Argos reaching for the top
By IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Ricky Ray works out on Friday as he continues to rehab his injured left knee. He is close to returning but will not start against the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)
To suggest Sunday’s tilt is the season’s be all and end all would be malarkey.
Surely, Joe Biden would agree. Certainly, Paul Ryan would not.
The truth is, on the tiniest of scales, the game means squat. Barring something going seriously awry down the homestretch, the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes are both destined for the playoffs come November regardless of how it shakes out at the Rogers Centre this weekend.
The bigger picture, though, depicts a contest oozing with intrigue, with as many implications as, say, a political debate.
And when it comes to the Argos, who, with a win on the weekend, can surpass the East division-leading Alouettes, there is still much to debate.
Will hints of a contending team re-emerge on Sunday, as this team tends to release in miniscule increments roughly every other game? Or will the Scullers revert to the messy, dysfunctional style that led to being stuffed at home by the Roughriders on Thanksgiving?
Most pressing — so long as quarterback remains the star position in football — is Ricky Ray’s imminent future, as Toronto's undisputed leader continues to nurse a left knee that went wonky in the first quarter of the last meeting between these teams — an Als rout — shutting Ray down for three weeks and counting.
That matter got less muddy on Friday when head coach Scott Milanovich declared 35-year-old career backup Jarious Jackson his starting pivot for a third straight week.
“I knew (Thursday) after practice, after (Ray) met with the docs and everything, that he probably wasn’t going to go,” Milanovich said following practice in Oakville on Friday. “I really didn’t watch him that closely (Friday), but I think he’s coming along great and I’m very, very hopeful that he can go next week.”
So it will be Jackson signaling the plays once more, and while it might not have seemed like it against Saskatchewan, the Boatmen insist they’re growing more comfortable with him each week.
“It has been comfortable from the get-go. When Ricky went down in Montreal, Jarious stepped right in and there was no real change to the flow,” veteran offensive lineman Jeff Keeping said. “He’s a proven quarterback in this league. We have a lot of confidence in him and know the type of leader, the type of player he is. He’s a confident guy and he brings that into the huddle.”
Any chemistry Jackson and Co. are building will need to reach a higher level should the Scullers, who have flirted with the idea of success all season long, wish to finally reach the top of the heap by surpassing a solid, if not susceptible Alouettes squad.
That’s the plan and Sunday seems like the ideal opportunity.
“The time is now. This is all we can ask for, is to go into a game on Sunday and have a chance to be first in the East,” Keeping said, adding the Argos are eager to secure a playoff spot, but also “to continue to do the right things and try to build and be peaking at the right time.”
Milanovich knows his team must to be sharper than it was in Monday’s meltdown and expects field position and discipline to be key.
But the coach insists he is happy with Jackson’s level of performance since taking over for Ray.
“I don't think that (Jackson) was a disaster (on Monday),” Milanovich said. “I thought he had a great week of practice and he threw the ball great the past two days.
“He’s just like any player. You just want to get back out there and get that bad taste out of your mouth.”
To suggest otherwise would be malarkey.
And come Sunday, if the Argos have there way, there will be less to debate about this team.