Argos hope Ray returns vs. Als
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Argos QB Ricky Ray injured his leg during a game versus Montreal last month. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)
Until Ricky Ray is back and heaving the pigskin down the field or on underneath routes to his receivers, the biggest story in Argoland won’t be hard to find.
Finding answers will prove much more difficult and elusive. But for now — and perhaps well into the coming days and maybe even weeks in a worst-case scenario — Ray’s injured left knee is the only area worth monitoring.
The blueprint of how to win a game when a backup is suddenly thrust into the spotlight was provided in Winnipeg on Sept. 29, a script that involved a lead on the game’s opening drive, a defensive touchdown and an efficient offence that managed the clock and protected the football until the near end when no amount of turnovers could alter the outcome.
In Jarious Jackson, the Argos have a solid backup. But in Ray the Argos have a two-time Grey Cup-winning quarterback who makes players around him better.
It’s one thing to manage an offence and a game, quite another to win a game, which is basically what the Argos had to do on Thanksgiving Monday when the visiting Roughriders jumped out to an early lead and emerged as the dominant team.
On Wednesday, the Argos gathered en masse for the first time since their 36-10 pasting, licking their wounds, watching film and getting set to play host to Montreal as Sunday’s kickoff looms as a battle for first with tiebreaking repercussions hanging in the balance.
The Argos are preparing as though Jackson will start, but there’s a shot Ray will be back, pending Thursday’s practice and what Ray is able to do.
“We focus on Jarious, but if Ricky is able to go out (Thursday) and play, he’s going to play,’’ head coach Scott Milanovich said. “The odds are all coming down to where he’s (Ray) at, how he feels. We didn’t ask him today (Wednesday) to test it. We’ll wait until tomorrow (Thursday) to know.”
No one knows for sure what’s at play, but it’s going to be Ray’s call and the Argos aren’t about to compromise their marquee quarterback.
Prior to Monday’s kickoff, Ray was seen soft-tossing the pigskin.
On Thursday, Milanovich spoke with Ray.
“He’s feeling a little bit better than a couple of days ago,’’ said the head coach. “We’ll wait for as long as we have to wait.
“Ricky’s the type of guy when one day he’ll say he’s ready to go. Until that happens, we plan on playing Jarious.”
Ray strained his left knee during last month’s visit to Montreal.
According to Milanovich, Ray is on schedule, “if not ahead.’’
Milanovich is no doctor, but he does know Ray will wear a brace.
As a former quarterback, Milanovich understands the importance of the plant leg and the transfer of weight from the right side to the left.
“All the weight transfer takes the stress of the throwing motion and the hips clearing. It’s very important. He’s feeling comfortable with the brace he has and as long as it feels loose, he’s not going to go. Until he feels it completely tighten up, then that’s when I think he’ll pull the trigger.
“He’s a tough guy and he’ll be back sooner than most.”
One area the Argos are working closely with Jackson involves tightening the quarterback’s drop.
“Sometimes he’s a little too long, which gets him too much depth,’’ said Milanovich in breaking down Jackson. “By doing that, it makes it easier for the guy (defender) to run around the corner.
“Now, he (Jackson) has to climb the pocket and adjust his feet.”
When he came on in relief of Ray in Montreal, Jackson entered the game with the Als leading 10-0.
Montreal won 31-10 on an afternoon that saw Jackson complete 15 of 31 passes for 198 yards, had one ball picked off when he forced a throw to Chad Owens on third down and had zero touchdowns.
Clearly, Jackson needs to do more if he does get the nod this week.
Equally clear is that the rest of his teammates must also elevate their game.