Argos coach tosses a flag

Argonauts returner Chad Owens (right) gives the Eskimos' Mathieu Bertrand the old face pushoff...

Argonauts returner Chad Owens (right) gives the Eskimos' Mathieu Bertrand the old face pushoff Saturday night in Edmonton. (REUTERS)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

TORONTO - Eventually, the time will arrive when rookie head Scott Milanovich must take time away from players who emerge as penalty-prone.

Eventually, it will come down to players being benched, players demoted or even the extreme measure of players being released if the trend persists.

Anyone who visits an Argonauts practice is apt to see many things — schemes, personnel groupings, the tedium of linemen shuffling their feet.

Anyone who visits a workout also can hear Milanovich’s raised voice when an infraction gets committed.

It’s not like the Argos aren’t coaching their players, but at this rate, at least based on one game, Toronto is well on its way in leading the league in penalties.

When the two-game pre-season ended, a couple of troublesome themes surfaced, two areas that have yet to be resolved, two areas that indirectly led to last Saturday night’s season-opening loss in Edmonton — slow starts on offence and lack of discipline.

By the time the Argos mounted anything worth watching offensively, they were trailing 13-0.

By the time their 19-15 loss was officially in the books, the Argos had committed a whopping 18 penalties that would amount to 118 yards.

In comparison, the Argos attempted 14 rushing attempts for a combined 77 yards.

It doesn’t take a football genius to figure out that something must give in Argoland, where the pressure to perform is as high as any across the eight-team CFL.

Whether it was opening-night nerves, the presence of so many new faces unfamiliar with three-down football, the inability to step up in pressure situation, they are all excuses in the bottom-line world when an opposing team limits its penalties to seven.

And against a very stout Edmonton defence, every yard loomed large, especially when a five-yard penalty led to a down and distance that played right into the hands of the Esks.

“We have to be disciplined, otherwise we’re going to start taking playing time away from people if they continue to be a guy who can’t be disciplined,’’ Milanovich said.

“We point it out, we coach it every day in practice and it has to translate on to the field. We’re young and the old adage in football is that you see marked improvement from Game 1 to Game 2.”

Of Toronto’s 18 penalties, four were declined.

The breakdown of the infractions featured seven offside calls, three procedure infractions, two holding calls, followed by everything from an illegal block, illegal punt, too many men (on a punt return no less) and a pass-interference call that resulted in a 32-yard gain.

Can Owens stay healthy in multi roles?

The football jury is still out on Chad Owens, who plays with an edge that at times can leave him vulnerable.

The Argonauts are aware of it and head coach Scott Milanovich admits he has no clue how sustainable this multi-dimensional weapon will be if Owens is forced to line up on offence and handle his special-teams responsibilities as a returner.

“I don’t know if it is or not,’’ said Milanovich when asked about Owens’ sustainability.

About the only CFL player who falls in Owens’ class is Winnipeg’s Jovon Johnson, a splendid defensive back who is also capable of returning a punt into a touchdown.

“Chad’s such a physical runner and that’s the thing we have to keep an eye on,’’ added Milanovich. “It’s being continually discussed in terms of how long can he go with that load.

“He’s a weapon and he’s someone defences have to account for. And that’s the hard thing for us because he is such a weapon and we need him out there.”

On Saturday, Owens had a combined 18 touches, including seven on offence, producing a total of 324 combined yards.

No doubt Owens is a playmaker, but finding a balance that keeps Owens fresh is the key for the Double Blue.Having a healthy Andre Durie helps, a guy who can line up at the slot — and he’s a Canadian, a status that allows for some flexibility in the import/non-import ratio.

Scullers O-line gets an 'okay'

Toronto’s all-Canadian offensive line took some heat in the wake of Saturday’s 19-15 season-opening loss in Edmonton.

A touchdown would get called back on a holding penalty, while the Argonauts’ ground game never did get off the ground.

But football’s eye in the sky never lies and head coach Scott Milanovich feels the line did a decent job after the rookie head coach watched the game film.

“I thought the line was okay,’’ said Milanovich. “We had a chance to run outside and it was a receiver who missed a block.

“There was a time when Ricky (Ray) should have pulled it on an inside zone read play. It wasn’t just them (offensive linemen). We have to run more and run better.”

Obviously, an effective run game takes pressure off the line and off Ray.

First-year lineman Marc Parenteau came out of Saturday’s game with a hamstring issue, but Milanovich on Monday saif the free-agent acquisition should be okay for Saturday’s visit by the Calgary Stampeders.


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