Cleo Lemon's job to lose

Cleo Lemon of the Toronto Argos looks for a pass against the Hamilton Tigercats during the first...

Cleo Lemon of the Toronto Argos looks for a pass against the Hamilton Tigercats during the first half of pre-season action at the Rogers Centre in Toronto June 18th, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:05 PM ET

Everywhere Jim Barker looks, battles are being waged and decisions must be made.

Whether it's the backfield to find a backup for incumbent Cory Boyd, along the line of scrimmage where starters need to be established or in the defensive secondary, an area Barker says changes with every passing day, decisions await, the axe to hit some unsuspecting player, whether he's a household name or a prospect hoping to make a name for himself.

Under centre, it's Cleo Lemon's job, in part based on Lemon's ability to respond to Barker's competitive challenge, but also based on health.

For Thursday's pre-season finale in Winnipeg, Lemon is expected to get the bulk of the snaps with Dalton Bell unlikely to travel with the team.

Bell's nagging groin injury will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

If it's determined Bell can't play, then the Argos won't even bother taking Bell to Winnipeg.

"He's crushed,'' Barker said of Bell, who is not as athletic as Lemon, but whose release and presence in the pocket more than compensate for any athletic weakness. "He had a chance to compete for the starting job, but we can't risk anything and we will err on the side of caution."

With one final audition remaining before significant cuts are made to prepare for next week's regular-season unveiling in Calgary, it's basically Lemon's job to lose.

"If Cleo goes out and plays well, it's Cleo's job,'' Barker added. "And it has to be.

"If Cleo goes out and doesn't play well, then I know what Dalton has done. The way I look at it, we've got two quarterbacks with different skill sets and at any time we can change and alter what we do."

Given Bell's CFL experience, limited as it was, many were clamouring for Bell last season when Lemon, a true three-down greenhorn, struggled.

Steven Jyles, who showed flashes in Winnipeg, was acquired in an off-season, but the surgically repaired shoulder to his throwing arm hasn't allowed him to be physically engaged in the offence.

"Cleo was given a challenge and he's answered it,'' Barker said. "He's much quicker and he understands what we're doing.

"He's running this football team."

As soon as the Argos return home on Friday, the roster must be reduced to 46 players by 3 p.m.

Barker wasn't about to tip his hand, but he did acknowledge competition at camp, which officially wrapped up on Tuesday, has been intense.

"You look out there and there's not a guy you could say he's got to go,'' he said.

"There are battles everywhere and it's a great problem to have."

Barker hinted he may trim his roster as early as Wednesday.

As for Thursday, Barker isn't so much concerned about whatever schemes the Blue Bombers throw at the Argos as he is in identifying his opening-night roster for the Stamps.

"Who do we want to go into Calgary with? That's what this game is about. We're making our final decisions."

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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