June 20, 2012
Argos coach confident with Ray
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The Argos walked away from its second exhibition game feeling pretty good about themselves.
A stellar third quarter, much of it a one-man passing show by rookie quarterback Trevor Harris, turned the game around as the Argos turned a 17-10 halftime deficit into a 25-20 win.
But what is probably going to be gnawing at the back (and perhaps the front) of Scott Milanovich's brain over the next 10 days as he gets his team ready for the real season is how utterly inept his starting offence looked in the first quarter.
With Ricky Ray at the helm, Cory Boyd in the backfield, the best of a rebuilt Argos offensive line up front and a mishmash of receivers spread across the field, the Argos managed a total of 40 net yards offence in that first 15 minutes.
The group managed two first downs, threw two picks and finished up the quarter trailing 7-0.
Without another game before these things start to count for real, you had to think Milanovich would have been tempted to leave Ray in there for another quarter, but when the Argos finally managed to get the ball back in the second, it was Jarious Jackson at the controls and Ray's day was over.
Milanovich did admit after the game that he was tempted to leave Ray in there for a little more time. What Milanovich didn't show, either in his demeanour or through his words, was any concern whatsoever about Ray and what he knows his starting quarterback is capable of doing.
"Obviously, we would have liked to have started quicker than we did the last two weeks so that's something we have to work on -- but the guys are trying to do what we are asking them to do," Milanovich said.
"We are taking too many penalties right now, too many turnovers in the first half which kind of slowed them down in he first quarter but we'll take the win and move on from there."
Milanovich has been preaching for much of training camp that the games are just part of the evaluation process.
While Ray rebounded for two scoring drives in the first exhibition, there was no personal rebound in the second.
But what he has seen pretty much every day in practice since camp began is Ray taking the steps he needs to take.
"He just never really did find his rhythm today," Milanovich said.
"We contemplated keeping him in a little bit (longer) but ultimately we need him ready for that first game and he's been practising very well. I just need to do a better job of getting him out of the gate faster and getting him comfortable with the things he likes to do."
Milanovich's main goal after the game seemed to be deflecting the attention away from Ray.
"It's a work in progress and it's never just the quarterback," he said. "When Ricky plays well it's never going to be just the quarterback."
For his part Ray admits he still has some catching up to do with Milanovich's offence. It's a lot more detailed with a lot more options than any offence he has ever played in. It's going to take some time and Milanovich knows that too.
"I think until he gets through a couple of games (full games) that he is going to be in adjustment mode," Milanovich said of Ray. "He's really been doing well and it hasn't shown up in the pre-season (games), but we have seen what he is doing every day for two weeks."
Who will catch the ball?
Without question this has to be the biggest unknown surrounding the Argos right now. Andre Durie has a hamstring problem, the severity of which is still unknown. Jason Barnes should be back in practice this week and Milanovich expects he'll be ready for the season opener in Edmonton.
That deep cut that Maurice Mann suffered earlier in camp continues to keep another of Ray's known targets out of the lineup for the time being. Like Durie, Milanovich said he had no idea when the veteran receiver would be making his return.
In their absence, no one has jumped up and laid claim to a job.
Tuesday though did see a couple of guys at least edge the needle their way, Jessie Hubbard chief among them.
Hubbard had three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown for the second consecutive game in catching Milanovich's eye.
"Jessie did some really nice things," the head coach said. "He seemed to play fast and caught some balls in traffic and did a nice job."
But there's no doubt the onus early on is going to be on the veterans the Argos have on the roster.
Kyle Quinlan wasn't exactly playing in front of the home crowd but the Alouettes quarterback was much closer to McMaster where he helped win a national title and looked very much at home. Quinlan, in what might have been the prettiest play of the game, came on late in the fourth quarter for the Als and on his first play hit Felton Huggins for a 41-yard completion. He finished the day making good on two of four pass attempts for 45 yards ... The Argos won the penalty battle by a huge margin in the first half much to Milanovich's chagrin. The Argos were flagged nine times in the first half for 45 yards while the Als took just three penalties for a total of 15 yards.