Roberts could spell trouble for Argos' defence

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

In trying to explain exactly how Charles Roberts dances on the football field, Argos linebacker Michael Fletcher asserted: "He is just naturally gifted at what he do."

Indeed he is. The Argos know this about as well as anyone. Three times they have played the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season and three times Roberts has torched them.

He ran for 133 yards the first time, 105 the second time, 120 the third game.

"By far, he's the most dangerous weapon in this league, period," Fletcher said. "Every time he has the ball, he has a chance to score. He's special. He could make you miss in a phone booth.

"When he gets his hands on the ball, you just hold your breath."

Maybe that has been part of the Argos' problem stopping the run: Too much holding their breath.

In a league where running is supposed to be obsolete, just about everybody ran on the Argos this year. Last week, they couldn't stop Robert Edwards, the week before that Kenton Keith. In two games against the last place Edmonton Eskimos, Troy Davis stomped on the Argos for 307 yards.

Ricky Williams' biggest problem in his first and only CFL season? He didn't get a chance to run against the Argos.

The Argos are so concerned about stopping Roberts that they are privately hoping for Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn to get healthy, and fast. Imagine that. They want the injured quarterback to get healthy in time for Sunday's playoff game at the Rogers Centre.

You see, the way the Argos figure it, the better Glenn feels, the more likely he is to pass the ball , the more likely he is to pass the ball, the better chance they have to win.

"We'd like him to pass more than run," said Mike O'Shea, the Argos' ancient middle linebacker. "We have a very good secondary."

By CFL standards, they have a superb secondary, four of the five players being voted to the Eastern all-star team and the one who wasn't was an all-Canadian a year ago. They have a superb three-man line with terrific defensive ends, Jonathan Brown and Eric England.

It's at linebacker where the Argos come under some scrutiny. And this bend-and-break defence in a season of offensive stagnancy has bent and broke too many times.

Three times the Argos played Winnipeg and the most points Toronto scored in any of the games was 18. Asking a CFL defence, even one run by the enigmatic Rich Stubler, to hold a team below 18 points is almost too much to ask.

The Bombers didn't exactly light it up against the Argos either, scoring 55 points in three games -- the only loss coming when Mike Quinn, no longer in the league, played quarterback.

All of which means that nothing is expected to come easily on Sunday. And the ability to control Charles Roberts, who had his hands on the ball 71 times on the ground against the Argos, will ultimately be the difference between a trip to the Eastern final or a second consecutive disappointing season.

O'Shea has never bothered to rank the million or so running backs he's managed to tackle in his CFL career but says that Roberts "is right up there. Put it this way, he's damn good. I don't know if he's ever been injured. The guy just keeps on going and going. For a little guy, that's really impressive. You see on film how quick he is, how his feet move.

"You want to play against the best in the playoffs. We're playing against the best in Charles Roberts."

O'Shea, despite evidence to the contrary, doesn't believe the Argos are susceptible to the run. He doesn't take it personally that too many backs have had career games against them. He won't allow himself to believe it.

"We're attempting to be perfect," O'Shea said. "Against Charles Roberts, if you make mistakes, that costs you big yardage. If you watch the films, simply put we made too many mistakes. Now we have to fix that."

"Our whole key," said Fletcher, "is to stop No.1."

The only chance the Argonauts have to be No. 1 is to stop No. 1.


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