May 1, 2012
Argos have become a well-armed team
By Frank Zicarelli, QMI AGENCY
Strip away all the corporate layers and remove all the bells and whistles. Any dissection of the Argos begins and ends with the on-field product.
Everyone associated with the team knows, people in the CFL acknowledge it and GM Jim Barker is determined to put the very best on the gridiron following two seasons in which the best, at least the perceived product, wasn’t good enough.
In a quarterback-driven league, Barker may have finally found pay dirt, acquiring a proven starter in Ricky Ray via a trade and a quality backup in Jarious Jackson through free agency.
As the Argos feted season ticket holders and paid tribute to the team’s alumni at Tuesday night’s jersey unveiling, there was a decided air of optimism.
No one better exemplifies the spirit more than Barker, whose track of record of acquiring talent can’t be questioned, whose future in Toronto will be based on how well this year’s unit evolves.
While additional pieces are sure to be added before the start of training camp later this month, all it took was one on-field session to convince Barker that the Argos are on the right path.
It was during last Saturday’s mini-camp that Barker got an upclose view of Ray and Jackson, each throwing to receivers as Toronto’s passing game began to take shape.
“It was so impressive watching those two quarterbacks,’’ Barker beamed. “The accuracy, the speed of our receivers picking things up so quickly, it’s what you look for. It’s what you want to see, quarterbacks meshing with the receivers.”
It was a hard pill to swallow for Barker when he decided to give up his coaching portfolio and concentrate his efforts as full-time GM.
So far, so good, each move Barker engineering with an eye on moving the Argos forward, especially on offence.
In Toronto, a team needs both the sizzle and the steak.
With the 100th Grey Cup to be played in Toronto, there will be more pigskin hype in this market than ever before, but it’ll be rendered completely useless if Barker fails to deliver.
It starts with the pivotal quarterback position, an area Barker did his best to manage when he decided on Cleo Lemon two years ago, then turning to Stephen Jyles mid-way through last season.
Barker fully understands what he has in Ray, but it was watching Jackson throw and conduct himself that impressed Barker.
“Jarious was sharp,’’ Barker added. “When you’re not around someone you don’t know how good he can be.
“It’s exciting to know what our offence is going to be like.”
Indeed, these are exciting times in Argoland, a time of hope and optimism.
It’s all good, but in the end it will be for naught if the Argos don’t entertain and provide an offensive flair fans grew accustomed when the likes of Matt Dunigan and Doug Flutie were lining up under centre.