Major problems for Argos

Argos wide receiver Jeremaine Copeland celebrates a touchdown against the Lions at the Rogers...

Argos wide receiver Jeremaine Copeland celebrates a touchdown against the Lions at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., July 23, 2010. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

TORONTO - The focus, at least offensively, has been on parlaying trips to football’s score-zone into touchdowns.

Regardless of the colour designated by any team on either side of the border, be it red zone, green zone or any other characterization, execution often provides the difference from reaching the end zone to settling for field goals.

As yards get tougher to manufacture, defences begin to step up, one of many distinctions that would emerge from the Argos’ most recent loss in Vancouver last Saturday.

Whatever hopes the Argos have of mounting any kind of playoff push, it must begin by scoring touchdowns when opportunities are provided.

It’s as obvious as Toronto’s 2-8 record heading into this weekend’s meeting in Regina, but the answers aren’t so readily available.

Lost in Toronto’s loss to the Lions, the Argos’ second in as many weeks to B.C., was how the offence was able to add some new wrinkles, including a back-side screen to Jeff Johnson, which, unfortunately for the visitors, was negated by a holding call.

There was also a bunch formation to the left side that featured Cory Boyd being used as a downfield blocker with Andre Durie lining up in the backfield in the event B.C. overloaded its defence, which would have left the middle exposed.

As it turned out, Chad Owens would catch a quick pass in the flat, gaining yards in a sequence that provided a glimpse of what the Argos offence may actually be able to accomplish, assuming no pass gets dropped and no penalty gets called.

The margin for error is so slim with the Argos that scoring touchdowns has become the most pressing area.

One has to go back to the third quarter of their Aug. 18 home date versus Saskatchewan to find the last time the Argos’ offence produced a touchdown, a one-yard Boyd run with 3:23 remaining in the period that would cap a 75-yard, seven-play drive.

Do the math and the Argos have now gone 135:23 without scoring an offensive touchdown.

In B.C., the Argos went 0-for-4 in red-zone opportunities.

For the season, the team is 12-for-25 in scoring touchdowns when penetrating the opponent’s 20-yard line.

With Steven Jyles now in control of the offence, taking advantage of his athleticism and ability to make plays with his legs becomes the most obvious way to score touchdowns.

Whether it’s a quarterback draw, bootleg, moving the pocket, Jyles gives the Argos a dimension Cleo Lemon never had, or at least never developed.

The knock on Jyles has been a perception that he has trouble reading defences, especially in the score zone.

Defences will bend in yielding plays, but when it comes to the moment of truth — a Jyles-led offence must reach the end zone — defences will disguise looks and give an impression of man coverage when a zone package is being played, or vice versa.

It’s why the Argos need to be creative, need to use motion with guys such as Owens and Durie getting the ball in space, which allows both to use their quickness.

Boyd’s ability to run out of the backfield can’t be compromised, either.

Given Brandon Rideau’s physical attributes, the Argos can use him on fade routes, the way Plaxico Burress is able to flourish around the end zone, though Rideau does not attack the ball quite like the NFL wideout.

Jeremaine Copeland, who has yet to score a touchdown, has a way of breaking off a route when a defender is locked up on him, but no Argonauts quarterback has yet to find a rhythm with the veteran slotback.

Whether it’s as simple as having Jyles taking off with the football or providing him with run and pass options, touchdowns must now be produced for the Argos to have any chance of salvaging their season.

At least on defence, plays are being made.

The key, defensively speaking, is to limit an opponent from making big plays.

Time, the Argos are now beginning to realize, is slowly running out — but there is time to get on a roll.

Much like blocking and tackling represent the most basic of football’s fundamentals, scoring touchdowns is at the root of any successful offence.

No team has scored fewer touchdowns than the Argos, whose league-worst 18 majors is one fewer than Winnipeg.

The Bombers, up until their home-and-home series setback against Saskatchewan, have been able to post wins because of their incredible turnover ratio, a league-high plus-16 that was much greater two weeks ago.

In contrast, the Toronto Argonauts are a league-worst minus-15.


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