Lemon played 'best game' as an Argo: Barker
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon (right), who had 368 yards passing in Saturday's game against Hamilton, fakes a handoff to runningback Jeff Johnson Monday at practice. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Cleo Lemon turned 32 years old on Tuesday.
In many ways, the Argos quarterback has also turned the corner, no longer being asked why throws were underthrown or overthrown, why sacks were caused when he held on to the ball too long or why he can’t manage a running game.
Had the Argos been winning and not losing six in a row, Lemon’s evolution as a CFL quarterback would be a bigger story, a tale of atonement when so many were quick to write him off.
A bad outing or regression would change that, but as long as the Argos defence keeps under-performing and as long as Chad Owens fails to score a special-teams touchdown, Lemon’s development will be reserved to the backburner.
In a way, it’s a shame, but then again it comes with the territory of a losing team.
In virtually every win last season, there was always this “inspite-of” tag with Lemon.
It went something along these lines: The Argos won, in spite of their quarterback.
Whether it was the first half against Montreal two weeks ago or the entire game last Saturday night in Hamilton, Lemon gave his team a chance to win.
There is no doubt that Lemon has raised his level of play and no question some of his offensive weapons have stepped up.
If only the Argos can get Jeremaine Copeland and Owens, the receiver, going, then perhaps they can compensate for a defence that is going through a difficult transition.
For Lemon, he admits maturity and experience are beginning to pay off.
“Just knowing that you don’t have to do everything on one play,’’ he said of his recent success. “And letting the game come to you.”
At no point has Lemon looked so comfortable as he did in last Saturday night’s loss in Hamilton, where he passed for 368 yards, two touchdowns and did not commit a single turnover.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do with the football,’’ head coach Jim Barker said. “He played what I felt was his best game to this point.”
Lemon does not call his own plays, but he does have input during the week when the offensive game plan for the next opponent is drawn up.
To hear Barker tell it, Lemon is getting more comfortable to the point where he’s calling the right audibles in his pre-snap reads.
The bottom line with Lemon is that he needs to maintain this high level of play, continue to lead and manage games.
Overlooked is his understanding of the run game, a progression Lemon believes is the function of film work and a greater awareness of opposing defenders.
“Reading guys and understanding their moves,’’ Lemon said. “Defences have to honour Cory (Boyd) and leaves me with play action and the option to get to the outside.”
Boyd made his return from a four-game injury absence in Hamilton, rushing for 73 yards on 16 attempts and scoring one touchdown.
“You have to be good in every area,’’ Lemon said of the quarterback position. “There’s so much that goes into every play, but I have been improving and I have to continue to grow.”