Barker backs his man

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:58 PM ET

Toronto Argonauts head coach Jim Barker stood by his man.

Despite calls to replace starting quarterback Cleo Lemon heading into Friday’s game against the Edmonton Eskimos, Barker is standing pat.

He even went as far as to call the media “ignorant” for suggesting otherwise.

“I know coach Barker has my back and I know my teammates have my back,” said Lemon. “That’s what’s important.

“I guess it’s one of those things that you guys (media) have a story to report and if you want to go in that direction, that’s fine. But we feel like we have something special here and we’re building for the long run. As far as the pieces we have in place, we feel good about it.”

Heading into the contest, the Argonauts offence has struggled to move the ball through the air.

Their success this season has been mainly due to the running exploits of Cory Boyd, who enters the game as the league’s leading rusher.

“You have to gradually grow every week,” Boyd said. “That’s what they (Eskimos) have been doing and that’s what we have been doing. They’re having their difficulties just like we’re having our difficulties. A lot of people are not expecting anything from us, and probably nothing from them as well.

“We’ll let the emotions try and take care of whatever needs to be taken care of on the field.”

Expectations were low heading into the season considering Barker decided to blow out his incumbent quarterbacks and go with an entirely rookie crew.

It made for an interesting training camp and has brought about a number of growing pains.

“It was very intriguing,” Lemon said. “That was the biggest thing for me signing with the Argos, was the ability to compete for a starting job. I think once that opportunity arose, I wanted to take advantage of it.”

Lemon was appointed the starter over Dalton Bell primarily due to his NFL experience where he bounced around a number of different organizations.

This season, Lemon is averaging just over 181 yards passing per game through the first five weeks of the season. He has three touchdown passes and four interceptions on the year and is completing 57.2% of his passes.

“We need to be consistent, that’s the key thing,” Barker said. “I thought last week in that Montreal game, we had some consistency in the first half, we held the ball for about eight minutes, caught the ball when it was thrown to us and didn’t turn it over.

“That’s what we need to do — throw the ball when the guys are open. He’s been maybe a hair late with things, but he’s getting quicker all the time.”

Going with three rookie quarterback this season, Barker set himself up for criticism — not having a veteran who, at the very least, could mentor his young pivots.

Heading into Week 6 of the CFL schedule, it’s a decision he doesn’t regret with his team sitting at 3-2 and second in the East Division.

“Before you make the decision, you go through those things,” Barker said.

“Once you make the decision, you move forward. I took the years of experience that I had and I made the decision that I felt was best for the Toronto Argonauts organization. Every day that’s what I do, there isn’t a day where I don’t do what I feel is the best interest of our organization.”

Now it’s just a matter of letting Lemon get some on-the-job training.

“We feel that right now we have a good foundation and we’re moving in the right direction,” Lemon said. “There are some things that we can improve on, but we feel we are heading in the right direction and that’s the important thing.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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