TORONTO - Funny, but Ricky Ray and Ken-Yon Rambo didn’t run that post-route once in practice last week.
The one where the Canadian Football League veterans hooked up for a 49-yard gain against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Saturday, bringing the Argonauts to the Ticats’ one-yard line and an eventual Jarious Jackson touchdown in Toronto’s 45-31 victory?
That kind of completion hasn’t been seen much in Double Blue film in the past several years, but then, there has been no one of Ray’s ilk throwing the football in Toronto and few receivers with the experience of Rambo.
“It just gives you more trust in the guy,” Ray said of Rambo, who for years was an adversary when Ray was with the Edmonton Eskimos and Rambo down the highway catching passes with the Calgary Stampeders.
“You know he has made a lot of plays in this league, he has been there, he is not going to go out there and be confused by anything. He can read coverages and get himself to the right spot. I was on the other side just watching him play a lot in Calgary, just seeing the plays he made, I’m comfortable that if I give him the opportunity, he is going to make plays.”
Rambo has played for the Argos in just the past two games, but unlike a rookie or someone who is not familiar with the Canadian game, has demonstrated he does not need a heck of a lot of time to get up to speed. Undoubtedly, the B.C. Lions defence on Saturday in Vancouver will provide a stiff challenge for an Argos offence that continues to evolve, but having Rambo could make the test a little easier to hit head-on.
“Ken-Yon is a guy who, right from the start, it is easy for a quarterback to read him,” Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said.
“His body language, where he is going, to me he is an easy guy to time up and I think Ricky feels that way too. I think their confidence has grown. That big play they had, that was the first time all year we had a chance to throw that on that play. For them to hit it on the first time, I think that says something about those guys being on the same page from the start.”
Rambo became a favourite target for Stampeders quarterbacks from the time he first stepped on to the CFL gridiron in 2005. The Argos signed the 33-year-old Ohio State product to their practice roster on Aug. 21, and now he is confident that his years of service in the league will lead to good things in Toronto.
“Getting reps and touches, that’s what it boils down to,” Rambo, who has moved in with fellow receivers Mo Mann and Jason Barnes, said on Tuesday after the Argos had a light practice at their training facility in Mississauga.
“I have been in plenty of offences, but they all come down to the same concepts, really.
“Ricky is awesome and makes it really easy for you. His accuracy is pinpoint.”
The flow of each game dictates how much a receiver will be used, but Milanovich figured that Rambo will start to see the ball with increased regularity. In two games, Rambo, who won the Grey Cup with the Stamps in 2008, has five catches for 82 yards.
“He has some energy in his body, his momentum that comes with being who he has been and games he has played in and being an all-star,” Milanovich said. “Guys respect that. You need some swagger in your locker room. We have some guys who have it, but you never have enough. Physically he is getting better and better, it seems to me. As he gets more comfortable, hopefully we can utilize him even more.”
That’s just fine with Rambo, whether it’s like the eye-opening catch he made against Hamilton.
“I have the utmost confidence in myself and I plan on catching a lot more,” Rambo said. “Anything, whether it’s making blocks down field or scoring touchdowns, to help my team.”
KACKERT TO KICK IT UP A NOTCH
Chad Kackert knows it’s one thing to rack up the yards against a poor Hamilton Tiger-Cats defence and quite another to do it versus the stingy B.C. Lions.
So the Argonauts running back wasn’t about to rest on his CFL offensive player-of-the-week honour, which was announced on Tuesday after his obliteration last Saturday of the visiting Ticats.
“They are an aggressive team,” Kackert said of the Lions, currently the top outfit in the CFL. “I know some of their defensive backs — (former Argos) Lin-Shell and Byron Parker — those guys are fast and they bring a lot of violence with their hits. We’re going to have to be ready for another violent game.”
Kackert rushed for three touchdowns, becoming the first Argo in 11 years to do so, and 172 yards. He added 67 yards on six receptions, giving him 239 all-purpose yards.
Two of his touchdowns came from runs of 43 and 39 yards.
“Everyone is blocking, you see linemen getting 30 yards down field, and all the receivers were doing a great job of holding their blocks,” Kackert said. “Both those long touchdown runs, I was not touched by anybody. You can say what you will about speed, but you can’t do that no matter how fast you are if there is nowhere to run.”
Kackert, who became an integral part of the Toronto offence when Cory Boyd was released in August, wanted to treat the offensive linemen to a meal.
But they were having none of it.
“I offered to buy them some food today, but they think that is bad luck,” Kackert said. “So we’ll wait until the season is over.”
Among CFL backs who have had at least 40 carries, Kackert leads the league with an average of 7.6 yards.
“He’s still working, missed a block here or there, but he is giving us everything he has,” Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said. “I feel like he has grown and we are growing as an offence with him.”
RAY HOPES TO TAME LIONS
Ricky Ray is certain what a victory against the B.C. Lions on Saturday would mean for his Argonauts.
“It would be a great statement, for sure,” Ray said on Tuesday.
“As a team, we have not accomplished anything. This is our first year together and we are winning some games, but that’s one we have to go out there and show we are a good football team.”
The Argos, 6-4, will practise for the next two days before departing on Thursday afternoon for Vancouver, where they have not won since 2002.
The Lions, defending Grey Cup champions and in first place in the CFL with a 7-3 record, lead most of the defensive categories.
“We didn’t play well against them at home (in a loss on Aug. 6),” Ray said. “It’s an opportunity for us to keep our momentum going, and we are in first place (in the East Division). It is time for us to go out there and win and keep ourselves up front.”
WILBUR PUNTED SIDE
As expected, Eric Wilbur’s stint with the Argonauts ended at one game.
The Argos released the kicker/punter on Tuesday after he performed admirably in a 45-31 victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Saturday. Wilbur, who played for the Ticats in 2010, was managing a bar near Orlando, Fla., when the Argos called him last week after regular kicker/punter Swayze Waters suffered a neck strain.
But Waters is good to go for the Argos’ game in B.C. versus the Lions on Saturday, and with rookie Anthony Alix on the practice roster, Wilbur’s presence no longer was required.
Head coach Scott Milanovich indicated defensive end Ejiro Kuale and halfback Ahmad Carroll, who did not play against Hamilton because of injuries, will return against the Lions. The status of Andre Durie, who did not play on Saturday because of injury, is unclear. Milanovich said he is “not sure” if Durie will play in B.C.