By: David Alter
Despite a 1-6 record, the Argos can move into a playoff spot with a win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Funny how that works, but the Argos, Roughriders as well as the B.C. Lions have identical records and at least one of them has to advance to the post-season. The next four Argo games feature these two opponents.
Over the last couple of weeks, we really have seen the best of Cleo Lemon in his tenure as Argonauts quarterback. His ability to stretch the field and move the ball has allowed the offence put up numbers unlike anything we really saw last season. Cleo Lemon’s QB rating last year was 78.1. Despite leading the Argos to the CFL East Final, Head Coach Jim Barker told Lemon that he was not going to be the #1 QB going into next season, and that he would once again have to earn the job out of camp… Lemon did just that. Even though Lemon struggled again out of the gate, he responded to Barker’s threat of losing his job by putting up great numbers.
Through the last 2.25 games (the quarter being the one he chipped his tooth in), Lemon is 56/82 with 5TD and 740yards with a QB rating of 111.8. Lemon has responded with his back against the wall. The only unfortunate part is that it hasn’t translated to victory.
This will be Orlondo Steinauer’s second game since being installed as the new Defensive Coordinator. The defence clearly had its hands full when it came to handling the Ticats offence. The new D.C. will have Evan McCollough back in the starting secondary which should help.
Steinauer is trying to implement more of the attacking the quarterback style that he was used to in his playing days, and he’ll need to against an explosive Saskatchewan offence that can spread the field around as good as any team with weapons like Darian Durant and Weston Dressler. If the defence makes as many mistakes against the the Riders like they did against Hamilton, this game won’t even be close.
While the offence still needs to improve when it comes to ball control, a big problem this season has been the defence’s inability to get takeaways. The best chance for the Argos ability to get this done will be when the Riders elect to run. Saskatchewan will go with rookie RB Brandon West in the backfield. The third string runningback is making his first start thanks to injuries to go-to back Wes Cates and backup Hugh Charles. Being a third-stringer means you don’t get a lot of reps and that’s something the Argo defence can try to exploit. If they can, it’ll give the defence some much needed confidence.
These next four game should separate this current three-way tie for the basement. How the Argos respond over the next month is critical. If they improve on takeaways while keeping the offence consistent, it will go a long way.