TORONTO - In terms of game management, ball security and leadership, Jarious Jackson deserves high grades for stepping in for an injured Ricky Ray and stepping up for the Argos.
Moving forward, however, it’s incumbent on Jackson to make plays down the field if Ray is unable to play against Saskatchewan on Thanksgiving Monday as the Argos play at home for the first time in a month.
It’s one thing when a defence is scoring and forcing turnovers against a fragile team such as Winnipeg, it’s quite another when an offence has to produce against a team such as the Riders, who appear headed for the post-season.
For now, all is well in Argoland, especially in the wake of a 29-10 win Saturday night in Winnipeg that improved Toronto’s record to 7-6. But there are issues that need cleaning up, a passing offence that must be much more productive and an offensive gameplan that won’t be as conservative if another early 21-0 lead is established.
Starting for the first time in two years, no one in their right mind would have expected Jackson to lit it up. What he did, more than anything, was use his feet to extend drives and avoid turnovers, which was achieved despite a fumble that Winnipeg returned for a touchdown that was rightfully overturned.
However, if Jackson is asked to start against Saskatchewan — which knocked off the B.C. Lions 27-21 on Saturday night and has won four of its past five to improve to 7-6 — then more must be summoned. Anything less won’t be good enough.
Admittedly, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich went the conservative route in the second half against the Bombers — attempting only nine passes — a prudent move when it was obvious the home side didn’t have the necessary offence to get back into the game.
In a pass-happy league, it’s rare for any team, no matter who is lining up under centre, to manage only 52 yards passing in a half. But on Saturday, it spoke to the flow of a game that clearly favoured the visitors.
“I felt it was the right to do,’’ said Milanovich. “The way our defence was playing, the way we were able to run the ball in the second half, I didn’t feel the need to air it out.”
The shots Jackson took downfield came in the opening half, when he also used his legs to emerge as Toronto’s leading rusher. Given his big arm and that the conditions at the Rogers Centre will be ideal, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of passing game Milanovich embraces if Ray can’t play and Jackson has to make plays through the air.
Whatever happens, getting Chad Owens involved again has to be a priority. In the ’Peg, Toronto’s leading receiver had only two receptions, none in the second half.
Dontrelle Inman was used deep, while Maurice Mann was deployed in underneath routes on some key second-down conversions.
When it comes to Ray’s status, Milanovich won’t compromise his incumbent QB.
The Argos have Monday and Tuesday off and won’t begin to focus on Saskatchewan until they return to the practice field on Thursday.
“I trust him,’’ Milanovich said of Ray, who accompanied the team to Winnipeg.
For what it’s worth, Ray told Milanovich on Saturday that he felt better.
“But I don’t know what that means,’’ said the head coach.
It may mean Jackson gets to start his second game and that a more aggressive play-calling may be in order.
More than any play Jackson made, what impressed Milanovich the most was how his backup quarterback took ownership for his mistakes.
“He owes up when he makes a mistake,’’ he said. “He was in control of that football game and guys felt that.”