Ricky Ray might play for Argos on Friday

The Argonauts have lost four of their past five games, but head coach Scott Milanovich says he is...

The Argonauts have lost four of their past five games, but head coach Scott Milanovich says he is 'pretty optimistic' that quarterback Ricky Ray will be able to play Friday against Winnipeg. (QMI Agency/DAVE ABEL)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 PM ET

TORONTO - A ray of hope has emerged at a time when ominous clouds continue to hover over the Argonauts, a team whose offence evokes memories of John McKay and his famous quote when queried by the media about his team's execution.

"I'm all for it," the loquacious one deadpanned.

Argos head coach Scott Milanovich doesn't have McKay's pedigree or flare for one-liners, but he did utter some encouraging words on Monday when asked about Ricky Ray's status.

"I'm pretty optimistic," said Milanovich, whose offence was pretty brutal on Sunday during the Argos' 24-12 loss to the visiting Montreal Alouettes.

Assuming Ray does play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday, and his status will be made much clearer following Wednesday's practice, the Argos will get a piece that is simply irreplaceable.

Jarious Jackson did all he could, took responsibility, and showed his professionalism by not pointing fingers, but there's a reason why he's a backup and it became painfully obvious on Sunday.

There's also a good chance Chad Kackert will be back as Toronto's starting tailback and no chance that rookie receiver Dontrelle Inman will be back as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

Losers of four of five and now one game under .500, the Argos simply need to get a win, no matter how it's produced, to inject some confidence and breathe some life into a moribund unit.

When healthy and when they aren't getting in their own way, the Argos can beat just about any team in the CFL, but time is clearly running out and the excuses are growing thin.

No one thought the Argos would be this bad 15 games into the season and no one could have envisioned how little has been produced from players who have been asked to step up.

As strange as it may sound, the Argos can still play host to a playoff game and, believe it or not, may yet make a push for a title.

But it all hinges on Ray and pass protection, running the football to take pressure off Ray and scoring points.

In Toronto's last three losses, the offence has produced 32 combined points.

Equally disturbing is how the offence has generated 12 second-half points in the last four games.

To say the offence has been wretched is to point out the obvious.

Whether it's receivers unable to get open, bad reads from the quarterback, or moments of self-implosion, the Argos simply need to find some kind of rhythm.

Ray's expected return will help, but there are so many issues in Argoland that have yet to be addressed, deficiencies that can be corrected only through personnel moves, which now seem very unlikely.

According to Milanovich, Ray was close to returning last week and for obvious reasons the added game on the sidelines and the added rehab can only help his strained left knee. Ray suffered the injury in the first quarter of a loss in Montreal on Sept. 23.

"We're talking about a hall of fame quarterback," Milanovich said. "It shouldn't matter who is playing, but any time you have Ricky Ray back there, I think people's spirits and faith improve. That's not to say that guys don't believe in Jarious, but Ricky is our starting quarterback and our leader."

No one should fault Jackson, who helped lead the Argos to a win in Winnipeg in his first start in two years.

But so much has to go right for any team when a backup quarterback is thrust into the spotlight to have a chance in pulling off a win.

Whether it's winning the battle of field position through special teams play, forcing turnovers on defence and converting on second downs, a lot has to go right and yet so much has gone wrong for the Argos.

You can't expect to win when a botched third-down gamble in a punting formation leads to a turnover and three points.

It's hard to win when a 75-yard touchdown reception reveals poor cover skills and lack of tackling.

And it's virtually impossible to win when a pick six on a poorly thrown ball is produced.

Ray's likely return helps because his mere presence will automatically raise the level of everyone.

Suddenly, receivers won't have to worry about bad throws or poor decision-making.

But everyone has to step up or risk watching more missteps being committed.


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