August 29, 2012
Argos want change without changesNeed to improve, but are unwilling to make moves even after loss to Edmonton
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - As they approach the halfway mark of the CFL season, the Argos believe they have a Grey Cup-contending roster.
The frustrating part is they only look like it some of the time.
Two weeks ago against the Calgary Stampeders on the Stamps home turf, the Argos looked like world beaters.
All three phases of the game — offence, defence, and special teams — were functioning at a very high level.
A week later — three days ago to be precise — those three units looked as bad as they have all season in a loss to Edmonton and in some corners a complete makeover was being called for.
Fortunately for the Argos, the man in charge of any would-be makeovers isn’t about lose his mind and start airlifting in a rash of NFL cuts over a game, even one as bad as the loss to Edmonton on Monday.
Jim Barker sounds very much like that is something he could do if need be. He and the Argos scouting department have seen every one of the NFL’s 32 teams in person already this pre-season and have a database on who they like and who could help them if they fell victim to the final cuts.
But Barker doesn’t feel that will be necessary.
As inconsistent as the Argos have been, he remains confident that they are only a few players away from being a championship team.
“We believe at this point in the season that we have a great opportunity to be a Grey Cup champion team,” Barker said Wednesday. “We are not in a mode of development so to speak. We do have young players that we are trying to develop but we believe we are just a couple of pieces away from having a Grey Cup champion. We will continue to tinker until we find that and once we do we will go with that.”
Now, before anyone accuses Barker of having ingested too much of that funny smoke when he was off scouting on the west coast, understand that he’s not saying the Argos are playing like the best team in the CFL right now. He’s just suggesting that they can get there and do so primarily what they have on their roster right now.
Barker was as upset as anyone with Monday’s performance.
“There was a lot of disappointment,” he said choosing his words carefully. “You saw us not in the kind of rhythm you would hope to be at this point. Making some mistakes on defence that we haven’t made. Taking some penalties on special teams that we haven’t made that are costly. Now ask me how I felt the week before when we won in Calgary. I felt great. I thought we had a chance to beat anyone in the league.”
And therein lies the biggest question regarding the Argos. Are they the team that played so solidly in all three phases of the game against Calgary or are they the team that a week later laid a giant egg in the loss to Edmonton.
“We need to develop maturity that will lead to consistency and once get consistent, we can beat anyone in the league, but you have to be able to do it week in and week out and our team hasn’t done that yet,” Barker said.
“I do believe that we have what is necessary,” he added. “Now will we play to that level each week? I don’t know. We’ve gone into Calgary and beaten a good Calgary team. We’ve gone into Montreal and beaten Montreal. Then we’ve lost twice to Edmonton who are second place in their division.
“It’s one of those things where we’re a .500 team. That’s what we are right now. Is that good enough to win the Grey Cup? I don’t think so but we are very close to being where we want to be. We just have to develop some kind of consistency. Consistency is what wins. That’s what B.C. had last season. They got consistent at the end of the season. They got the same performance every week. That’s what we’re striving for.”
So Argos fans scouring the cut lists of NFL teams in hopes of finding a quick solution to the Argos problems can quit now. The team may bring some of those bodies in but they will be with an eye towards next season.
“At this point we are maneuvering among the players we have to find the best blend,” Barker said. “It does take time especially with this offence. If you’re going to bring a receiver in it’s going to take time for him to get acclimated.”
What it all means is that what you see now on the Argonauts roster is going to get the job done or it’s not.
And it’s not just the general manager who says so either. The guy who he turns the roster over to isn’t looking for or expecting a whole lot of change either.
“We don’t want to have a lot of turnover but as guys play their way on or play their way off, those are decision we will have to make if or when they happen,” head coach Scott Milanovich said.
Like Barker, he sees a team that can compete with anyone. They’re just not showing that often enough right now. But while Barker confidently predicts the team will get there eventually, Milanovich wants to see something right now.
“It’s kind of the same old story with this team,” Milanovich said. “We’ve had our steps up and our steps down. There has been gradual increase in the way we are playing but it hasn’t been the amount that I would want at this point. The urgency is ratcheting up as we get deeper into the season. We’ve got to start making that climb.”
KACKERT’S PRIORITY: PROTECTION
Chad Kackert has only had the starting running back duties for two weeks, but he admits he’s not exactly sitting easy these days.
After a stellar debut in the Calgary game following the release of Cory Boyd, Kackert got a little wake-up call in the Edmonton game.
According to both Kackert and head coach Scott Milanovich, the Argos newest offensive starter had a couple of protection issues in the game.
One need only look at the Boyd release to understand how highly the Argos head coach views the job of a running back in protecting his quarterback.
Kackert though can rest easy. It was certainly more than just two missed blocks that cost Boyd his job.
“He has to clean those up,” Milanovich suggested. “This game wasn’t as good, but his effort was high and his knowledge of what he need to do remains high.”
Kackert is well aware of what is expected of him in his new position.
“It’s great that the team scores touchdowns and gets yards, but it really doesn’t matter if Ricky (Ray) doesn’t have time to throw the ball,” Kackert said. “That’s definitely my priority so if those are my mistakes, I’m not sitting easy right now, but I do have the opportunity to know that is the problem and to work on it.”
PENALTY PROBLEM ‘CONTROLLABLE’
Ahmad Carroll single-handedly accounted for 79 of the 154 yards in penalties the Argos were assessed in Monday’s loss to Edmonton.
Head coach Scott Milanovich, when asked what part of the loss troubled him most, pointed to the lack of discipline his team showed in taking those penalties.
So it wasn’t exactly surprising to hear that the coach and his rookie cornerback had a little man-to-man talk earlier Wednesday.”
“Penalties concerned me because those are controllable,” Milanovich said. “You are going to have a bad game physically from time to time but the penalties we can control and obviously we can do better.
“I’ve spoken to Ahmad and it’s a conversation that is going to stay in house but Ahmad is aware of the situation and aware that it cannot continue.”
Carroll was flagged four times on Monday — a 49-yard pass interference call, a 10-yard illegal contact on a receiver call, a five-yard offside penalty and late in the game drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
“The main thing is don’t let it happen again,” Carroll said of his approach this week. “Correct it. Work on it in practice.”
In fairness, it wasn’t just Caroll’s penalties that concerned the coach. Rookie kicker Swayze Waters’ third-quarter kickoff that went out of bounds got mentioned as well. The 30 yards it cost the Argos in field position was deemed easily correctable.
REINDERS CAN HELP OUT SOON
Joel Reinders’ football resume includes something in the neighbourhood just north of 20 games, but that’s not going to keep him from making an impact with the Argos general manager Jim Barker said Wednesday.
The Argos’ newest offensive tackle did not take part in the team walk-through Wednesday. He had to leave part way through to get his team physical done, but if there is one area Reinders has excelled in, it’s picking up things quicker than most.
It’s why Barker sees no reason that Reinders can’t contribute to the Argos this year despite his lack of experience.
“There is no doubt that he can help us this year,” Barker said. “I have had guys in this league as an offensive line coach where I had to get a guy ready in two days to play. A lot depends on how smart he is and his ability to pick things up. In talking to people with the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants (both training camps that Reinders attended) they said he was a bright guy and he learned their schemes easily.”
Reinders played a few NFL pre-season games and spent four years with the Waterloo Warriors football program but did not play football in high school.