Lemon has one more chance

Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon knows that he must improve his game if he wants to remain a starter in...

Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon knows that he must improve his game if he wants to remain a starter in the CFL. (Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

TORONTO - Another game, another round of questions about the future of Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon.

It’s becoming clear that only a Grey Cup championship will put an end to the speculation and scrutiny that Lemon sees on a weekly basis.

But will he ever get that far?

“I told him prior to the Winnipeg game here (in July), ‘You have to play at a level that we can win a Grey Cup, or we have to make a change,’ ” Argos head coach and general manager Jim Barker said on Thursday. “And he has done that to a point. He understands what is at stake, and that it’s a much different time for him than it was at this time last year.”

Lemon’s cushion could be about to deflate. Barker confirmed that Steven Jyles, who was acquired from the Blue Bombers during the off-season to challenge Lemon or take over as the starter, will be on the 46-man roster for next weekend’s game in B.C. against the Lions. Done will be Jyles’ recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.

This is not to say Lemon has one game to make a final impression on Barker.

The Argos play host to the Lions on Friday night at the Rogers Centre, and Lemon has been progressing. The 32-year-old, in his past four starts, has passed for 908 yards and five touchdowns while tossing just a single interception.

Still, they are not exactly numbers that conjure the Grey Cup, and the Argos have lost three of those games. But if Lemon can keep going uphill against the Lions, Jyles probably will be on clipboard duty next week.

It’s clear the mild-mannered Lemon has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. When asked about the comparisons between himself and Lions quarterback Travis Lulay, who also is in the formative stages of his Canadian Football League career, Lemon said he is judged in a more negative vein.

“Trust me, the way I get graded versus another guy is totally different,” Lemon said. “Travis is a quarterback who is developing, I am a quarterback who is developing.

“However you guys sort it out, it’s funny to me. We’re both young in the CFL game, and one quarterback is looked at totally different than the other.”

Lemon’s football experience has a greater base than that of Lulay, who spent some time in NFL Europa but did not catch on in the National Football League. Lemon, four years older than Lulay, has thrown passes for the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.

“The learning curve is much steeper than most people believe it to be with both of these players,” Barker said. “Cleo just stepped in and a became starting quarterback (last season) with nothing but training camp under his belt, and that is a difficult task.

“Their development is very close. But people talk about Travis in a different light than they do about Cleo. Travis runs better, is a little more mobile.”

Lemon just wants to try to keep solidifying his spot on the Argos depth chart. A win on Friday would help that. The Argos and Lions, who usually have heated games against each other, both are 2-6. Neither team can afford to lose.

“It’s about being more secure, focused on each play,” Lemon said. “Sometimes you take plays for granted, think a handoff or a snap is automatic, but those are things you have to work on every day.

“Still got a ways to go, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

The way we are moving the ball is encouraging, and we just have to finish drives and games. With Barker, man, every day you have to prove yourself, and that is what I do.”


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