Fresh breeze in Argos' sails

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

EDMONTON - What a difference a year makes.

Following the 2009 season, the Toronto Argonauts were scraping the bottom of the CFL barrel, coming off three wins only to find themselves without a head coach or owner.

Fast forward 365 days and there is a fresh breeze in their sails, thanks to a 9-9 showing in 2010 where they fell one playoff win short of a Grey Cup appearance.

“At this time last year, we had a coaching staff that had never coached a practice together. We had players that had never met a lot of the coaches. It was a totally different situation up an down throughout the organization,” said head coach and general manager Jim Barker, who also coached the Argos to a 9-9 record during his first stint with the club in 1999. “Our whole key this off-season was continuity, was getting our key people back.”

Barker’s entire coaching staff is returning, while player-wise, only a pair of starting defensive tackles were scratched.

“We were able to sign all of our players with the exception of Eric Taylor and Adriano Belli. Adriano retired and Eric opted to go elsewhere in the off-season,” Barker said. “That was a key part of our approach to free agency. We felt like we had good players here and we augmented ... an already strong defensive group.”

The only free agent the Argos signed was Edmonton native and veteran defensive back Wes Lysack.

“There’s no doubt he does bring the type of leadership that I think’s critical,” Barker said. “We have great leadership on defence in Willie Pyle. I believe you have to have as many options from a ratio standpoint as you can have and I have no problem with Wes Lysack starting for the Toronto Argonauts.”

But to reach the top of their division, they are going to have to get past the two-time Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes.

“The Als are where we want to be,” said Barker, who split the regular-season series with the division leaders last year before being blown out 48-17 in the Eastern final. “They’re the team that we have to beat to get to the Grey Cup. You establish that every time you play them.

“I thought last year, we did some good things against them and we lost games we shouldn’t have lost. And then in the Eastern final, they showed their dominance and showed how far away we are. Obviously there’s a lot of, I’m not going to say animosity, but there’s a lot of fire to get there.”

ON TRACK: If good things come in threes, the Edmonton Eskimos will be happy with the signing of free-agent import linebacker Rory Malone.

The five-foot-10, 230-pounder out of Mississippi Valley State is the third football-playing track-and-field athlete the Eskimos have brought in this month, competing in the 100m and 4-by-100m relay.

“From day one, coach Kavis Reed said he wanted our club to be faster on both sides of the ball,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman. “Rory clearly fits the mold of what we’re trying to evolve into defensively. He’ll be given a chance to compete both inside and outside in Rich Stubler’s system.”

The club also signed Acadia University defensive back and team captain Mike Miller.

Training camp starts June 5 at Clarke Park.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


Videos

Photos