Argos QB Jackson roles with it

Jarious Jackson is well aware that his start Monday against Saskatchewan likely will be his last...

Jarious Jackson is well aware that his start Monday against Saskatchewan likely will be his last with Ricky Ray all but set to return from injury. And he's OK with that. (Reuters files)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:47 AM ET

TORONTO - Unprovoked, unannounced, unscripted, Scott Milanovich addressed the Argos in his very first team meeting and then turned to Jarious Jackson, whom the rookie head coach only knew by reputation and through football’s grapevine.

“Without him knowing about roles and accepting roles, I called Jarious out in front of the team,’’ Milanovich would recall.

“ ‘Jarious, what’s your role?’ He stood up and said, ‘My role is to back up Ricky Ray and support him any way I can.’ That’s the kind of guy we’ve got when a lot of guys may not accept it the same way. Jarious has been there, been through it, he just wants to win, whether he’s starting or Ricky or anybody else,” Milanovich said.

For the second straight week, Jackson, whose history is one of filling in for an injured incumbent, will start, only this one has a different feel.

If Ray continues to show the improvements he’s experienced, Monday’s start against Saskatchewan will, in all likelihood, be Jackson’s last. But the Argos haven’t seen the last of this two-time Grey Cup champion.

All it took was one gathering for Jackson to leave a lasting impression, embracing a role to which he’s become accustomed in a new environment with a franchise that simply needs to keep winning.

In the hours leading up to Saturday’s practice, Milanovich and GM Jim Barker had occasion to discuss Jackson, dissect his game and the role he’s embraced.

“Jim and I just looked at each other and basically said he’s (Jackson) is exactly what you want as a backup quarterback,’’ added Milanovich. “He’s a such a pro and it sounds so cliche, but it’s just that. There aren’t many like him.

“Jim said in some of our quarterback meetings the other day that it’s a great room because they’re all supportive, they all study, and that’s important for your locker room.”

No one should be under any illusions about Jackson, a class act who simply knows how to manage games, someone who is clearly comfortable in his own skin and willingly broaches the deficiencies in his game.

With Ray poised to return, perhaps as early as next Sunday’s visit by Montreal, Jackson has absorbed every snap in practice, relished every play last week in Winnipeg and oozes a comfort as Rider Nation looms.

“You can tell there’s a little higher comfort level, I guess you can say,’’ said Milanovich. “The more reps you get, you’re a little more comfortable in being the guy. After a win on the road like that, there’s a little different look you get from your teammates, a trust factor.”

The Argos aren’t going to surprise Saskatchewan by suddenly airing it out on every single snap, but the extra week under centre should promote a more diverse attack than the conservative approach from last week.

Fact remains that Jackson did help the Argos take the opening kickoff and drive the field for a major, capped by a Jackson plunge on third down.

When a defence scores and a double digit lead is produced on the road, the prudent move was to go conservative.

Gerald Riggs Jr. will start for an injured Chad Kackert in the backfield, but don’t expect anything less than Riggs’ best, whose been running hard in practice and catching virtually every ball thrown his way.

Not only will Monday represent Jackson’s first regular-season appearance in Toronto, but it also marks Riggs’ coming-out party at home.

“I’m here to back up Ricky Ray,’’ said Jackson. “That’s my role. As far as I’m concerned, you complete everything at hand when everyone knows their roles. Nobody is stepping on anybody’s toes.”

In contrast to last week, the Argos have had a longer week of practice to prepare for the team’s first home game in exactly one month.

“It’s a double-edged sword when you have a long week,’’ said Jackson. “Sometimes in long weeks you can out-think yourself and sometimes you can do great things.”

The Argos aren’t expecting Jackson to be great against the Roughriders, but they do expect him to do his job.

All that’s required is for Jackson to play within himself and deliver the ball.

His mobility provides a running option that’s crucial when plays break down or when Jackson needs to pull the ball out.


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