Argos need a perfect game
By Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency
|Toronto Argos Taylor Robertson and Joe Eppele try to out-work each other during Wednesday's practice in Mississauga. (Dave Thomas/QMI AGENCY)
Even if they protect the football and their quarterback, make every tackle, win the battle of field position and the turnover ratio, the odds of the Argos escaping Montreal Friday night with a win remain as long as the lineups along Crescent St.
Even if unheralded and unknown running back Chad Kackert has one of those breakthrough performances, it still may not be enough.
The Als represent the CFL’s measuring stick, a team that stuck it to the Argos in last year’s Eastern final en route to defending their Grey Cup championship.
Near perfection is what’s required from the Argos, who enter the night without their bonafide game-changing offensive player in tailback Cory Boyd, a flawless game of execution that is seldom seen in three-down football where a turnover looms on any given change in possession.
Protection schemes will be altered, personnel usage tweaked, virtually everything at the Argos’ disposal will be put into play.
With so much going against them, no one is giving the Argos much of a chance, which may actually be to their advantage.
With so much unknown about Kackert and how the Argos plan to keep Montreal’s vaunted offence off the field, no one knows what’s in store.
“I’m totally confident,’’ head coach Jim Barker said of his starting running back, who once again became the centre of attention at Argos practice. “But does that mean he’s going to be a great player on game day? No.”
The realist in Barker must acknowledge that plays simply must be made when opportunities are provided, turnovers must be completely eliminated, sacks altogether avoided, first down critical to prevent a predictable passing down.
The competitor in Barker wants nothing more than his underdog team to go into Montreal and pummel an Als team that waxed Toronto last November, even though the stakes this time are nowhere near as consequential.
“They punched us in the mouth last game of the season,’’ Barker added. “We can either go over and get bullied or go back and punch someone in the nose.”
Every single day Barker has been preaching a message he’s hoping his team will embrace, a will it must take into Montreal to compensate for a night that seems, at least on paper, as one-sided.
“For our players, it’s a question of what do we want to be?’’ Barker continued. “Where do we want to go? What kind of team do we want to be?
“Montreal has the aura and what do we want to be? We control our own destiny. (Anthony) Calvillo is going to play great, like he always does. Their team is going to play well, like they always do. But what are we going to do?”
For starters, the Argos can’t suddenly change their offence, but it does start with quarterback Cleo Lemon, who no longer has the luxury of handing the football off to Boyd.
Tight-end sets, quick passes and the occasional shot down field are obvious ways to keep the chains moving.
Running the football with consistency, which did not happen in Winnipeg last week, is also crucial, placing a greater onus on Toronto’s offensive line.
“We got to take care of the football,’’ Lemon said. “We’ve been stressing ball security and execution.”
Lemon concedes the absence of Boyd will trigger some tweaks.
Lemon has been impressed with Kackert’s demeanor this week during practice.
“The moment hasn’t been too big for him,’’ Lemon added. “He’s been calm. He knows all his assignments and that’s the most important thing.”
It’s one of many important areas to which the Argos must pay attention and even then it may not be sufficient to topple the mighty Als.