It's do or die for Jyles, Argos
By BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Steven Jyles leads the Argos against the Ticats Saturday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - The Toronto Argonauts have run out of tomorrows.
Their football universe has gotten very small. While many believe that when it comes to their playoff hopes the sun has already disappeared over the horizon, the Argonauts themselves still see a way out of the gloaming. But it must start with a victory Saturday night.
“This is our season right here. We have to win. We can’t fall behind another game to anyone,” quarterback Steven Jyles said Friday after the club’s final walk-through before they meet the Hamilton Ticats. “We’re going to war. It’s going to be very physical. Hard fought. We’re bringing our lunch box this week. We want to dominate this team; that’s the bottom line.”
The Argonauts have won the war of words this week, starting with Ejiro Kuale’s guarantee of a victory. Unfortunately it’s about the only football war they have won this year. They showed some life last week with a 25-24 win over Winnipeg. But it wasn’t pretty and it still leaves them with a 3-9 record, last in the East Division and needing to make up three games on Hamilton with just six to play.
“Coming out of this game without a win it would be tough. It would be almost impossible. If we win, we have a chance to do what Tampa Bay has done in baseball,” said head coach Jim Barker. “This game is critical. I expect a high level of play from every guy. I expect their best game.”
He’s going to need it if there is to be any hope of beating the Ticats who threw up 55 points last week. Hamilton’s one vulnerable spot is a suspect secondary but how much Toronto can take advantage of that is problematic considering they have the league’s worst offence week in, week out.
Since losing 37-32 to Hamilton in Week 7, Toronto has changed quarterbacks, simplified their playbook, reworked the offensive line and now, some might suggest far too late, brought in two new pass-catchers.
“We’re going to play solid defence,” said Barker. “We’re going to play great on special teams and be physical running the ball. Our passing game needs to augment that and not turn the ball over.”
To make that happen the Argos will need Jyles to be more effective. He gets his fourth start but Dalton Bell also took first-team reps this week. There’s some speculation about the lingering effects of a bump Jyles took on his shoulder while making a tackle after an interception in the Winnipeg game. He claims he’s fine. But he’ll need to be better than fine and improve on the 88 yards passing he had against Winnipeg.
While the Argos have become run-oriented, there’s no way a performance like that will translate into victory two weeks in a row.
“I knew it throughout the game ... we weren’t connecting on a lot of things,” said Jyles, who spent the first nine games on the injured list. “We had success in the running game. We knew we had to take Winnipeg’s front out of the ball game. They’re great pass rushers and we knew if we dropped back 30 times they would be successful getting to the quarterback. But having 80 something yards passing is an insult ... for me to play four quarters and only have (88 yards) passing made me very upset.”
It didn’t do much for Barker’s constitution either. So Prechae Rodriguez (cut this year by Edmonton and Montreal) comes off the practice roster, replacing wide receiver Brandon Rideau. Slotback Andre Durie will play despite a sore hip flexor but Sammy Tranks, also off the practice roster, will get some looks.
Rodriguez is a former CFL rookie of the year, ironically with Hamilton and, said Barker, “we’re looking for that go-to guy who can make big plays. He was that back in 2008 with Hamilton. He’s going to get an opportunity to show what he can do.”
Tranks looked dangerous in the two games he played to start the season. He even scored a touchdown, which is one more than Jeremaine Copeland has managed all season. And while Jyles, and before him Cleo Lemon, have taken much of the flak for the team’s lousy aerial efforts, Toronto’s receivers have to share the blame.
It was Rideau’s poor route that led to Jyles’ interception last week. Copeland has been ineffective. And while Durie’s performances have been gutsy and laudable, it doesn’t say good things about the receiving corps when a runningback/slotback is the club’s leading receiver.
“We need to find some receivers to make plays,” Barker said. “Copeland’s got to be able to get open against man to man. We know that Hamilton plays man to man. It’s what they do.”
And, what the Argos need to do is simple. Win. If they don’t, a lot of them may not be Argonauts much longer. “We got six games,” said Copeland, “and our backs are pretty much against the wall.”