July 10, 2012
Tough personnel calls loom for Argos
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - In football, regardless of the amount of downs allowed to get a first down, it’s never a bad thing to have too much of a good thing.
It’s far too early in the process to judge the depth and quality of Toronto’s receiving unit, but glimpses are being provided, potential rising to the surface. Underneath this layer, lies a dilemma any coach on either side of the border would love to have on his team.
In Argoland, rookie head coach Scott Milanovich will soon be forced into making some difficult personnel decisions, once the likes of Maurice Mann, whose training camp mishap involving a cut leg makes the veteran a week-to-week proposition, and Ken-Yon Rambo, an Argo-in-waiting who continues to wait for his Achilles to heal, become viable options.
Logically and realistically, if Mann, who was acquired late last season from Hamilton in exchange for defensive back Dee Webb, can’t dress for this Saturday night’s tussle in The Hammer, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to suit up for next Wednesday’s visit by Winnipeg.
Rambo’s status is far less known, but even if he’s cleared to play it’ll take time for this veteran to find his legs and get a feel for quarterback Ricky Ray.
“We don’t know at this point,’’ conceded Milanovich when asked his receivers and how he’ll handle the delicate act of shuffling his roster. “It’s hard to take a guy off the field like a Dontrelle Inman who played so well.
“Ultimately, it comes down to the ratio issue and where we choose to put our non-imports. It’s a week-to-week thing. I’ll have to make the decisions, but the bottom line is we’ll put our best guys (on the field).”
In Saturday’s home opener, no receiver stepped up more than Inman, a rookie whose drop on a routine catch over the middle was turned into a pick-six by Calgary.
Andre Durie continues to evolve and as long as he stays healthy, there’s no way the Argos can afford to keep the York product from lining up on offence.
Now that Chad Owens finally has a quarterback to get him the ball, the return ace is making plays on offence, though he still has the occasional bout of looking downfield before hauling in a pass.
Two games into the season and the one disappointment has been Jason Barnes, for reasons that can’t be easily explained.
If any receiver had an inside edge, it appeared to be Barnes, who ran shotgun with Ray in Edmonton, turning to Toronto as an off-season free agent, where Barnes loomed as Ray’s go-to guy in the mould of a Fred Stamps.
There’s still time, naturally, but six catches for 100 yards in two games is not good enough.
In Saturday’s wild 39-36 win, Barnes was flagged for an illegal block following an 11-yard reception to Durie, an infraction that ultimately forced the Argos into a field goal.
The CFL put in a rule before last season that prohibits cut blocks, below the waist, on down-field passes.
When he met with the media on Monday, Milanovich bit the bullet, saying it was his fault for assuming a veteran such as Barnes knew the rule.
While it’s noble on Milanovich’s part, the onus is on Barnes.
Money, of course, always plays a factor in any decision, especially in a league where every penny must be counted.
That’s not to suggest that a major change awaits, but decisions will have to be made once all of Toronto’s receivers are healthy.
The way Inman showed his deep-threat potential and ability to rebound from his dropped ball by hauling in two touchdowns, he isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
“He has a chance to be real good,’’ Milanovich said of his wideout. “What he has to learn is consistency. He’s a good kid, always smiling, he sits in front of the room and everybody loves this guy.
“Ricky’s beginning to trust him and that’s a huge part of it. Ricky’s not afraid to throw it up to him. And with a quarterback you have to have a feel for somebody and feel like you can read their body language. When you have that with somebody you feel you can throw it up and trust him to go make the play. I think they’re starting to develop that.”
HEAVY ROWING AHEAD FOR SCULLERS
It’s one of the vagaries of an eight-team league, where far too many games are played, occasionally with precious few days between kickoffs.
The Argos face such a scenario, a scheduling quirk in the quirky CFL that sees Toronto play twice in five days.
The Argos aren’t alone because every team will be required to spend some time game-planning for two opponents during the course of an 18-game season.
In Toronto’s case, head coach Scott Milanovich admitted his staff spent part of Sunday looking at Winnipeg, the defending East Division champions whom the Argos will play host to on July 18 after facing the Tiger-Cats this Saturday in The Hammer.
“We started to get a feel for Winnipeg, but when noon came around our focus was on Hamilton,’’ said Milanovich.
On the injury front, Pacino Horne is questionable with an undisclosed injury for this week’s game, while Kevin Huntley (foot) and Marc Parenteau (hamstring) are day to day.
The veteran Huntley has yet to play and it may be hard for the Argos to find a spot in the wake of their young defensive linemen playing so well, while Parenteau’s spot on the 42-man roster was filled by guard Andrew Jones on Saturday.
Cedric Gagne-Marcoux started at left guard against Calgary and moved to left tackle when Wayne Smith missed a few snaps when he got nicked up.