June 30, 2012
Early mistakes should hardly come as a surprise
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
Those growing pains you saw from the Argos Saturday night are going to be part of the price the organization pays for such a radical turnover of personnel in such a short time.
The changes were necessary. That was obvious. But the impact of so many in such a short period of time makes some struggles inevitable.
From the coaching staff to the schemes to the players on the field, turnover has been extensive and the unfamiliarity with the scheme, the CFL game, and even each other is going to take more than a pre-season to overcome.
And, no, this isn’t just about Ricky Ray.
This is about a brand new offensive scheme, a predominantly brand new offensive line, an almost fully new defence and yes, a new quarterback.
And all four had a hand in a slow start to the 2012 season in a 19-15 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.
The only thing that kept this one close was the fact the Eskimos are working in a new quarterback of their own in Steven Jyles.
On the plus side, the Argos defence was by far the most consistent part of the Argo game.
Pat Watkins and all that experience he gained in Dallas looked extremely good all night long even when he lined up at corner to answer Greg Carr’s height and reach.
Marcus Ball and Robert McCune were around the ball a lot.
About the only real complaint about the defence was the number of off-side penalties they took, Ball earning more than his fair share.
Of course the offence had their own fair share of penalties as well, an area of the game the entire roster is going to hear a lot about before they take the field again Saturday aginst the Calgary Stampeders.
As the man at the marquee position on the field, quarterback Ricky Ray is always going to get more attention than he deserves, both the good kind and the bad kind. His first half was extremely pedestrian although all the penalties and bad field position were working against him.
But in the second half Ray and his offence started to find their collective legs.
It wasn’t enough to pull out the win, but at the very least it was a step in the right direction.
Argonauts fans are going to have to be patient or they will tear their hair out before the season is four games old.
The guys up front
The offensive line, the backbone of any football team, is very much a work in progress. Ray was sacked three times, twice late in the fourth quarter but that was only part of the story.
There were also the procedure penalties and a costly Wayne Smith hold that negated a Spencer Watt touchdown.
But there were also all the hits that Ray took in the game, a sure-fire path to some ineffective quarterbacking if ever there was one.
It is this unit that is going to be watched as closely as any and it’s this one that has the most improving to do based on Game 1.
The personnel may have changed but the penalty bugaboo remains a thorn in the Argos side.
The Argos were penalized 16 times for 113 yards, many of them the kind of penalties that have coaches cursing under their breath and trying their damndest not to let anyone see it.
Head coach Scott Milanovich spent the better part of the week emphasizing the need for playing disciplined football and cutting down on the penalties that were a problem through two pre-season games as well.
But an overheard conversation between import rookie linebacker Ball and one of the field officials after he was called for his third personal off-side penalty of the night was a clear indicator that some of the Argos are still coming to terms with the rules of the Canadian game. That’s actually a good thing because that is easily correctable.
Owens looks sharp
It’s obviously very early but it looks very much like Chad Owens is going to benefit hugely from Milanovich’s new offence. Now a slotback, Owens is able to use his speed in this offence as opposed to all last season when the only time we saw his speed was returning kicks.
Owens hauled in a team high six passes for 100 yards and even if one of them appeared to be caught on a hop, Owens was twice the producer in Game 1 than he was at any point last season.
Not that they asked, but producers of TV sports should have a few rules that they can never break. Interviews with younger siblings is a definite no-no. But so too is the interview with any player from another sport who is not fully confident speaking in the English language. Nail Yakupov might be a big deal in Edmonton and hockey circles but he added absolutely nothing to a football broadcast unless confusion was the goal ... Running back Cory Boyd was the focus of Edmonton’s vaunted defence and had a very tough night because of it. While Boyd did get in the end zone for the only major of the half by the Argos, it seemed every time he touched the ball, he was surrounded by Eskimos defenders. As a receiver he hauled in 11 passes but amassed just nine yards. He was a little more effective running the ball with eight rushes for 48 yards.