Argos QBs on stopwatch

Argonauts quarterbacks Dalton Bell (above) and Cleo Lemon are expected to make quicker reads and...

Argonauts quarterbacks Dalton Bell (above) and Cleo Lemon are expected to make quicker reads and qet rid of the ball faster in 2011. (QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:24 PM ET

TORONTO - Steven Jyles could start throwing the football with authority any day now.

That’s nice and everything, but the two men with whom he was supposed to compete for the Argonauts’ starting quarterback job have been slinging the ball for two weeks.

As such, Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell find themselves in a rhythm, for the most part, as the Argos’ first pre-season game on Saturday approaches. Jyles’ shoulder trouble has been a double-edged sword for the newcomer, whose continued absence translates into more reps at training camp for Lemon and Bell.

“You don’t want to see a teammate out, but to get those extended reps, it helps,” Lemon said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are growing. We feel good about where we are.”

Jyles threw for a bit before practice on Tuesday, and head coach and general manager Jim Barker said Jyles, acquired from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in March, is day to day.

“A lot of it is mental at this point, where he has to feel like he can do it again,” Barker said. “He is close to being able to come back. It could be any day.”

Defensive tackle Nate Robinson joined a few others on the sideline on Tuesday when he suffered a hamstring injury. Offensive linemen Rob Murphy (biceps) and Chris Van Zeyl (sprained left ankle) also watched, while running back Dwayne Wright is recovering from having wisdom teeth pulled on Monday. Receiver Mike Bradwell (hamstring) has not practised since last Monday.

The focus, however, remains on the guys who get paid to put the football in the receivers’ hands. Before camp started, Barker stressed to everyone who listened that his quarterbacks had to release the ball quicker than they did in 2010. The Argos, who ranked last in offence, often couldn’t get themselves out of jams as quarterbacks and receivers rarely were on the same page.

With Jyles out, Lemon and Bell have pulled away, making it a two-horse race to be No. 1. Non-import Danny Brannagan simply is not at their level while B.J. Hall, who drew the ire of Barker during a practice last week when he did not know the play calls, has not done a lot to make a positive impression.

Quarterbacks are up against a stopwatch on each snap. Lemon, who was given a rest for much of practice on Tuesday, and Bell both have improved in making fast decisions. They’re more comfortable than they were a year ago.

“There’s no doubt,” Barker said. “Every throw they make is documented. Sometimes they are throwing it too quickly. They need to understand when to hold it and when they need to throw it.”

Familiarity with receivers also is going a long way.

“I’m seeing things,” Bell said. “It pays off, definitely, having that year under your belt. I’m seeing the little subtleties of what guys like (Jeremaine) Copeland and (Chad) Owens do on their routes.

“It’s a misfortune for (Jyles to be out), but it has been good for me. I am getting more reps, more looks.”

As Lemon said, there is plenty of work to be done. And though Barker is encouraged, he is being realistic.

“I do like what I see out of them,” Barker said. “There are times when they go forward, times when they go backward. There are days I walk off (the field) and I’m really excited, and there are days when I say ‘We have a ways to go here.’

“There are a lot of things we look for at quarterback and probably the No. 1 thing is to have a presence about yourself. It will be important to see who has command of the football team.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


Photos