Argos not looking back at 2010

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 AM ET

CALGARY - From the outside, the Argonauts’ 2010 season was a success.

The Boatmen, under the enthusiastic guidance of head coach Jim Barker, won nine games in the regular season before surprising everyone but themselves with a road victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East semifinal. A blowout loss to the Montreal Alouettes followed, but for all intents, the Argos’ 10-10 record including the playoffs was an indication that good things were happening.

Players being players, however, none look back on last season and consider it successful, because the Argos did not win their last game. Sure, the team collectively took steps forward, but with no Grey Cup in the end, there was disappointment in the locker room.

In 2011, nothing short of lifting the Cup on Nov. 27 in Vancouver will viewed as something good.

The question is, can the Argos make that jump, which would complete a major turnaround in just two years?

“I think right now everybody is overlooking us, and that is the question that everybody has on their mind,” veteran slotback Jeremaine Copeland said.

“Are we going to be able to go to the next level? That’s one thing that we are going to come out and try to prove.

“Anything less (than the Grey Cup) would be uncivilized. Last year we had a great year and we fell short. People said we had a great season, but we fell short of our goal. If any team talks about being satisfied with second, you don’t need to be here.”

If the Argos are to experience a lot of happy moments this season, it’s going to boil down to the passing game.

The defence allowed 442 points a year ago, the fewest in the Canadian Football League. As it has in the past, the Argos defence will give you the yards — 381 a game on average — but won’t let you in the end zone. Only Calgary and Hamilton allowed less than the 42 touchdowns the Argos gave up.

Most of the critical pieces of the defence returned. Tackle Claude Wroten and cornerback Sean Smalls are the only two players who were not regular starters last season.

Special teams not only featured the best returner in the league, Chad Owens, who was a scoring threat every time he fielded the football, but also employed enough tricky wrinkles that the opposition usually had no idea what was coming. Often, the Argos turned fake punts into first downs.

On offence, Cory Boyd ran over everyone and would have been the rushing king if not for concussion troubles that prevented him from playing in every game.

Without a passing game — Copeland led Argos receivers with 639 yards — the Argos still managed to win half of their games.

If the defence can perform as consistently as it did, and there’s production from special teams again, it falls to the offence to hold up its end of the bargain.

Quarterback Cleo Lemon was a poised man through training camp and the pre-season, but there’s a large difference between playing against second-rate defences and those, as the players like to say, when the lights go on.

Simply put, if the defence and special teams are there, any success the Argos will have in 2011 hinges on Lemon.

The challenges for the Argos aren’t going to wait around, as the Boatmen start with four of five on the road, including last night’s Canada Day tilt with the Stampeders.

Starting quickly out of the gate does not guarantee good things after Labour Day. The Argos went 5-2 in their initial seven games last year, but fell back to Earth and were 4-7 in their final 11.

“You can look at that as a negative, but we look at it as a positive,” Barker said of trips to Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal and Edmonton in the month of July.

“It’s a great chance for our team to bond. The first (five) games are about building on what we started last year.”


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