Argos need more than stats in their favour

Blue Bombers' Odell Willis drags down Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon on Friday. Lemon was sacked...

Blue Bombers' Odell Willis drags down Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon on Friday. Lemon was sacked seven times in the game. (REUTERS)

Mike Ganter, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:57 PM ET

In our rush to anoint the Argos front four the best in the CFL after a solid Week 1, we once again got caught up in the statistics.

It was actually the opposite of the Cleo Lemon appraisal. On paper Lemon looked like he had a very ordinary first week, but in actuality he was much improved over a year ago keeping drives alive and getting those first downs when his team needed them most. He did what he had to do to get his team a win.

The front four, which returned starters Kevin Huntley, Ronald Flemons and Ricky Foley introduced Claude Wroten into the middle of that unit and against the Calgary Stampeders offensive line looked dominant.

They came back to earth a little in Winnipeg.

The Stamps O-line was lacking in experience after injuries and free agent defections decimated the line. Huntley and Co. had three sacks not to mention constant pressure on Henry Burris.

A week later against Winnipeg it was the Bombers front four that stole the show, dominating Toronto’s veteran offensive line which led directly to a pair of unsuccessful third down gambles by the Argos.

If anything two weeks into the 2011 season it is the Bombers front four — Odell Willis, Doug Brown, Dorian Smith and Jason Vega that have separated themselves from the pack in the CFL.

But this battle will be one that goes back and forth for a while.

The Argos front didn’t have a poor game in Winnipeg. It just wasn’t as dominant as the week before or as dominant as its rivals.

Newcomer Wroten still was effective but remains very much a work in progress.

Flemons was asked before the game about all the talk about the Boatmen front four and wisely chose to play down the hype.

“It’s good to be recognized like that but it doesn’t really mean anything,” Flemons said. “It’s just one game.”

And after Friday’s game all those accolades that had been going Toronto’s way are likely headed Winnipeg’s way. How could they not after a seven-sack night and a second consecutive week where their defence won the Bombers a game.

That is not to say Toronto’s four won’t reach those Week 1 heights again.

As excited as he has been about the addition of Wroten this season, head coach Jim Barker has cautioned everyone who asks about him — after the initial burst of optimism — that Wroten will need at least five games before the team has a solid idea of how good he can make them.

Flemons admitted that even his Week 1 heroics masked some problems while Barker said the sacks may have been the result of what others were doing.

This is not meant to downplay Wroten. He remains a tantalizing addition to an already solid front four. But as Flemons said: “When he starts learning stuff he’s going to be even a hell of a lot better.”

Perhaps then we can revisit the best CFL front four, because right now that title belongs to the Winnipeg unit.

NOW THAT’S DEPTH

Barker spent plenty of training camp talking about the depth he had at his disposal in the secondary. Dee Webb was a perfect example of that depth on Friday night when Byron Parker had to sit out a series after coming down hard on his knees early in the game.

Webb, in his one and only series on defence, stepped in front of a Buck Pierce pass and scored the only Toronto interception of the night.

Pierce correctly targeted the newcomer on the first play and Webb was waiting and made him pay.

Parker returned limiting Webb to special teams for the rest of the night, but not before the 27-year-old import out of the University of Florida showed Argos fans just the kind of security Barker has in his secondary.

PERFECT PRE

Two games, 6-for-6 on field goals and a perfect 3-for-3 on converts isn’t that surprising from veteran kicker Noel Prefontaine. What is surprising is that two weeks into the season he has two of the better special teams hits on the entire Argos roster.

In Calgary he introduced himself to Larry Taylor in a way that would make a middle linebacker proud. Friday in Winnipeg Jovon Johnson was Prefontaine-d. The Argos kicker dropped his shoulder and then dropped Johnson in his tracks. Again it was the kind of hit that would make Mike Singletary proud.

HARSHEST CRITIC

Chad Owens wasn’t happy with his timing or his own reluctance to prudently step out of bounds when there was nothing to be gained in Week 1. In Week 2 it was his inability to hang on to the ball that had the speedy wideout kicking himself.

Owens was clearly the focus of the Winnipeg fans, but he pretty much expected that kind of reception.

From the opening whistle to the end of the game every time Owens touched the ball, the Winnipeg fans started their Owens sucks chant.

“I heard them but what do you expect,” Owens said. “I took three back on them last year. Every time we played them I took one back so they don’t like me out here and that’s fine. That doesn’t bother me, but I have always prided myself on being the guy to be the spark and make that play. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I tried to do a little too much.”

TURF BITS

It was by no means an offensive outburst in Winnipeg, but lost in all the talk about the penalties and turnovers was a pretty solid night by veteran slotback Jeremaine Copeland. Copeland hauled in a game-high five passes for 107 yards. It’s the first time Copeland has gone over 100 yards receiving in a regular-season game since he joined the Argos ... Worth watching this week as the Argos prepare for Montreal is the status of linebacker Kevin Eiben. He played very sparingly in Winnipeg and was held to just one tackle. Eiben hasn’t been as limited in a regular-season game since the middle of 2008 when he was held tackle-less in a game against Saskatchewan. Anthony Cannon spent most of the game getting Eiben’s reps.

 


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