Passing judgment on Ray, Burris

Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris throws against the Argos at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton,...

Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris throws against the Argos at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., June 13, 2012. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:05 AM ET

HAMILTON - Until the video gets reviewed and the finer points of pass protection and route running are determined, it’s left to the naked eye to pass judgment on two passers whose respective teams’ football fate will be determined.

As far as first impressions go, it’s obvious Henry Burris has found a comfort zone with his receivers, while Ricky Ray must wait and hope chemistry will soon be established.

In fairness to the Argos, some of the projected starters have been nursing injuries and were not available for Wednesday night’s pre-season opener at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Jason Barnes, who showed potential of assuming that all-important role of go-to receiver in Edmonton, has a history with Ray, but both, like every other member of Toronto’s offence, is learning a new system under rookie head coach Scott Milanovich.

Until everything gets ironed out, it’s virtually impossible to judge Ray, especially under a backdrop where opponents aren’t going to show their hand on defence.

Against the Ticats, play action was the key in getting Ray in rhythm.

Ray will never be confused for Doug Flutie, but Flutie never had Ray’s arm, a thing of beauty when any downfield throw featuring any route is attempted.

Ray would start the evening, play the entire first quarter before he left for the night and a 14-0 Argos lead.

Ray’s appearance would even feature a no-huddle and some decent pass protection, especially after the opening series when pressure was being applied.

All in all, it was what one would expect given the circumstances and the newness to his receivers.

For those keeping tabs on such matters, the Argos would win the game, 29-24.

By the time the June 30 regular-season opener arrives, in Edmonton no less, Ray must discover some sort of comfort zone with his receiving unit.

There is no Fred Stamps on the Argos roster, but someone has to earn Ray’s trust.

In contrast, Burris looked much more comfortable in his new surroundings.

Smilin’ Hank was introduced to the Hammer in the second quarter, a warm applause greeting the one-time Calgary Stampeder who saw Quinton Porter start for the Ticats.

With so much concern hovering over Burris’ arm strength, it was hard to find fault with any of his throws, especially when receivers were able to get behind Toronto’s secondary.

Unlike the Argos’ makeup at receivers, Burris has some legitimate pass catchers with a proven resume.

While Sam Giguere is new to the CFL, his speed is off the charts.

Throw in a Chris Williams, another wideout capable of stretching the field, and suddenly intermediate routes become available, an area that favours a slotback such as Andy Fantuz.

A deep ball to Giguere along the Argos sideline led to a Burris touchdown plunge, while a 75-yard bomb to Williams would tie the game at 14-14.

Both of Toronto’s majors came courtesy of two Cory Boyd runs.

Whether it’s time that’s required for Ray to get in sync with his receivers or Burris continuing to expand, the quarterback picture in southern Ontario has never been in better shape.

Ultimately, that’s how both the Argos and Ticats will be judged in a league where quarterback play is of paramount performance.

The Ticats can clean up many areas, which is to be expected, beginning with discipline as far too many were committed.

The Argos can certainly clean up their defensive backfield, but with so many players coming in and going out it’s almost inevitable that breakdowns will occur.

As cuts get made and player identification intensifies, fewer blown coverages will be achieved, at least that’s the hope.

Whether it was a crushing sack by halfback Brandon Isaac off a blitz, a pinpoint touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Harris or a Patrick Watkins interception in the end zone, a few players stepped up for the Argos.

Rookie tailback Chevon Walker showed a knock for running off tackle for the Ticats, while others were hustling to the football.

In the end, the Argos and Ticats will only go as far as their quarterbacks will take them.

As of today, Burris has the edge.


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