Much work remains if Argos wish to reach next level
Argos defensive back Pacino Horne breaks up a pass to the B.C. Lions' Ernest Jackson during the first half of their game in Vancouver on Saturday night. Toronto had an opportunity to win the game but fell to the defending Grey Cup champs. (REUTERS)
The Argos aren’t interested in finding any consolation when the only goal that matters is winning.
Nor should they feel any sense of accomplishment when a late-game drive that would have won the game and provided the defining moment of a season came up short.
There’s something special developing within the Argos, but until they find a way to win in a place such as B.C., where a lot was going against them, then it’s almost inevitable that further pain will be experienced.
How they respond to this week’s game in Montreal will reveal a lot about the Argos’ character and commitment, especially in the wake of a devastating 28-23 loss to the Lions when the visitors could have won, even though they had no business winning a game B.C. almost threw away.
The Argos are close, but at the same time they remain a team that’s a work in progress.
Had they been able to drive the field in B.C. to win a game like they did on Labour Day, then that all-important step would have been achieved.
As it is, there’s plenty of work that awaits.
Pass protection ranks near the top, if not at the very top, of the to-do list.
Ricky Ray is taking far too many shots and can’t go through his progression if he’s forced to hurry throws or is flushed out of the pocket.
It’s easy to point to the offensive line, which had its hands full against B.C., but receivers and running backs get used in pass protection and there was one sequence when Mike Bradwell got exposed on a corner blitz.
Discipline has been a season-long issue and the Argos may have to resort to outright releasing a defensive player when it’s obvious every other option has failed.
Last week’s 200-plus yards in penalties was deceiving given the amount of illegal kickoffs and two late-game and highly dubious pass interference calls were called.
On Saturday night in B.C., the 13 penalties Toronto took were momentum changers, allowing B.C. extra possessions on offence, denying the Argos a touchdown.
When a team has nearly double the amount of penalty yards (123) as rushing yards (63), then something clearly is amiss.
The third area that must be upgraded is at the non-import receiving spot.
Other than Chad Owens, not much production is evident.
Mo Mann was shut out, his only moment arriving when he got called for holding on a Spencer Watt touchdown.
Ken-Yon Rambo was held to one reception, while Dontrelle Inman hauled in two passes.
Jason Barnes was inactive for the third straight game and it’s time the Argos turn to Barnes.
Andre Durie may be back for the Montreal game, but the Argos need to be cautious with Durie and his banged-up quad.
“We’ve made strides and we need to continue to do so,’’ said head coach Scott Milanovich. “We’re not into moral victories.”
When he addressed his team prior to the B.C. game, Milanovich’s message focussed on the Argos.
“We’re not concerned about them,’’ he added. “It’s about us, it’s about us doing our job and us playing to our capabilities.”
Up until the last drive, which ended in a turnover on downs, the Argos were turnover free, while forcing three Lions turnovers, including one the defence would parlay into a touchdown.
“We’ve got to find a way,’’ said Milanovich. “That’s what good teams do. These are the steps you need to take. Hamilton was a big step.”
In B.C., the Argos couldn’t take that next step.
The Argos are as good as any team in the East, but they’re not quite good enough at this stage of their evolution to be among the elite as B.C.
There are plenty of games left to show improvement, but changes must be made.
RIGGS A SOLID PLAN B
Whether Gerald Riggs Jr.’s audition amounts to a one-game experience, only time will tell.
If Chad Kackert is able to bounce back from his leg injury, then the Argos have no choice but to turn to Kackert for this week’s game in Montreal.
If Kackert can’t go, the Argos have a bona fide Plan B in Riggs Jr., who ran hard and who was productive in Saturday’s 28-23 loss to the host B.C. Lions.
With the Argos unable to pass the football in the first half, the game plan in the second half was to put the ball in Ricky Ray’s hands and be aggressive.
For the game, Riggs Jr. rushed five times for 39 yards, including four carries for 36 yards in the opening half, and caught four balls for 43 yards.
“It doesn’t matter how much they use me, which they use me,’’ said Riggs Jr. “What matters is getting the job done and we didn’t get it done.
“I felt I played well out there, played as hard as I possibly could. We’ll bounce back. We’ve got a good team.”