TORONTO - It’s the game within the game, a matchup that will ultimately decide Monday night’s winner, a kickoff where the subplots are aplenty, where points figure to be scarce.
While much has been made of Cory Boyd’s return to Toronto, the spotlight must be on Ricky Ray and how the Argos offence decides to attack Edmonton’s defence, a unit that stood out in a late June win by the Eskimos.
Many will recall Ray’s days in the Alberta capital when he’d drop back in the pocket and throw down field on corner routes to the weak side when he’d look a safety off and hook up with Fred Stamps.
Others will remember what football people call “home run’’ throws, deep balls that result in touchdown.
It’s not like the Argos have abandoned the above throws, but offences don’t necessarily force issues, preferring to exploit what opposing defences are yielding.
When he begins to describe Ray’s decision making on deep balls, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich uses the term ‘‘phenomenal.’’
Unfortunately, fans of the Double Blue are looking for more out of Ray when a lot was expected given how much was invested in the quarterback.
Having played his former team, Ray should be a lot more comfortable in going through his progression and finding his target against a defence that likes to play zone.
Naturally, the Argos offence can get better, their biggest issue remains an inability to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, but progress is being made and Milanovich need only look at last week’s win over Calgary for evidence.
“Last week was a step forward,’’ Milanovich said. “We were much more physical, receivers, the O-line, we were hitting people. To get everything working, to get our run game working, our receivers need to block.”
And to hear Milanovich tell it, Ray needs to continue doing his part.
In no game this season has Ray completed fewer than 60% of his passes.
He’s on pace for his fourth 5,000-yard season and he’s becoming more involved in the game planning.
“It’s not his nature, but the dialogue is getting better,’’ said Milanovich, who relies a lot on quarterbacks coach Jason Maas, Ray’s ex-teammate and friend. “He doesn’t have a lot of opinions, but he’s gotten better in letting us know if he doesn’t like something.”
When Milanovich makes a call, Ray has what the head coach calls a “veto ability.’’
Lost in Toronto’s season-opening loss in Edmonton was the fact Ray did not throw an interception.
The Eskimos, in a nutshell, want quarterback Steven Jyles to manage a game.
The Argos need Ray to make plays, but he has to be patient and smart in his reads.
Milanovich isn’t caught up in any numbers, is completely unaware of where Ray ranks among the CFL’s passing leaders and quite frankly isn’t worried.
“Ricky’s having a very, very good season,’’ said Milanovich. “As long as he keeps playing like he has, we’ll be happy.”
At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Coach not losing any sleep over playing against Boyd
As is the nature of the media beast, Scott Milanovich was forced to revisit the release of Cory Boyd on the eve of the running back’s return to Toronto.
When he huddled with reporters on Sunday, talk quickly turned to Boyd, whose run in Double Blue ended two weeks following an Argos loss to B.C.
Asked if the team has talked about Boyd’s return, Milanovich pretty much summed up his feelings in one word: “No.”
When pressed if the Argos expect see to much of Boyd on Monday night as a ball carrier or receiving threat, Milanovich offered the expected reply.
“I don’t know. It’s obviously their (Eskimos) decision.”
The decision to go with Chad Kackert does add a different wrinkle.
Unlike Boyd, Kackert is not a downhill runner.
Kackert is undersized and his style fits the CFL game and definitely fits Milanovich’s passing offence better than Boyd.
Talk to any linebacker and they simply salivate at facing running backs such as Boyd because they can’t hide.
“Chad thought we were making fun of him, but one of the benefits of not being very tall is that it’s harder for people to see if he has the ball or not,” added Milanovich.
“I noticed it in practice the last two weeks. Our defensive guys were having a harder time noticing if he had the ball or not.”
OWENS’ VALUE NEVER HIGHER
Chad Owens has emerged as such an indispensable option on offence that the Argos no longer have plans to monitor his reps.
Heading into Monday night’s visit by Edmonton, the intent is to leave it in Owens’ hands when he feels a breather is required.
Earlier in the season, the Argos would occasionally give Owens a breather on offence, a decision the team felt would better serve Owens’ production on special teams.
With Chandler Williams capable of making plays in the return game, and it was a kickoff against Calgary in the home opener that led to the game-winning field goal, Owens has become an every-down receiver, someone who is quickly becoming one of the CFL’s big-play threats on offence.
“He’s just too valuable on offence,’’ said head coach Scott Milanovich. “It’s tough to rationalize bringing him off the field. He’s a weapon (opponents) have to defend. In the near future, unless he needs a blow (rest), I don’t see him coming out of the offence.”
In CFL history, only Michael (Pinball) Clemons has posted a 1,000-yard season in receiving, punt and kickoff returns.
After seven games, Owens is on pace to join Clemons.
After seven games, Owens leads the CFL in combined yards (1,662), a pace that will give Owens an unspeakable third straight 3,000-yard season.
In the season opener against the Esks, Owens posted his first 100-yard game of reaching the century mark in receiving yards, punt returns and kickoff returns.