting the record straight.

That one sequence highlighted what Barker has been trying to preach, a point that gets lost because so many are bent on wanting Lemon to become the second coming of Warren Moon overnight.

It ain’t going to happen, of course, but baby steps, even at a time when a team gets stepped on, is what Barker demands.

‘Chad slowed down’

“What people didn’t see and what people don’t know is that Chad broke his route off,’’ Barker said in the way of an explanation. “Chad slowed down and then he sped up at the end. If he had ran the whole way, it may have been a different situation.”

What Barker liked was Lemon’s foot work in the pocket and his decision making.

“On that play, he moved up in the pocket, which was progress, instead of trying to run out.”

When a coach is basically starting from scratch, he looks for signs and isn’t discouraged by losing deficits, especially against an opponent like Montreal that is dotted with experience and continuity.

Lemon, needless to say, has to get better, but he isn’t the only player on either side of the ball who must improve.

Followers of the Argos have to be realistic and not get caught up when a young, inexperienced — by CFL standards — team puts together a three-game win streak by producing big plays in pivotal moments. This is a team that simply must show signs of improvement weekly.

Given the position he plays, Lemon is under the biggest microscope and scrutiny.

When he speaks about the offence, Lemon isn’t very forthcoming, preferring to speak in generalities, which speaks to his background in the highly controlled environment that is the NFL.

“It’s a long season and you’ll have your ups and downs,’’ Lemon said. “The key is to stick together as a team.

“(Monday’s practice) was a good day for us, a good start for the Edmonton week. We saw what we did right and wrong (after watching last week’s film) and we’ve made the adjustments.”

The Eskimos aren’t as good as the Als, but they are coming off a win as they get ready to host to the Argos on Friday.

The Argos defence isn’t likely to miss as many tackles as it did during last week’s 41-10 loss to Montreal.

What has to happen in Edmonton is for the Lemon-led offence to put up points.

At halftime in Montreal, the Argos were trailing 17-10. For the game, Lemon completed a season-low eight passes for a season-low 143 yards. But he didn’t turn the ball over and he did look a little better.

This much we know about the Argos: They are a team that must feature the run, get solid defence and play from their special teams. We also know that the Argos can’t ask Lemon to win them a game because he’s not ready.

But to say that he isn’t learning would be wrong.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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