Argos have plenty to learn - and quickly

Chris Williams of the Tiger-Cats (centre) made the Argos special teams look pretty ordinary on...

Chris Williams of the Tiger-Cats (centre) made the Argos special teams look pretty ordinary on Saturday night in Hamilton. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:59 PM ET

TORONTO - Time is of the essence in Argoland, a team still licking its wounds from Saturday’s setback in Steeltown, a team facing a quick turnaround as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers come to town on Wednesday night.

As rookie head coach Scott Milanovich so succinctly stated on Sunday in summing up the team’s current plight: “There’s not much time to waste.”

And so the Argos will have basically one day to incorporate three days of practice when they gather on Monday, a day Milanovich figures as many as 18 plays will be fine tuned in preparation for Winnipeg.

Whether it’s addressing the team’s cover units, which has now yielded three majors in two games, including back-to-back returns in excess of 100 yards on missed field goals, finishing off drives with touchdowns, holding on to the football or converting on second downs, there’s plenty on Milanovich’s plate and yet so little time.

Defensively, the Argos have been solid, the second half of Saturday’s fourth quarter notwithstanding, a stretch that saw the visitors take momentum away from the Ticats, who jumped out to a 21-0 advantage.

With Hamilton clinging to a 29-27 lead, Henry Burris produced the game-sealing play on a night of big plays.

In an obvious passing down on second and seven, Burris stepped up in the pocket and saw a lane the size of Ivor Wynne Stadium as the middle of Toronto’s defence was inexplicably empty.

Burris gained 23 yards and would yet again use his legs on another second down scenario.

Four plays later, Burris hooked up with Bakari Grant on a six-yard touchdown strike and Hamilton’s first win of the young season loomed as a mere formality.

When he huddled with reporters on Sunday, Milanovich admitted he had spent his time watching the offensive game film and hadn’t seen the video evidence from a defensive and special teams vantage point.

In summary, Milanovich assessed Ricky Ray’s night as “average,’’ was pleased at the way his offensive line came off the ball, praised Cory Boyd, who produced a career-high night by rushing for 168 yards and was left to bemoan the many miscues that plagued the Argos.

In the red zone, Milanovich saw a couple of plays he would love to have back and a few plays where the Argos simply did not execute.

Of the many issues that have surfaced three games into the season, one involves the Argos’ inability to score touchdowns in the red zone.

“There’s no one answer,’’ said Milanovich of a red zone remedy. “There’s a lot of good things going on and we’re going to choose to continue to build on those.

“We’re never going to accept kicking field goals, but when you move the ball as well as we have between the 20s, you’re still accumulating points.

“We need to be hard on ourselves and understand we need to score touchdowns. At the same time, we can’t be upset if we do have to kick field goals because we do have a good defence.”

As good as Toronto’s defence is, it wasn’t good enough in Hamilton, especially when a second-down stop was required at a time when momentum had clearly swung in Toronto’s favour.

The Ticats scored 29 first-half points, but only one major could be pinned on the defence, which had a coverage breakdown that allowed Chris Williams to haul in a 34-yard touchdown.

It was Williams’ only catch on the night, but his damage came on special teams, returning a punt 89 yards for a major and a missed field goal 119 yards to pay dirt on what turned out to be the final play before the break.

Another key point arrived when Chad Owens, whose offside negated a 24-yard completion to Andre Durie, fumbled a punt, a turnover Hamilton turned into a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Meanwhile, former Alouettes safety Etienne Boulay has agreed to terms with the Argos.

The 28-year-old, who missed most of last season with a concussion, was released by Montreal on June 15.

PREFONTAINE INJURY ‘GETTING WORSE’

A lot more will become clear Monday, but the post-Noel Prefontaine era in Toronto is now being contemplated.

While some have pointed to Prefontaine’s inability to convert on field goals, the fact remains the Argos’ red-zone offence is a work in progress. While two missed field goals have been returned for touchdowns in two successive weeks, had the Argos tackled better and executed their lane responsibilities, neither score would have occurred.

As it stands, Prefontaine is unlikely to play Wednesday, the victim of a pre-existing hip injury the Argos were fully aware of when the season began.

Following Saturday night’s loss in Hamilton, rookie head coach Scott Milanovich, who played with Prefontaine in the XFL, spoke with the veteran kicker.

“He said it’s getting worse and worse,’’ Milanovich said.

Prefontaine was one of many injured Argos who showed up at the team’s Mississauga-based facility to get treatment, but players were not made available to the media.

In the absence of concrete information, the inevitable stream of rumours get floated, but it appears import kicker Swayze Waters is on his way to Toronto.

Walters tweeted on Sunday that he was “At the airport headed back to Canada. Didn’t even have time to unpack my bags. Excited to be playing with the @TorontoArgos.”

But given the short week, it’s no doubt the Argos will have a new kicker in place by Monday’s practice.

Rookie Anthony Alix is good kid with a big leg, but he’s not game-ready. The St. Francis Xavier product made his debut in Hamilton where he handled kickoff duties — and ultimately was asked to kick field goals when Prefontaine could not kick in the second half.


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