Bell gets start against 'confusing' Eskimos
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Dalton Bell takes the ball during Argos Practice at U of T in Mississauga June 17th, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - By his own admission, Dalton Bell attempted to produce more when exercising better judgment was required.
Admittedly, during his first appearance of the season on Saturday against the Blue Bombers — coming in for injured starter Cleo Lemon in the first quarter — the Argos’ backup quarterback forced the football into areas that should not have been attempted, let alone even contemplated.
And now Bell, set to make his first start Friday in Edmonton against the unbeaten Eskimos, heads into an opportunity where he knows precisely where he stands. How long he continues to stay in the role of starter will be based a lot on his performance on Friday and, in part, on the health of Lemon.
If Bell is to lead the Argos, a team that has lost three straight, over the Eskimos, it’ll give head coach Jim Barker one of those problems he can only dream of in a season that hasn’t exactly gone swimmingly.
“It’s a great test for him because he’s gotten all the reps,’’ Barker said of Bell. “It’ll be a great test to go out against a great defence and see how he does.”
With Lemon still feeling the ill effects of a Joe Lobendahn hit, a helmet-to-helmet blow that caused nerve damage to one of his teeth, Bell has suddenly been thrust into the limelight.
He struggled against the Bombers in relief of Lemon because he tried to force matters when managing the offence, and getting the ball into the hands of the proper receiver often was overlooked.
Now that he has had time to reflect on the game, Bell was quick to point out the flaws to his game that he simply can’t repeat. If he does throw into coverage and gets picked off, Barker may have to turn back to Lemon, who began to throw at practice Wednesday for the first time since being hurt.
The way things have gone for the 1-3 Argos, don’t be surprised if third-stringer B.J. Hall sees action Friday. The rookie has taken two snaps in the regular season, both in the shadow of the opponent’s end zone in Montreal that resulted in no gain on a quarterback keeper and a fumbled pitchout that wound up as a 108-yard Alouettes TD return.
Needless to say, Bell must summon his best against an Eskimos defence that has quickly grasped Rich Stubler’s concepts.
“That defence is fast and those guys love to hit,’’ Bell said. “They like to mix it up (zone and man-to-man) and they want to confuse you. The key for us is to take what they give us.”
Bell was picked off twice against Winnipeg, and it would have been three had the Bombers not dropped the ball, literally speaking.
He also fumbled the ball once late in the game on a play that clearly showed Odell Willis lined up offside before the snap and blatantly in an offside position after the snap.
Regardless, avoiding turnovers must be achieved for the Argos to have any chance.
“It was a great learning experience,’’ Bell said. “I’ll be better.”