Angry Als good prep for Argos

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

TORONTO - The angrier the Montreal Alouettes are, the better.

That’s the philosophy Argonauts head coach Jim Barker is taking into a game Friday night between the two clubs, the first meeting of a home-and-home set to conclude the 2010 regular season.

The Alouettes have clinched the East Division title, but the defending Grey Cup champs aren’t carrying the same kind of swagger they had a year ago. They’re coming off a 37-point loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and won’t be resting anyone against the Argos.

Barker smiled at the thought, as a serious opponent should only help the Argos in their preparation for the playoffs.

“I’m glad they are bringing their ‘A’ team, that they are bringing their guys to come here and try to get back on track,” Barker said Thursday. “That’s what makes this game meaningful. “We know they are going to come in here and try to make a statement.”

Kicker Damon Duval and receiver Kerry Watkins will play for the visitors after recovering from injuries, while return specialist Larry Taylor will make his CFL season debut after he was cut by the New York Jets.

And Barker won’t be giving any of his big-name players, for example, Cory Boyd, any reps off either. Barker can’t. His offence isn’t good enough for him to be playing backups with regularity.

“Our offence is not at a point where we need to be to win a Grey Cup,” Barker said. “(Boyd) needs to play. We’re not going to be idiotic about it. I have also seen teams that start resting people and we are nowhere near a team that can do that. We are a team that is still finding ourselves, still trying to get an identity on offence and in order to do that, you have to have everybody involved.”

Anyone who has written off these two games involving the Argos and Alouettes as being meaningless hasn’t been paying attention. Little is likely to change in the playoff landscape no matter what happens, but, as one would expect, both teams want to take some sort of momentum into the post-season.

Progress

As quarterback Cleo Lemon has inched forward, often taking a few steps back at the same time, the Argos defence has been on an upward swing. A determined Anthony Calvillo with a healthy receiving corps will represent about as big a challenge as they can get.

But for Calvillo, the Argos aren’t an easy .500 team that his club simply can smack around a couple of times before they play host to the East final in three weeks. Toronto handily beat Montreal at the Rogers Centre in August, and Calvillo knows the Argos aren’t cowering with the fact they get the Als twice in nine days.

“They have a great defensive line, and great linebackers,” Calvillo said. “From (their previous meeting) to now, they are 10 times better defensively because their coverage is a lot more sound and they are playing defence a whole lot better. They have improved.”

Calvillo’s boss, Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman, is of the same mind. And don’t laugh, but Trestman figured his defence will have to be wary of Lemon.

“This is a division right now where you have three quarterbacks (Calvillo, Lemon and Hamilton’s Kevin Glenn), and I think Cleo Lemon kind of is the focal point,” Trestman said.

“He is playing with the demeanour of a quarterback who can lead a football team. I think they have rallied around him in a lot of different ways and Jim has done a good job with him in terms of sticking with him.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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