The skies were threatening all morning, but the Argos had bigger problems than getting in a few more repetitions on the field
The number 18 — on the lips of every Argonaut this week as preparations for the Calgary Stampeders this Saturday began — represented the number of penalties the team took in its season-opening loss to Edmonton. And it’s a number that is going to have to come down if the team is to give itself a chance to win a football game this season.
So, a scheduled 10:45 practice turned into a noon walk-though allowing for a little more classroom work as head coach Scott Milanovich and his staff hammered home the need for more discipline on the field.
The 18 penalties cost the Argonauts 118 yards, not to mention a touchdown that was called back and the handful of scoring drives they kept alive for the Eskimos.
Milanovich has been on his team for a few weeks now about the need to clean up these costly tendencies, but so far, to no avail.
“Obviously, we have to play more disciplined,” the head coach said. “There are a lot of excuses I could make for (all the penalties) but I’m not going to. We just have to be more disciplined and it has to be something we take and make a priority every day, something we have to take ownership of because 18 penalties is too many for two games, much less one.”
Milanovich said it’s just going to come down to the players understanding that the status quo can’t, and won’t, be accepted.
“The thing is, they understand it, but it’s just not being applied,” he said. “There are no threats. The fact of the matter is if one player continues to show up in the penalty stats, then at some point that player has got to be removed. They understand that. You just can’t continue to be a guy that is going to take penalties and I expect it to get better.”
Quarterback Ricky Ray has been on teams that have suffered through a penchant for penalties.
“I’ve seen in it all,” Ray said. “Penalties, turnovers, busted plays — I mean I’ve seen some pretty poor performances. That’s always a hard thing. You don’t want to be playing against two teams out there. You just want to play the opponent. You don’t want to play yourself, too. And that’s what we got into (on Saturday in Edmonton). It was one of those games where we were helping the other team out, giving them free yards and it’s tough to rebound when you’re second-and-five and then all of a sudden you’re second-and-10 ... or you’re giving them a free first down. It’s just too hard to win games like that.”
Ray feels the Argos will eventually solve their penalty woes on the practice field.
“I’ve been on teams where we’ve had penalty (troubles) and it has taken a while for guys to get that clue,” Ray said. “ But I’ve been on other teams where we have been able to squash it right away. It’s just comes down to doing the right things in practice. If we are noticing a lot of offsides in practice and a lot of holding or busted plays, those things tend to carry over into games. We just need to tighten down our practice and then in the games it should carry over.”
Milanovich, meanwhile, knows this penalty situation can be rectified.
“All of those things are very, very correctable and it’s easy to talk about. It just has to happen,” he said. “It was the third game (including pre-season). The too many men on the field has happened the last two games so those are things that have got to be cleaned up or we’re going to be sitting here again talking like we are now.”
OWENS NOW A TRIPLE THREAT
Chad Owens has always had the tools to be a big game producer.
But for the bulk of his time in double blue, the Flyin’ Hawaiian has only been able to show his productive side on special teams whether it was returning kicks or punts or missed field goals.
But with a quarterback in control of the Argos offence who has nine years experience and a track record in the game that would leave most green with envy, Owens is now able to show off the full depth of his talents.
Ricky Ray’s arrival in Toronto makes Owens a triple threat and he wasted no time showing that breaking the 100-yard mark in receiving yards, punt return yards and kickoff return yards in the first game of the season.
The latter two skills have been on display for the better part of his time in an Argos uniform. It’s the former that should take a huge jump with Ray at the controls.
The league confirmed earlier this week that Owens became just the third player in league history (since those stats were all kept) to have hit that particular triple-triple - more than 100 yards in receiving, punt returns and kickoff returns.
Before Owens the last guy to do it was Winnipeg’s Albert Johnson III in 2000. The only other time came 12 years earlier when Hamilton’s Earl Winfield was the first to do so.
While the team is going to keep a close eye on Owens and the wear and tear all that usage can have on a player, Owens is not the least bit worried about it.
Coming into camp and knowing Ray was going to change the Argos offence for the better, Owens prepared himself for an expanded role from years past.
“Minutes wise I don’t think this is any different,” Owens said. “I have been doing this for the past two years minutes wise. Being on the field almost every snap on offence. But this year, I’m just getting more touches on offence and that is always good.”
He knows the time may come this season when Scott Milanovich or offensive coordinator Jason Maas or even special teams coach Mike O’Shea taps him on the shoulder and tells him that his role is being cut back in one of the three areas to preserve his health and stamina for the other two, but until that time comes, you won’t hear Owens seeking a reduction.
“I am not going to complain but I will trust what the coaches are doing, what they tell me to do and not to do so I’ll just go out every snap I get to play ball and be excited for it.
“If they feel they need to (reign me in ), they will do that,” Owens said. “But if I’m good and week in and week out coming out of the games healthy, I think I’ll be OK.. I just look at it as an opportunity to make a play. Every time my number is called I am going to be excited.”
And Owens isn’t buying the no-playmaker in the Argos receiving corps argument either.
“I’m excited for what we have (in this receiving corps),” he said. “You try to eliminate one guy we got someone else. We got Andre Durie, we got Jason Barnes, Spender Watt, Mo Mann. I mean we got playmakers so I’m not worried at all.”
Owens didn’t mention his own name but his opening week stats speak for themselves.