Shorter leash for LemonArgos coach thrilled to have two QBs he can count on
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Argos QB Cleo Lemon is still battling to be the No. 1 pivot in Toronto. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel)
TORONTO - No matter whether it's Cleo Lemon or Dalton Bell who emerges as the No. 1 quarterback for the Argonauts, head coach and general manager Jim Barker will be a lot more comfortable going to the second guy than he was a year ago.
Last year, Barker usually left Lemon in games to figure it out for himself. But on Sunday, Barker acknowledged that the leash could be shorter if his starter struggles.
“I probably would (get the hook out quicker), because they are both good players and they both know they are good players,” Barker said. “I think last year was unique, in that you had a young guy learning and a young guy backing him up, and to shatter (Lemon’s) confidence (by pulling him out), that was not going to be right.”
Neither Lemon nor Bell did much wrong in the Argos’ 31-12 pre-season romp over the Ticats at the Rogers Centre. And because of that, Barker said he is not much closer to knowing who will be the starter for the regular-season opener on July 1 in Calgary.
“To say one has stepped forward, I don’t think we are at that point yet,” Barker said. “Let them compete this week.
“It’s a little more clear (on Sunday) than it was (on Saturday). It’s not crystal. It is as clear as mud.”
Either way, Barker knows there will not be a drop-off from one guy to the next, even though Lemon and Bell are different quarterbacks. That in itself is an improvement over 2010.
“It bodes well for us, because we know whoever is starting, we have a hell of a backup,” offensive lineman Taylor Robertson said.
AT THE HALF
One of the more intriguing battles is at strongside linebacker, where veteran Kevin Eiben is trying to hold off Ejiro Kuale. Of the returning defensive starters who played against the Ticats, Eiben was the only one not on the field for Hamilton’s first series. Eiben practised mostly with the second team leading up to the game, and though Barker said to not read too much into it, it’s clear the team thinks highly of Kuale. The latter backed up on the defensive line last season but attended the free-agent camp in Florida in April to start making the adjustment to linebacker ... Something that impressed us about Bell: The pressure on him to perform well in the third quarter already existed before Lemon’s great start. But Bell came out and matched what Lemon did, rather than wilt ... For those who think the Argos’ offence got it done against a weak Ticats team — one that Barker called “a JV (junior varsity) squad” — remember that Cory Boyd and Chad Owens did not play, and Jeremaine Copeland was in for only one series ... Andre Durie’s 47-yard run to the Hamilton 13-yard line in the second quarter probably does not happen if not for the block thrown by right tackle Edawn Coughman. “I was trying to feed the linebacker to him and he read it perfectly,” Durie said ... One reason why the Argos took receiver Djems Kouame with the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft — this after Kouame was not invited to the draft combine — was the youngster’s willingness to play tough. Kouame did not record a catch in his first game, but the staff loved his downfield blocking. It’s unfortunate that Kouame was spelled ‘Koume’ on the back of his jersey ... Fellow rookie receiver Sammy Tranks also showed some grit in blocking until he suffered a shoulder injury. He is day-to-day.
ON THE GOALLINE
Defensive halfback Lin-J Shell looked like he was in mid-season form when he bent at the waist, while on a full run, to knock a Quinton Porter pass away from receiver Marquay McDaniel. It was one of three passes the Argos knocked down, with the others coming from Dee Webb and Dovonte Edwards. Good for Edwards, who is pushing hard to take a job away from incumbent starter Evan McCollough ... Eiben led all Argos with five tackles ... Spencer Watt has emerged to win a spot at slotback, but he’s not perfect yet. Lemon’s only true deep attempt was dropped by Watt, a pass that was catchable ... Perhaps nothing was more impressive from Lemon than when he faked a handoff to Dwayne Wright on the final play of the first quarter and ran 21 yards untouched for a first down. That kind of play will put him ahead of Bell, who is not as mobile. Conversely, Bell has a little more on the football than Lemon when it comes out of the pocket ... Barker has in the range of 10 players to cut and said he expects to release some before the second and final pre-season game in Winnipeg on Thursday.