Bell wants to play like Ricky Ray

Argos quarterback Dalton Bell aspires to one day be as good a pivot as Eskimos veteran Ricky Ray....

Argos quarterback Dalton Bell aspires to one day be as good a pivot as Eskimos veteran Ricky Ray. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 PM ET

EDMONTON - When he looks down field Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium, it will be the beginning of another step in Dalton Bell's evolution as a quarterback.

When he looked at film to prepare for the Eskimos, Bell made a point of watching Edmonton’s offence, dissecting how Ricky Ray likes to operate, making mental notes and trying to visualize what mind-set was involved in each throw.

The fact Bell would like to measure himself against Ray provides some insight into the kind of quarterback he one day wants to be.

Anthony Calvillo is the measuring stick among all CFL quarterbacks, but Ray isn’t far behind.

In fact, the way Ray has begun the season, the gap when compared to Calvillo is closer than many would believe.

“There are just so many little things he does, stuff you realize when watching on film that you like to do yourself,’’ Bell said on the eve of his long-awaited start.

So much of what any team is capable of achieving begins with its quarterback, a position that has been stabilized in Edmonton, an area that remains very much a work in progress with the Argos.

Like Ray, Bell can make plays with his feet when asked, usually when defences forget to take into account the quarterback, in most cases when defenders are turning their back from the line of scrimmage.

Like Ray, Bell throws a ball with plenty of air underneath.

Co-ordinators will tell you that Ray is the CFL equivalent of a Peyton Manning, whose pre-snap reads virtually assures that the right throw will be made to the receiver best capable of taking advantage of the defensive look.

During their time together in Regina, Kavis Reed formed a relationship with Bell and came away impressed with Bell’s preparation and football intellect.

It’s why Reed reminded his players all week not to take lightly Bell’s abilities and the potential of a big night if Edmonton allows Bell time in the pocket.

“Knowing Dalton Bell the way I did working in Saskatchewan, he will be prepared,’’ said Reed, Edmonton’s head coach who served as an offensive assistant with the Green Riders in 2009 when Bell served as the team’s third-string quarterback.

“His I.Q., is very high and Dalton will make the right decisions. He has a strong arm and he’ll make plays with his feet. What we have to do is try to confuse him.”

What the Argos have to do is put Bell in a position where he doesn’t have to make a lot of reads going up against a Rich Stubler defence that will force quarterbacks to hold on to the football.

Ray has been able to re-establish himself as an elite player because Edmonton has been able to establish a balanced offence.

It can’t possibly get better when a team leads the league in both passing and rushing, when a team enters a game unbeaten.

The circumstances surrounding the Argos are far different, but Bell comes across as a different quarterback, at least when compared to last week when he forced throws and tried to do more than he was capable of producing.

“This is a great challenge for our team and a great opportunity for myself,’’ Bell said of his second start as an Argo in this his second season in Double Blue.

“I’m excited and nervous all at the same time.”

Veteran receiver Jeremaine Copeland has seen a change in Bell’s demeanour this week, taking all the first-team reps as opposed to the occasional rep with the first-team offence.

“Dalton definitely seems more fired up about this opportunity,’’ Copeland revealed. “You see him smiling, talking a lot more...

“He’s taking over the reins like he’s supposed to.”

Copeland would also say that Bell and Cleo Lemon have different deliveries.

“Cleo has a little stronger arm,’’ he said. “The ball comes out faster, there’s more zip.

“With Dalton, he has a nicer touch pass.”

Whether it’s Bell, Lemon or Ray, any quarterback has a greater chance to exceed when a running game gets established, creating a balance that prevents an offence from being one-dimensional.

The key for the Argos’ defence is to stop the run and be aggressive.

“Ricky Ray is a phenomenal quarterback,’’ Argos’ starting middle linebacker Ejiro Kuale said. “He’s got great pocket presence.

“For us, we have to be assignment sound and make sure all our checks are right. We have play smart, fast and physical.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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