Argos' Lemon running out of chances

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:12 PM ET

One game can’t define or help redefine a player, no single play or series of downs determine a player’s fate.

But as the Argos get ready for their home opener, a lot will be expected of Cleo Lemon, whose status as the team’s incumbent starting quarterback grows more tenuous with every passing week and every time a pass that should be made ends up in a sack.

If there ever was a moment for Cleo to keep the critics at bay, it arrives this Saturday, if ever an opportunity existed to maintain his grip on the starter’s job, it’s this Saturday.

There won’t be Cory Boyd to hand off the ball, but Chad Kackert is no slouch, a guy who basically earned his spot on the team with a touchdown run in Winnipeg on a busted play that revealed his explosive ability.

For the first time all season, the Argos won’t be on the road, playing an opponent that is as familiar as any in the eight-team league.

An inability to produce first downs and touchdowns will once again call into question Lemon’s ability to lead the Argos offence, which has its shortcomings.

Only a fool can’t see the writing on the wall, only the most delusional doesn’t see the opportunity for change if a change in offensive fortune isn’t achieved.

This is Cleo Lemon’s time under a backdrop that can’t be minimized.

The Argos aren’t exactly the hottest ticket in town, in a market that craves entertainment.

In football, entertainment begins with a quarterback and his ability to project an image that both captivates and motivates.

Maybe it’s not in Lemon’s character to take over a team, but someone has to take charge and no one has more to lose than Lemon.

Eventually, patience will run out when more two-and-outs are generated than points.

In time, the Argos will have no other option but to turn to Dalton Bell or even Steven Jyles when Jyles is fully recovered from his shoulder woes.

But the time is now and the stage primed for Lemon to assert himself.

When he met with the media Tuesday, head coach Jim Barker spoke of an energy Lemon simply must bring this week.

It was an interesting observation because it has nothing to do with any physical or mental trait inherent in any quarterback on either side of the border.

Read between the lines and Barker needs all the intangibles to be summoned from Lemon.

“There has to be an energy,’’ Barker said. “And that energy makes the people around him better.

“He knows that. He has to make the right decision.”

No player touches the football more than a quarterback, which is hardly a ground-breaking assertion.

When Lemon hesitates in the pocket, the wrong energy is emitted.

When Lemon doesn’t exercise the right read on a rushing play, the Argos end up on the wrong side of the slate.

Offensively, it all starts with Lemon, whose end may be near if he doesn’t help bring to life an attack Barker admittedly turned lifeless in Montreal in last week’s 40-17 loss.

“There was a point where we were lifeless,’’ Barker added. “Then we picked it up again, but we can’t have those ruts where we’re lifeless.”

A lot of the Argos’ offensive problems has to do with their penchant for turning the ball over.

In back-to-back losses in Winnipeg and Montreal, 10 turnovers were committed as the Argos emerged with a minus-8 in the giveaway/takeaway ratio.

A lot of the problems stem from a lack of first down production.

When passes are incomplete or when runs are limited, second downs become predictable, allowing defences to pin their ears back and attack.

Lemon touched on how the Argos plan to stay more committed to the ground game, an area that got abandoned in Montreal.

He spoke on the need to accept a two- or three-yard check down rather than see a pass fall incomplete.

Lemons knows the offence has done little, which has forced the defence to be on the field far too long, a toll that takes effect in the fourth quarter.

“We (offence) have to live up to our end of the bargain,’’ Lemon said. “We haven’t done that for the first three games. It’s the perfect time for us to start getting back on track.”

If the offence continues to go off the rails, Lemon’s run as starting quarterback will be over.

And it may arrive as early as Saturday.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca

 


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