Barker's road to Argos success

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:27 PM ET

TORONTO - For Argonauts head coach Jim Barker, nothing has changed.

Weeks have passed since Barker began talking about the importance of the being consistent with the passing game.

But there has been no time more crucial for quarterback Cleo Lemon to be in synch with his receiving corps than the East Division final on Sunday in Montreal versus the Alouettes.

"They have a very good run defence, and they want to make you throw the football," Barker said during a telephone interview on Tuesday, a day before the Boatmen started practising in preparation for the Als.

"It will be a question of whether we can make plays. They will be locked in, and the pressure on Cleo will be immense."

Where Barker a week ago was saying that losing against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats all three times during the regular season shouldn't really have been considered when heading into the East semi-final, and he was right, he now should be telling his players it's just fine to keep in mind what happened when they played the Alouettes during the regular season.

Barker might want to bend the ear of Lemon, who threw only 15 touchdown passes during his first trip through the Canadian Football League. Six of those, however, were in games versus the Als.

And you can imagine that Barker will be speaking plenty of the Argos' recent successes on the road.

One factor, though it might be small, that Barker did not have five days ago, is he and his players now know they can win on the road in the playoffs.

But the confidence that comes with winning games that aren't in Toronto started more than a month ago with a triumph in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Since then, the Argos have won three in a row in unfriendly parks, including this past weekend in Steeltown.

"I really think it began at Mosaic Stadium (on Oct. 9)," Barker said.

"It was a difficult environment. And then we go into Winnipeg, in a game the Blue Bombers had to win (to keep their playoff hopes alive), and we win there. And then the last game, we go into Montreal and win, and I know they didn't play a lot of people.

"But for our guys, playing on the road does not bother them.

"I don't know that playing in front of 50,000-plus at Olympic Stadium on Sunday is a whole lot different than playing in front of 25,000 at McGill because of the confines of the stadium."

One advantage Barker has over other clubs in the CFL, whether it's the Alouettes or anyone else, is the depth of talent on the defensive line.

With Adriano Belli and Kevin Huntley back in the mix after recovering from injuries, it gives Barker six healthy bodies where only four are required.

The rotation, then, gives vital players a rest every so often where normally they would be on the field for every play.

Put it this way, it's not just a coincidence that Ticats running back DeAndra' Cobb was limited to eight yards on six rushes on Sunday.

The Argos had just one sack, but Kevin Glenn wasn't able to get into a rhythm because of the heat the Argos brought on almost every snap.

"There's no doubt the rotation keeps guys fresh," Barker said. "Championship teams start up front, and I would put ours against any other team in the league."

Barker, meanwhile, confirmed that the Argos came out of Ivor Wynne Stadium injury-free.

Whether Bryan Crawford (abductor) or Jeff Johnson (hamstring), two of the Argos' top special-teams players, return to the active roster against the Alouettes won't be known until both start practising — but both have indicated they expect to play.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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