Lemon getting older, and better

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:38 AM ET

Cleo Lemon turned 31 years old on Monday, which seems fitting given how much he’s turned the corner as a quarterback in three-down football.

He’s far from a finished product, but the strides Lemon has made and continues to make haven’t been lost on head coach Jim Barker, who basically got rid of every quarterback from last season to begin anew. As long as Lemon doesn’t force matters and continues to manage games, there’s no point in delving into passing efficiency ratings, yards thrown and completion percentage.

What Barker liked while reviewing film of last week’s win over the Alouettes was Lemon’s improved pocket presence.

One play stood out, which featured Lemon heaving a long touchdown pass to Chad Owens.

“Cleo made a small step up (in the pocket) when pressure was coming from his right side,’’ Barker began.

“Right there, that showed the progression Cleo has made.”

Not to mention the accuracy shown by Lemon in completing the deep ball.

The onus this week is on executing the finer points of the running game as it relates to the quarterback position, which Barker feels is much tougher than most people want to believe.

Lemon is still learning when to keep the ball or hand the ball off to Cory Boyd, who was, at times, left hung out to dry when Lemon should have kept it last week.

“We’ve been spending more time on it this week,’’ Barker said. “Some is schematic, but it’s also Cleo making better decisions to allow for bigger lanes for Cory.”

Barker went on to say that Lemon is now allowed to call some pre-snap audibles. “Not a lot,’’ Barker added, “because we don’t want to over-load him.”

But Lemon is getting better, even if he is getting a little older.

“Just another birthday,’’ Lemon said. “It was a low-key evening, but at least my family is in town.”

The NFL will be in town Thursday for a Bills-Colts pre-season game, when Lemon and injured slotback Jeremaine Copeland will be honoured guests at Rogers Centre.

— Zicarelli


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