Argos defensive co-ordinator Jones keeps 'em guessing
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|The general consensus when it comes to Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones is that he's full of surprises. (QMI Agency/FILES)
Adriano Belli is sure about a couple of things.
One, the Argonauts nose tackle will hang up his football cleats for good either late on Sunday afternoon at Olympic Stadium after the East final or next Sunday, following the Grey Cup at the Rogers Centre.
And secondly, Belli, summoned from retirement a month ago, is comfortable in saying he has never quite played for anyone like Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.
“I have never been around a defensive coach who prepared as hard as he does,” the 35-year-old Belli said on Saturday afternoon. “It’s his life.
“He also knows how to let players play, let them make plays. When you have a bunch of robots out there ... he understands as defensive linemen we have to be disruptive and sometimes that means taking chances.”
Argos head coach Scott Milanovich leaves no stone unturned, a habit he learned after years of tutoring under Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman, and neither does Jones. With the latter, there not only are surprises for opposing offences but also for his own players, who arrive at each meeting knowing they will be studying a new wrinkle.
And when the Als watched film of the Argos’ win in the East semifinal against the Edmonton Eskimos, they knew they were not getting the whole picture.
“Something is going to come up in the game that we have not had the chance to practise for,” Alouettes offensive tackle Josh Bourke said.
“It’s not that we have not been watching film, it’s just that he will come up with new schemes. We have to be prepared for it. We will come off to the sideline to the greaseboard and discuss it as an offensive line and make the necessary adjustments.”
Whether the Argos try to pressure Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo into making mistakes is something that won’t be known until the game is underway. But Calvillo is among the best at his position who get rid of the ball quickly, and even if there is someone bearing down on him, a pass usually is completed.
“It probably depends on down and distance,” Bourke said. “Usually teams don’t like to blitz AC, but Jones does a lot of weird things, so I don’t know. He could drop nine or bring eight for all I know. We can’t overthink. We have to go out, see what he is doing and we have to react.”
Jones has been refusing interviews in the past few weeks, so gaining insight into his thought process won’t come from the man himself.
The 40-year-old Calvillo’s Canadian Football League career began in 1994 with Las Vegas and he has since become the league’s most prolific passer. He and Jones were employed by the Alouettes from 2002-07, but Calvillo knows he has not seen everything any defence has had to throw at him.
“I don’t think you can,” Calvillo said. “There will always be little twists, and it always comes from Chris Jones. He is the one who is always stretching the limit with what he can do in terms of blitzing extra guys, rushing one guy, maybe two. There is always something new with Chris.”
One gets the impression that if he really wanted to, Belli would stick around for another season to continue playing under Jones.
“He has so many different calls and I like it,” said Belli, who worked for Jones in Montreal as recently as 2006. “I could see as a young player how he might be a little overwhelmed, but he is one of those guys who is on top of the pulse, the heartbeat of what is happening with offensive schematics, co-ordinators, what they are doing in the league. He wants you to be aggressive and that has always been my game. I am not the most athletic guy, not the fastest guy, in fact I have a great burst of slow. But he lets me be me.”
EASY ON THE RIVALRY: COACH
Marc Trestman didn’t want to hear any talk about the Montreal Alouettes’ rivalry with the Argonauts.
Though the Argos have had their Grey Cup hopes dashed by the Alouettes more than they would care to discuss, Trestman, the Alouettes head coach, wasn’t throwing fuel on the fire.
“If we have a rival, we are disrespecting everybody else in the league,” Trestman said. “I think rivalries and demonizing opponents are good for about five or 10 minutes in a game. Respecting an opponent and playing for each other can get you through.
“And I have told those guys that on countless occasions. I know not everybody gets that, and I respect the fact that in professional football everybody has to do what they have to do to get themselves ready as long as they don’t disrespect opponents or the game.”
Argos centre Jeff Keeping said his team’s rivalry with the Als goes beyond anything the Boatmen have with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“During the season, the Argos and Ticats and Labour Day, that’s huge,” Keeping said. “But for us, for me, since 2005, I have not played in a Grey Cup game and the Montreal Alouettes have been the predominant team stopping us. With the 100th Grey Cup, us getting through Montreal, which has held us back, would be huge.”
If you’re looking for a view on Ricky Ray from Anthony Calvillo, ask someone else.
Calvillo said he rarely watches other Canadian Football League games, no matter who is playing.
“I really try to get away,” the Montreal Alouettes star quarterback said. “Football is very demanding physically and mentally and I need that mental break. When it is all said and done, that has benefited me and that is how I have always approached it. Whether it is Ricky Ray or any other quarterback, I don’t pay much attention to it.”
With Ray and Calvillo slinging against each other in the East final, does Calvillo expect a high-scoring game on Sunday afternoon at Olympic Stadium?
“You never know what to expect from these games, you just don’t,” Calvillo said. “We had a great week of practice and we feel locked in.”