Argonauts keep 'em guessing

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:47 AM ET

A flea flicker on the opening possession one week, a throw-back the following week.

The Argos have talked about how the playbook would expand once all these new faces who line up on offence began to understand the nuances of three-down football.

Say what you want about the Argos, but they are no longer a work in progress, a description that only applies to quarterback Cleo Lemon, who is learning and actually held his own when compared to Anthony Calvillo.

Given the learning curve this one-time NFLer must tackle, it’s going to take Lemon a year, perhaps even two years, to fully grasp all that is required to attack defences and be completely aware of every blitz and cover package.

About the only negative to emerge from Saturday night’s pulsating 37-22 win over the defending Grey Cup champs was the way Lemon, at times, handed the ball off to Cory Boyd when the right play was to pull it out, a minor gaffe that only resulted in fewer gains for Boyd at the expense of more pain.

What the Argos continue to do in bringing Lemon along is to put him in a position where he manages a game, which is only achieved by winning the battle of field position and by avoiding second-and-long situations.

But Lemon is now allowed to take shots down field, displaying an arm strength that gives hope to a vertical game that can only get better.

There was Lemon heaving a perfectly thrown seam pass to Jeremaine Copeland for a long gain before the veteran slot had the pigskin stripped in the open field, a turnover that got even worse when one of the Argos’ captains lay on the carpet.

Copeland was taken inside the locker room, later returning to the field sporting a sling on his left arm to protect an injured elbow, his status for next week’s visit by Hamilton very much in doubt.

Won’t be back

The way head coach Jim Barker talked about Copeland post game, one got the impression Copeland won’t be back until September.

Under most circumstances, the loss of a weapon such as Copeland would force an offence to become more conservative, less inclined to take risk and more apt to attempt high-percentage plays.

But these Argos go against the grain by tempting conventional wisdom, creating an offensive buzz that is both entertaining and explosive.

Saturday night’s offensive showcase against the mighty Als evoked memories of the Doug Flutie era, not so much from a quarterback perspective but from a standpoint of aggressive football that had a distinct swagger.

Two weeks ago, these same two teams met in Montreal, where the Argos got smoked 41-10.

In the return game at Rogers Centre, the Argos jumped out to a 14-0 lead, led 24-7 and eventually 24-14 at intermission, matching every Montreal uprising with one of their own.

What you saw was Chad Owens reversing his field while in motion, running to the weak side and hauling in a short pass by Lemon and turning it into a long touchdown pass and run.

That one play was a defining moment to a passing game that must now cope without Copeland.

What it revealed was creativity, an ability to get the ball in the hands of a playmaker such as Owens, who is best served by getting this fleet-of-foot receiver in space where he could use his speed.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Owens made like Jesse Owens in getting behind Montreal’s secondary to haul in another perfectly tossed pass by Lemon for a major.

Dislocated finger

One of the storylines heading into Saturday was Calvillo and how the Als’ star quarterback would hold up playing with a dislocated index finger to his throwing hand.

Calvillo attempted 49 passes, completing 37 for 450 yards, three touchdowns and one interception — which should have been a completion had his intended target not deflected the perfectly thrown ball.

“I have never been around a quarterback who was successful who was not a tough guy,’’ Als head coach Marc Trestman said of his triggerman. “They’re all tough. That’s probably the No. 1 prerequisite even before you get to the skill level.’’

Calvillo was simply awesome, which neatly describes the entire night.

This was the CFL at its best and worse: Unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat excitement where no lead is safe.

But it’s safe to say that the Argos have come of age.

Toronto won its fifth game of the season to move into a tie with the Als in the East because it played on the edge, made plays and never once showed any fear of failure.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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