TORONTO - Whether Maurice Mann is the solution to the one glaring Argosí deficiency or not may have to wait another week to be answered.
Mann, the recent addition from Hamilton in the Dee Webb trade has a lot of the qualities head coach Jim Barker feels have been lacking in his group of receivers.
Heís faster than Barker ever thought, he catches the ball in traffic and he has the ability to make something big out of something very small.
That last one ó making the big play ó is the most important to the Argos, particularly among a receiving corps that has done very little of that this season. Outside of perhaps inconsistent play at the quarterback position, which is actually a part of the lack of production from the receiving corps, this is one area that has really held the Argos back.
The Argos have just two pass plays all season of 50 yards or more. Brandon Rideau was on the receiving end of a 69-yard pass play. The other came from Chad Kackert who hauled in a 53-yard pass and run touchdown in a game against Montreal.
When your running back, who has caught all of four passes this year, is among your big play receivers, thereís a problem.
For the season the Argos have just 13 passing plays of 30-yards or more, well back of any other club in the league.
Unfortunately with just three games remaining, it appears Mann wonít get the chance to add to the limited Argosí big receiving plays on Friday when the Edmonton Eskimos visit.
Mann hurt his hand catching extra passes following practice on Tuesday and did not participate in Wednesdayís workouts.
On the positive side Andre Durie, the teamís most consistent pass catcher this year who has missed the past three games was catching balls and running individual routes Wednesday meaning he could suit up Friday.
Durie, though did not practise with the starting offence which means that even if he does dress, he will likely be in a backup role.
Mann was to be the No. 1 attraction for season-long-suffering Argos fans as a forgettable 2011 season winds down.
He suggested Wednesday that heís already got a good feel for quarterback Steven Jyles tendencies. The two briefly played together in Edmonton.
Thatís why the hand injury is such a disappointment. If Mann canít go on Friday that leaves just two games to find out whether he can be that guy the Argos offence desperately needs.
Mann said he and Jyles are already talking about spending some time in the off-season working out together which is a good sign but if the chemistry is not there, it would be nice to know now so the organization can make finding a big-play receiver a priority in the off-season.
For the second day in a row Barker was referencing an Arland Bruce catch in B.C.ís win over Saskatchewan on Sunday as exactly what has been missing in Toronto all year.
The Lions were looking extremely lifeless and trailing 18-12 in the fourth quarter when Bruce gave the team life. Quarterback Travis Lulay tossed one up in Bruceís direction. The former Argo and Ticat was in a one-on-one battle with Tristan Jackson. From the moment the ball left Lulayís hands it looked like the best Bruce might do is prevent Jackson, who had him blanketed, from picking it off.
Instead Bruce leapt high and somehow came down with the ball leaving Jackson on the turf as he finished off a 72-yard touchdown.
It was the only catch of the afternoon for Bruce, the only time he was targeted, but he made the play his team desperately needed. The Lions would go on to a 29-18 win and a share of first place in the West.
Barker has needed a player with that knack for the big play all year and with three games remaining heís still looking for him.
He hopes Mann is that guy.
Mann himself knows the opportunity is here to be that kind of guy but he isnít about to assume itís his for the taking.
He has to earn it on the field. It looks like heís going to have to wait another week to do that.
HOW ARGOS STACK UP
When it comes to the big passing play, the rest of the CFL is head and shoulders above the Argos this year. Jim Barker knows he needs a game changer in his receiving corps but in 2011, his Argos seem to be the one team that doesnít have one. Here are the number of successful pass plays of 30 or more yards completed by each team in the league.
(Through Week 16)
(Courtesy CFL Stats)