Argos need to get Boyd running

Argos running back Cory Boyd gets taken down against the Alouettes on Friday. Boyd may lead the...

Argos running back Cory Boyd gets taken down against the Alouettes on Friday. Boyd may lead the league in running, but needs to become more of a factor in the Boatmen's offence. He gained just 55 yards on the ground against the Als. (QMI AGENCY)

BILL LANKOFF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:16 PM ET

The Argonauts have a lot about which to be pleased.

They share the cat-bird’s seat with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a share of first place in the East Division. They are coming off a win in Montreal, an event which is celebrated about as often as the official opening of Rob Ford’s wallet.

Robert McCune was the Perfect 10 on defence against the Als. The linebacker never had more than 47 tackles in his two seasons in Calgary but the 10-spot against the Als put this season’s total at 24. Ricky Ray is the second-rated quarterback in the league right behind the icon otherwise known as Anthony Calvillo and Chad Owens — fourth in the league with 392 receiving yards — finally has figured out how to become as dangerous at receiver as he always has been on special teams.

Cory Boyd appears to have given up his title as the league’s leading Twitterbug but has gone back to being the leading rusher with 424 yards.

More indication that talking a good game always comes in second to actually playing one.

Even disaster has turned into a charm with the injured Noel Prefontaine’s injury resulting in the uncovering of kicker Swayze Waters, who’s 50-yard field goal proved the difference in beating the Als, and whose 45-yard punting average ranks fourth in the league.

So, it’s all good, right?

“We still haven’t put a full game together,” head coach Scott Milanovich said Monday, as players enjoyed a day off before beginning preparations later this week for Monday’s game. “Defensively we didn’t play as well as we wanted in the first half (in the 23-20 win against Montreal). In the second half offensively we fell off the board. So the positive is, we found a way to win. The negative is we still need to find a way to put four quarters together.”

One area the Millanovich Express wants to address going into the holiday game against the defending champion B.C. Lions, is its boom and bust ground game. Boyd’s league-leading total includes two 100-yard games, including a 168-yard performance against Hamilton. But the past two games he has averaged less than four yards a carry. Boyd needs to be more of a factor against the Lions. He picked up only 51 yards on 14 carries and Toronto only gained 55 yards on the ground against Montreal.

Not that this is all down to Boyd — there are only so many brick walls disguised as linebackers that a guy can run through. The Argos’ offensive line needs to open more, and bigger, holes. “Getting that run game going is important. Not just to get Boyd going,” said Milanovich, “but also to get the pressure off the offensive line and take the heat off Ricky. When the ground game is going it helps the pass protection. It’s the same situation as after the first game (when Boyd was held to 48 yards); we need to get more proficient in the run game and for two weeks we did. It took the heat off.

“I think we’re back to where we didn’t run the ball as well in the last game and we need to get better.”

Perhaps Toronto’s wild inconsistencies are the result of inexperience, including many first-year players on special teams, perhaps it is still the result of unfamiliarity between linemen, perhaps it is learning pains with Milanovich’s system. Trying to teach consistency is like trying to catch a ghost. It’s wraithlike. Visible. Yet untouchable. Either a team has it; or it doesn’t. And, right now the Argonauts do not have it, as exhibited by inopportune penalties, missed assignments and admits Milanovich, “a bad play call” on his part.

So it is that in the first half, it was the Ray-led offence that stole the show, scoring 20 points against the Als. It could have had more if a Ray to Jason Barnes touchdown reception not been called back on a holding call. In the first half, Ray completed 13 of 17 passes for 236 yards. In the second half that same offence managed a mere 44 yards. Go figure.

Teaching consistency, like a coach teaches technique, or offensive schemes, or how to run a pass route, is a bit of a challenge if not a downright mystery.

“You just can’t let yourself get into a funk. It becomes a momentum thing,” said Milanovich. “When things are going great like they were in the first half offensively it just seems the confidence is up. When things start not going as well you lose that momentum, you get another two and out, and then something happens here or there. Next thing you know its a close game, you’re in the fourth quarter and just trying to win the game.”

So it is that the Argos three wins this season have been by a cumulative total of just eight points. On the upside, they did win. Which is a lot more than they could say most games last year.

Special teams mind games

Scott Milanovich doesn’t see much wrong with Toronto’s special teams. Physically.

Mentally, well, that’s a different story.

“I think it just is focus. And, guys have to understand that special teams is more important than offence and defence. So you have to give everything you’ve got there because that’s where the explosive plays happen.”

While Matt and Tristan Black are among the league leaders in special team tackles with seven and six respectivel y, it has otherwise been a bumpy ride for the coverage units.

Montreal’s Trent Guy took the ball to near midfield in each of his first three returns, and the Argonauts were fortunate it wasn’t worse. He had 102 yards on three kick returns before leaving with a rib injury.

With B.C. speedster Tim Brown, who already has an 81-yard punt return for a TD this season, on the radar, Toronto’s kick coverage has to be better. “It’s interesting because the punt coverage lately has been excellent while the kick coverage hasn’t been as good,” said Milanovich. “In my opinion its just effort and having the same intensity on every play. One guy gets out of his lane and with the returners we have in the league now it can turn into a big play.”

NOTES

Offensive lineman Wayne Smith, who guards Ricky Ray’s back side, injured his oblique and was to see a doctor Monday. His status for Monday’s game is uncertain ... Half the games in the CFL this season have been decided by four points or less ... The Argos became only the third team after Saskatchewan and Edmonton to win away from home this season.

 


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