June 24, 2012
Five areas to watch out for this week with the Double Blue
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The Argos have four days of practice prior to leaving for Edmonton where they open the 2012 season next Sunday. There is work to be done and the Argos are well aware of it. Here are five areas that will get plenty of attention prior to that flight out to Edmonton.
1. CATCH UP FAST
The receiving corps, now that it is finally getting back to health, has to collectively step up its game and help Ricky Ray as he adjusts to the new offence. Ray has been extremely forthright about the adjustments he is making and knows they will take time. In his two quarters of work in the pre-season, it looked like Ray was struggling to grasp the new progression of reads. But a reliable, not to mention familiar cast of receivers, certainly would have helped. Without Jason Barnes and Maurice Mann, two Argos Ray has a history with, the QB didn’t have a comfort zone per se with any of his receivers. And without Andre Durie, he was lacking one of more consistent pair of hands on the team. Barring a setback with Barnes or Durie, both are expected to be ready for Saturday’s opener.
2. THE BOYS UPFRONT
The offensive line remains unsettled both in terms of starters and cohesion. The latter is a product of almost an entirely new line from a year ago. The former is the reality that three of the five jobs have yet to be claimed. While the Argos are pretty much settled at the outside tackle spots with Wayne Smith and Chris Van Zeyl, there are three interior starters have yet to be determined. The Argos’ first wish is to go with an all-Canadian O-line. In the event they can’t, they still have Stephen Good on the practice roster. But for now, the battle will be between Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, Andrew Jones, Joe Eppele and Jonathan St. Pierre for the two starting guard positions and Marc Parenteau and Jeff Keeping for the starting centre spot.
3. MIDDLE OF IT ALL
While the defence is far more settled than the offence at this point, there is still the question of that unit gelling. On that front the recent arrival of 6-0, 245-pound middle linebacker Robert McCune may require some time. McCune is a former Stampeder and well versed in Chris Jones’ preferred style of defence which is going to be key. But he’ll still need to adapt to his teammates and vice versa. McCune only arrived in Toronto on Friday but with Anthony Cannon released and Ejiro Kuale moving up to join the defensive front four, McCune is going to be asked to step in rather quickly.
4. HELPING OUT RICKY
The coaching staff, particularly those on the offensive side of the football, will spend the week figuring out what plays put Ricky Ray in the best possible position for success. Ray obviously needs more time to master all of Scott Milanovich’s offence and that was expected according to the head coach. Now Milanovich has put the onus on himself and his staff to take the pressure off the quarterback by getting him off to a good start by front loading the game with play calls that Ray has mastered. The pre-season was not a good indication of where Ray is right now. He was much better in practice than he showed in limited action in the two games. But better starts will go a long to getting Ray more comfortable.
5. FIND SOME SWAGGER
The offence has to find its swagger. It’s a given that with a new (more complicated) offensive scheme in place, massive turnover on the offensive line and a banged-up receiving corps for much of camp, that the defence will have to carry the bulk of the load in the early going. But the offence has to start looking at least somewhat as sure of itself as the defence. Right now all the confidence in practice and in the two pre-season games seems to be coming from the Argos defensive players. The offence with Ray at the helm will be good in time. It wouldn’t hurt for some members of that offence to show a little of that same swag their defensive teammates are showing.