TORONTO - Some random observations and other thoughts following the Argonautsí latest loss, a 27-16 fall at the hands of Darian Durant and the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday afternoon at the Rogers Centre:
Start Dalton Bell again this Saturday in Regina for the íRiders rematch, even if Cleo Lemon, the No. 1 quarterback, has recovered from a concussion. Head coach Jim Barker made an interesting admission during his post-game news conference, saying that ďby the end of this season, we are going to know what we have, and what we need, and that is at every position. This is a lot about evaluating what we have.Ē
So then let Bell play. Determine whether he is capable. One game isnít enough to make a proper judgment.
BUT WHAT IF Ö
Bell falters again? The offensive game plan became conservative as the afternoon unfolded, and Bell didnít dare try to stretch the field against a Roughriders secondary that was playing deep. But there was no adjustment from the Argos, at least one that was not evident. And Toronto is in for a long day in Rider Nation if Saskatchewan comes up with a plan to muzzle running back Cory Boyd. Where was receiver Reggie McNeal? Both McNeal and Bell said on Friday that they were comfortable with each other as they both saw lots of time on scout teams in the preceding three months. McNeal had no receptions. Jeremaine Copeland had one. Offensive co-ordinator Jaime Elizondo and Barker have to put their heads together and find a way for their most talented receivers to be more involved.
GO TO CORY
Hereís an idea for the Argos once they get in the red zone: Forget about trying to score through the air. Keep giving the football to Boyd and let him hammer away. This is an offence that is averaging less than one passing touchdown a game. Lofting passes into the corner of the end zone and hoping the receiver comes down with the ball isnít working. Boyd is getting the ball everywhere else, so why not when the goal line is within spitting distance?
Itís nice that Chad Owens put the loss on himself, saying afterward that the lack of a special teams touchdown kept the Argos from winning. But no team should have to rely on touchdowns on returns or from the defence in order to win. Majors from anywhere but the offence should be a bonus and nothing more. Relying on touchdowns from other sources reveals further how weak the Argos offence is.
The Argos knew ahead of time that Durant was the top rushing quarterback in the CFL, but they couldnít keep him under wraps. Durant carried the football seven times, the same as star running back Wes Cates, and gained 47 yards. If the Argos have a realistic shot at winning this weekend, theyíre going to have to figure out how to keep Durant in the pocket. His 16 interceptions were tied for the most in the league with Henry Burris, but the Argos didnít really come close to picking off any passes.
D FOR DEFENCE
The Argosí defence as a whole stemmed the flow in the second half, but gave up a large play when Durant hit Chathamís Andy Fantuz for a 66-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The talk of not giving up touchdowns despite allowing lots of yardage to the opposition has become hollow. Teams complete nearly 70% of their passes against the Argos, and Toronto has given up 34 majors, which was tied for most in the league. And the Argos have fallen into the bottom half of the league as far as interceptions go.
The Ricky Foley signing a few weeks ago got a lot of attention and fellow defensive end Ronald Flemons had a September to remember, but defensive tackle Kevin Huntley simply gets it done, game after game. Huntley had two more sacks against the Roughriders, bringing his season total to nine, good for fourth in the CFL. And remember that the Argos are not a sack machine, with just 23. Speaking of Foley, he has been quiet in the past two games after recording a sack against Winnipeg on his first play as an Argo. Foley said when he was signed that he usually starts to pick it up in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, for Foley personally, this is the first half. The Argos have to hope he can fast-track a bit.
AIM FOR PERFECTION
Barker said the Argos arenít on par with the Roughriders and heís bang on. What made the loss a little more painful, undoubtedly, was that the Argos didnít hurt themselves badly. They turned over the ball just twice and were flagged only four times, equaling their season-low for one game. In other words, they will have to be nearly perfect to even their record at 7-7 on Saturday.