Bell wants to be Argos' No. 1
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Dalton Bell hopes to develop into a more mobile pivot this season. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - A quick phone call from his boss during the winter got Dalton Bell moving.
If the Argonauts quarterback can take that mobility on to the football field, it could go a long way in determining whether he is Toronto’s starter for its Canadian Football League regular-season opener on July 1 in Calgary.
“He called and said: ‘Make sure you are working on agility because we want to be able to make plays with our feet this year,’” Bell said on Friday, remembering the conversation with Argos head coach and general manager Jim Barker.
“I really focused on that after he called. It was something I worked on in college, but I got away from it. I realized if I am going to do this, I’ll do everything I can to help myself.”
Bell and Cleo Lemon will begin their battle to be No. 1 in earnest on Saturday afternoon at the Rogers Centre, when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit for a CFL pre-season game.
Lemon, the starter in all but one game for the Argos in 2010, will take the first snap versus the Ticats. If things go as Barker has planned, Danny Brannagan will get some reps before the end of the second quarter.
Bell will start the third quarter and if all is smooth, B.J. Hall will mop up toward the end of the fourth quarter. Steven Jyles, whose right shoulder has been more problematic than he or the Argos thought it would be, will not play.
It won’t matter if Brannagan or Hall are lights out under the roof. This is all about Lemon and Bell.
Barker indicated that if the season was starting for real on Saturday, he’s not sure who would be his No. 1 guy. It’s not an indictment of Lemon as much as it is evidence that both men have been strong in training camp.
“I want to have an epiphany,” Barker said. “I wish I knew right now.
“The preference is to have it just hit me, that wow, this is our guy. You never know. I’m a different bird. It could be an epiphany that strikes me in the middle of the night.”
Neither Lemon nor Bell will have the luxury of handing the ball off to Cory Boyd or passing to Chad Owens. Neither star will play on Saturday, as Boyd is getting the day off and Owens has had some leg tightness. Also watching the game will be veterans Mike Bradwell, Kevin Huntley, Rob Murphy and Chris Van Zeyl, along with rookies Nasser Jamal and Anthony Cannon. Other than Huntley, those who will sit are nursing small aches.
Like all of his teammates, Lemon is anticipating with enthusiasm the bare fact he will be playing in an actual game.
“I feel great about (the passing game),” Lemon said. “Guys are running routes and the timing has been great. Everyone is getting separation. I just want to have some fun, move the offence up and down the field. That’s the goal.”
One could argue that Bell has more to prove, given his inability to convince Barker and the offensive staff last year that he could be counted on every week. Of three quarterbacks (including Jyles), Bell doesn’t move around as much. He rushed just four times last year for 26 yards.
Barker, in this game and the one next Thursday in Winnipeg, wants to see how players have improved through camp.
Bell said he thinks he has been quicker on his feet during camp. He has to be a threat in that regard in games.
“I feel a little more elusive, a little more agile with my feet this year,” Bell said. “I have a few tweaks here and there, a sore groin from doing repetitive things every day, but I feel good.
“If it was up to me, I would like to play the whole game. But I am not calling the shots. Hopefully I can get in there and prove that I can move the ball and put points on the board.”