Argos' Watkins a quick learner

Pat Watkins of the Argos makes a play on the Stampeders' Jon Cornish earlier this season. Watkins...

Pat Watkins of the Argos makes a play on the Stampeders' Jon Cornish earlier this season. Watkins is tied with Robert McCune for the club lead with 24 tackles. (Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 PM ET

TORONTO - Pat Watkins has all the tools. Size. Speed. Leaping ability. Quickness. And, a gift for the glib.

Evidently growing up through some big-time football factories taught him not only how to play a good game, but also how to talk one.

A graduate of Florida State, the Argonauts cornerback went from the sublime to gridiron nirvana, spending five seasons in the NFL, four of them with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was thrown into a starting role his rookie season in 2006.

When it came to football, he’d pretty much been there; done that — got the T-shirt.

And, then, he met the waggle.

It was in the Argonauts’ exhibition game against Montreal. The waggle features receivers getting a running start toward the line of scrimmage — something that never happens (at least not legally) in the NFL.

“I’d never seen that before in my life. I’m thinking, ‘How the heck am I supposed to guard them? I’m standing still and they’re running right at me.’ I told (defensive and assistant head coach Chris Jones), ‘this don’t make no sense. They gonna run me right over.

“I had to adjust quickly,” said Watkins Saturday, as he and his teammates prepare for their toughest test yet this season Monday against the B.C. Lions. “I’m not the smartest man in the world but I know, what is it? Mass times acceleration equals force ... I get these big guys running right at you. Stopping them ... it was something I had to work on.”

Fortunately for Watkins, it appears he is a quick study. Not only has he picked up the nuance of the waggle, he has become among the dominant forces on the Argonauts’ rebuilt secondary. He is tied with linebacker Robert McCune for the club lead with 24 tackles.

In Dallas he was already regarded as a solid special teams player, one of the top gunners in the league, and now in Toronto he has become a ballhawk with two interceptions, including a game-changer in the end zone last weekend against Montreal’s Jamel Richardson.

“Montreal was very physical with (the waggle). I didn’t realize this league is such a physical game between the receivers and DBs.”

But he is learning it is better to give then receive. The physicality on the perimeter would appear to play in Watkins’ favour. He is a long, lithe 215 pounds slipped over a 6-foot-5 super-structure that has 4.42 speed and a 41-inch vertical leap.

“A guy that long and tall, it’s hard to run around them and they can get a jam on you. It makes it difficult to play against. The guy has just been getting better and better as we move along. And, the playing time he got in the NFL helped,” head coach Scott Milanovich said.

“There’s a composure. We talked about Armond Armstead playing at USC and the moment not being bigger than he is. Pat is the same way. He’s out there playing football and he’s not uptight because there’s a game on the line, or thinking: ‘Wow we’re playing against Anthony Calvillo or Travis Lulay! That doesn’t worry him because he’s been there.”

Well, maybe not exactly there. He admits most of the CFL receivers he’s gone up against have been, well, foreign to him. “I went from week to week. And, to be honest, if I heard a big name I might be going up against I’d look him up on YouTube.”

But, when you’ve had a baptism by fire covering the New York Giants’ receivers, or looked across a line of scrimmage at DeSean Jackson, pressure becomes a relative thing.

“In the NFC East there are great receivers everywhere but Jackson probably was the hardest because of his speed. Wow!” said Watkins. “I think it does help, from a confidence standpoint. I’ve been up against what some people consider the best in the world. So when I came to play Canadian football I knew I’d face some guys who were just as good, but I also had in the back of my mind that I’d played at a pretty high professional level. So there shouldn’t be that much new to me.”

Except, of course, that waggle thing. And, of course, Geroy Simon. Just the all-time greatest flycatcher this side of the Niagara.

Watkins has been watching him on game film. He even knows some of the stats. Class is class. In any league. But, just to be sure, Watkins plans to look him up anyway on YouTube.

“I’m going to look him up. Better believe it. Hey, you gotta understand the Internet made the world from real big to this big,” he said, laughing and forming a small circle with his thumb and forefinger. “I feel like I know Geroy, like, all my life. I might even say, hey, “how your kids doing? How’s the folks? ...”

 

FAMILIAR FOES

If Geroy Simon beats the Argonauts Monday, Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich has only himself to blame.

Sort of.

Simon is the CFL’s all-time receiving yardage leader, and it was Milanovich — then the quarterback at Maryland — who got him started, tossing Simon his first college TD in 1993.

“I believe it was a scramble. Imagine, me. Out of the pocket,” said Milanovich, chuckling. “He broke off his route and I just found him at the back of the end zone. I think he’d remember. You remember your first. And, it was against Florida State. And it was a close game at the time.”

Even then, the Argonauts’ coach said, it was evident that Simon was special. Even when both were with Tampa in the NFL and Simon couldn’t get playing time, Milanovich figured he’d find a home somewhere. “You can never predict numbers (but) when were in Tampa together I just felt he needed a break. He had that talent. So, I’m not surprised (how well he’s done).”

Asked who Toronto will be using to cover Simon, Milanovich’s lip twitched into a half grin. “I’m not sure. We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe we’ll have to put two or three (defenders) on him.”

 

SMITH SET TO START

Wayne Smith has Ricky Ray’s back.

After sitting out practice all week with a strained oblique, the Argonauts’ left tackle worked out Saturday with the No. 1 unit and said afterward he will play Monday against B.C.

“I plan on it. I’m no psychic or doctor. But I expect to play a whole game. If I didn’t think I could I would let someone else step in.”

Smith said he first suffered the injury early in last week’s game against Montreal although he’s uncertain exactly how it happened.

That he could recover this quickly would seem improbable. The oblique muscles run along the outside of the abdomen and can affect everything from torso to abdominal and shoulder movement. Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless was deemed out for the season when he injured his in March. Jays’ pitcher Brandon Morrow strained his in June and hasn’t pitched since.

So, there was every reason to think Tony Washington would get the start, a formidable challenge considering he’d be going against CFL sack leader Keron Williams.

But Smith said the injury started to feel better the day after the game and that he didn’t practice more as a precaution. “If I didn’t think I could play the whole game because of the oblique or the abdomen I would tell them. I wouldn’t want to hurt the team.”

As for hurting himself? Hey, it’s football. Everyone is hurt. By this time in the season it’s starting to become just a matter of degrees.”

 

 


Videos

Photos