June 11, 2012
Argos search for consistency
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Signs of improvement can be seen one day, only to discover regression the next, a roller coaster Argos rookie head coach Scott Milanovich hopes will soon be remedied.
But when a new system on both sides of the ball is being installed, when familiarity has yet to be established, when getting consistent reps is often compromised by the amount of bodies in camp, it’s almost unavoidable for any team to be inconsistent.
Eventually, when the process of cutting players begins, when identifying a starting roster is completed, only then can a level of consistency be achieved.
For now and for at least the immediate future, Milanovich is simply going to have to deal with the cards he’s been dealt, though it’s obvious his patience is beginning to be tested.
With so much expected of the Argos this season, Milanovich’s attention to detail remains one of the most consistent elements to camp.
He has been preaching the same football gospel from the moment camp opened, unwilling to name any starter at any position, with the exception at quarterback, where Ricky Ray will be lining up under centre.
“Right now, we’re taking turns executing offensively and defensively,’’ began the head coach when he huddled with the media Monday.
“We need to find more consistency and understand that there aren’t any gimmes in this league.
“In this league, any team can beat you if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game. We need to work harder every day in doing the right stuff.”
The mercurial nature of his team’s level of play and intensity has been brought to light in the past few days, beginning on Saturday when the Argos held a mock game in Burlington.
As football coaches and players enjoy saying, the eye in the sky doesn’t lie, one of the game’s many expression that refers to the undisputed evaluation gleaned from watching video.
On Saturday, the Argos’ offence, which was spearheaded by a razor-sharp Ray, looked good, but the defence didn’t.
“What’s frustrating is that on Sunday the defence came out and dominated, but on offence we took a step back.”
With so much time remaining and so many personnel changes that need to be made before the June 30 season-opener in Edmonton, the Argos aren’t quite ready to panic, but the sense of urgency is palpable.
“Human nature,’’ Milanovich said when asked to provide any reasons behind his team’s inconsistency. “When people tend to do well, they relax. When you don’t do well and your back is against the wall you come out fighting.
“What we need is to find that energy every day, whether we’re up or down. We need to come out with the same intensity.”
Wednesday’s pre-season curtain raiser in Hamilton will allow Milanovich and his staff to watch his team in a game situation, albeit with nothing at stake.
Jobs won’t be secured, but poor performances are likely to lead to the exit door as the Argos get poised to shave their roster to 68 players.
Milanovich isn’t quite sure how he’ll approach Wednesday, only saying he won’t be game planning against the Ticats. In other words, the Argos will run plays that suit their needs as the evaluation continues.
Defensively, Milanovich said co-ordinator Chris Jones plans to rotate his players for pretty much the whole night.
“We won’t be too bland, but we’re certainly not going with our full package.”
With projected starters Andre Durie and Jason Barnes likely to sit out Wednesday’s pre-season game, some of the team’s younger core will be given an opportunity to showcase their talents.
WYNNE, WYNNE SITUATION
The house will be packed Wednesday night in The Hammer as the countdown to Ivor Wynne Stadium’s final days officially begin.
With Ticat season ticket holders in a position to reserve up to 10 comps for the pre-season opener, it wasn’t surprising to learn on Monday that the CFL club had announced a sellout for Toronto’s visit.
“We’re thrilled that our season seat holders have embraced the chance to enjoy Wednesday’s game with their family and friends,” Ticats president Scott Mitchell said in a release.
For the Argos, Wednesday’s kickoff represents the first of three visits to The Hammer.
For linebacker Ejiro Kuale, playing at the Wynne is unlike any experience in the CFL.
“I love it,’’ he said. “The fans over there are intense and to be honest with you they make you step up your game because any mistake you make and they’re watching it, they’ll point it out and they’ll let you know about it.”
Veteran Argos running back Jeff Johnson began his career in Hamilton, returning a kickoff at Ivor Wynn in his debut.
“There’s so much history and so much tradition,’’ said Johnson. “That place has so many memories and that community has such a strong tradition, but they’re going to start a new tradition, a new era, and it’s going to be exciting.”