And, if there is one thing Foley has always known it is where he is going.
He has always known who he is, and what he is supposed to do.
Suddenly one of the most creative sack specialists and rush ends in the Canadian game is back-peddling.
Foley has spent seven seasons in the CFL, the last three as a starter, creating havoc for quarterbacks and offensive linemen from his defensive-end position.
Now, as he is being called on to often drop into coverage, the havoc is still there, but it is being played out in his own mind.
“Our defence is doing well and we’re shutting teams down, winning games so that’s AWESOME. Personally, sometimes it’s a struggle because I’m doing things I’ve never done before and sometimes I feel I’m not playing well,” Foley said, as the CFL’s No. 2-ranked defence prepares to test itself against the B.C. Lions on Monday.
“I don’t really know that much about linebacker and reading coverages; where this guy goes one way; that guy goes another way. It’s a lot for me to think. I’m used to just going straight and beat the guy in front of me.”
As first-year defensive and assistant head coach Chris Jones’ new system evolves around him, Foley finds himself tentative.
He finds himself too much a spectator.
He isn’t so much questioning what the Argonauts are asking him to do, as he is questioning how to do it — or more specifically, whether he can do it up to his exacting standards.
While the Argos struggled and missed the playoffs last year, Foley had 69 defensive tackles and six sacks. In one game alone, July 15 against Montreal, he had eight tackles.
“Go one on one and beat a guy. That’s what I’ve learned. I don’t get to do that much (in the Argos’ current defensive scheme) so it’s different. As long as we win it’s great but if we were losing this would probably be a different interview. I’m in a contract year and it’s like this would be a different conversation.”
Foley’s numbers this year are not worth noting. Just ask him.
“People, they know Ricky Foley is a pass rusher and I’ve got one sack!
“I led the defensive line in tackles last year. This year? I stopped counting. I don’t know. As long as we’re winning ... ,” he lets the thought trail into silence.
“I just wish I could do the stuff they’re asking me to do as well as I could pass rush. But, I can’t. Yet. I got 10 years of playing defensive end. I got 10 weeks of playing linebacker. So it’s tough sometimes.”
While Foley is full of self-recrimination, head coach Scott Milanovich believes the change in defensive philosophy will be for the greater good — that the ends will justify the means.
“Ricky has done a nice job. Other guys (have been asked to change roles). Cory Boyd has gone from being No.1 option to No. 2 option to No. 3 option, to having Ricky Ray. Guys are accepting their roles. He (Foley) is asked to drop sometimes because Ricky is a talented athletic guy. He’s able to do it. Hopefully he’s taking this as a compliment.
“It’s all part of Chris’ grand scheme of keeping (opposition offences) off balance.”
The scheme is working. Offences have been thrown off-balance. And, Foley understands. It’s just that he wishes that he himself didn’t feel so off-balance.
In five games, he has five tackles. Those are not normal Ricky Foley statistics. By comparison linebacker Robert McCune had 10 tackles, and that was in just one game against Montreal. Rookie lineman Derrick Summers has 10 tackles. Linebacker Marcus Ball has 16.
“Initially I took it as a challenge that I’d become a better football player. Truthfully I will become a better all-around player. But,” said Foley, searching to find the words to express his feelings, “if you have a way of gauging your personal success ... how you play. You are used to seeing yourself play a certain way, with a certain speed and aggressiveness on film and .... like last week, in Montreal when I’m not playing defensive end I’m almost embarrassed how I played. I looked timid. I looked non-aggressive. I hate seeing that.”
He’s not blaming anyone. He’s not blaming the system. But his mind is a ball of confusion.
“That’s on ME. I got to change that. It’s getting comfortable with the system, getting used to going backwards instead of forwards. I haven’t really played that much football. Remember I didn’t play in high school, only three years at York and this is only my third year starting in the CFL and when I have played, its all been defensive end and just go, go, go, go!
“Now, I’m pretty good at knowing where everyone is supposed to be and knowing my job. I can draw the Xs and Os. But when it starts to happen in the game and there are adjustments, it’s like AHHHHHH, and I’m tentative. And in this game you can’t do that. That’s what I’m struggling with.”
Milanovich is confident he’ll figure it out.
“Sometimes it comes with being in a new scheme. It takes a while to get comfortable and for guys to understand what is being expected of them. Ricky, and everyone here, just needs to trust that everything that is being done is in the best interest of the Double Blue.”