Argos roster in flux

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

No one would say for certain who would line up at receiver when the Argonauts play the host B.C. Lions on Saturday.

And no one could provide any assurances on who would be lining up on the offensive line, either.

Their bodies banged up and their psyche bruised, the Argos headed to Vancouver on Thursday to face arguably the season’s toughest challenge.

This isn’t so much a matter of matchups as it appears to be a delicate balancing act with the sensitive ratio of imports and non-imports, filling in for gaps with players who may not necessarily be ready to assume that role.

When head coach Jim Barker said on Wednesday that his receiving unit was in flux, he wasn’t kidding.

He still believes in the core, but on Thursday there were plenty of sightings featuring Brandon Rideau on scout team.

To the uninitiated, scout teams are used in a practice setting to go up against a first-team unit, in this case the Argos defence.

Rideau, who had one of his worst games on Labour Day, did take the occasional rep with the first-team offence, but it provided a glimpse into the depth of changes that await the Argos.

By CFL rules, teams don’t have to name their game-day roster, which consists of 42 players, until 24 hours prior to kickoff, which means Barker will be able to add much more clarity on Friday than he could on Thursday.

Along the offensive line, change is definitely in the air.

Casualties from Monday’s 28-13 loss to the Ticats included Chris Van Zeyl (back) and Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, while Rob Murphy aggravated a foot that prevented him from practising this week. Toronto’s backups along the O-line got exposed in Hamilton, revealing a depth issue that is hard to address in-season.

There was a report out of Edmonton last night that 6-foot-7, 320-pound left tackle Calvin Armstrong signed with Toronto.

“(The Argos) told me I’m playing on Saturday,” said Armstrong told the Edmonton Journal. Armstrong was cut by the Eskies after Monday’s Labour Day blowout in Calgary.

For an offence that has had a difficult time producing points in back-to-back losses to the Ticats, it’s not exactly a recipe for success against the Lions, a team that actually feels good about itself following a much-needed win in Montreal last Friday.

B.C. is rested, has something to prove after blowing a lead in Toronto on July 23, and shouldn’t be intimidated by the Argos.

With so much uncertainty swirling around Toronto’s offence, the two certainties become Cleo Lemon and Cory Boyd, the most visible players who line up on offence and the two players who will have the ball in their hands the most.

Boyd has a lot to prove against a Lions defence he was able to rush for 148 yards earlier in the season when the Argos defeated B.C. 24-20.

Lemon can also prove to his detractors the rate of improvement he’s been able to demonstrate in this his rookie season in the CFL.

When they lost the season opener in Calgary, Lemon bounced back to help the Argos beat the Stamps in the return game.

After getting blown out in Montreal, Lemon was one of the catalysts behind the Argos’ demolition of the Als.

And while the Argos lost in Hamilton, Lemon did produce his first 300-yard passing game in the CFL.

What Lemon now needs to do is clean up his execution, his decision-making in the red zone, where he got picked off twice at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

A quarterback welcomes continuity, whether it’s on the O-line or at receiver, but Barker figures this week’s challenge will aid Lemon in his development.

“It’s not comforting from a quarterback perspective, but it’s all part of what he has to go through,’’ Barker said of Lemon.

When he first played the Lions, Lemon threw for two majors and was intercepted twice.

Since the time Lemon played B.C., he has shown more as a quarterback as the Argos continually added to their offensive package.

Given their situation heading into Saturday’s meeting, Lemon will be asked to be more of a leader, something he displayed on Labour Day through his emotion.

“There’s a fire to him,’’ Barker said of Lemon, who looked his receivers in the eye in Hamilton and basically told them to make plays, run the proper route and hold on to the football.

“He’s always the first to look in the mirror. The emotion he showed in Hamilton was the first time Cleo’s done that this year and I love it.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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