No defence for 1-6 Argos

New Toronto Argos defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer chats with defensive tackle Kevin...

New Toronto Argos defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer chats with defensive tackle Kevin Huntley during a recent practice. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:02 PM ET

TORONTO - There is no case for the Toronto Argonauts defence when no evidence is available to provide any support.

There’s no point in trying to put any kind of spin on a unit that’s regressed when so much carnage has been provided on the field.

Even the most diehard fan must be wondering what has happened to arguably the CFL’s top defence, a unit that once served as the foundation to the rebuilding Argos.

Like many issues surrounding a 1-6 team, which began the season with a win in Calgary, there are more concerns than answers, more questions than immediate remedies.

Injuries have taken their toll, at times exposing the Argos’ depth, rendering the unit almost useless and defenceless when Winnipeg helped usher in Toronto’s home opener with a come-from-behind victory.

Jason Pottinger and Kevin Eiben aren’t the most athletic and versatile players, but their knowledge, experience, understanding and awareness have been missed.

When the Argos made a change in defensive co-ordinators, the hope was a change in the unit’s approach would be initiated, a new voice, it was felt, to inspire.

In time, the Argos may eventually revert to their dominant ways on defence, but it’s likely more pain will ensue because change does not happen overnight.

Orlondo Steinauer hasn’t had the luxury of a training camp to establish his way of holding players accountable, putting players in positions to make plays and getting players all on the same page.

When he was promoted on the same day Chip Garber was released, Steinauer provided very little in how he wanted his unit to play.

Even as a player, Steinauer’s style was not to provide any insight, a firm disciple of Rich Stubler, who always believed, and still does, that the final score told the only story worth telling.

It’s of little significance how many passing yards are yielded, how many rushing yards the opposition produces, how many points are surrendered as long as your team ends up with one more point than your opponent.

Under most circumstances, the Argos win virtually every game in which they’re involved when they score 32 points and produce in excess of 500 yards of offence.

For those who believe the Argos weren’t any different on defence against Hamilton last week, think again.

The end result was the same — another loss — but Steinauer has put in his system, full of all the nuances and subtleties that are only visible when an audience is assembled in a film session.

Given the nature of pro football, no one is going to come out and publicly recite what angle a defensive lineman is now asked to attack, depths at linebackers, coverage in the backfield and blitz packages.

This change, while it allows Toronto’s playmakers on defence to make plays by being more attack oriented, will take time.

And for the time being, the Argos defence is not good.

In one of those dramatic turnarounds that can only come to pass on a team that has now lost six in a row, a strength has now become its weakness.

“It’s not rocket science,’’ Ricky Foley began in a language only Foley would dare express, which is to say forthright and unfiltered. “We need to make plays when it counts and we haven’t. And we’ve let the offence down.

“Personally, I feel terrible. We’ve been waiting for our offence to start playing well and coming into its own and now it has. It sickens me to think we wasted an effort like the one Cleo put together when we’ve known what we’ve been missing. We have to look in the mirror.”

No one can possibly find fault in Cleo Lemon’s performance in Hamilton, where the Argos actually had more first downs than their opponent.

No picks, no fumbles, one questionable clock management issue late in the first half when Lemon perhaps should have taken the onus off the officials. It was the Argos’ best quarterbacked game in years.

And yet there was the defence unable to make plays.

More troublesome is the lack of communication that is almost inherent when a new system is put in place in roughly five days.

“Until we get communication down pat, it’s going to be a crapshoot,’’ Foley confided.

Not exactly a sobering thought as the Argos try to turn their season around.

“They’re a proud bunch and they’ll get it squared away,’’ head coach Jim Barker maintained.

But how and when — given the amount of change in philosophy and responsibility — is impossible to predict.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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