TORONTO -- Three games into the season, many observers are expressing their desire for the Argonauts to hit the panic button. Cleo Lemon, on the other hand, is remaining calm.
As the Argos took the practice field for the first time since their 40-17 loss at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes, Lemon was, once again, taking the first team reps.
That, along with confirmation from General Manager & Head Coach Jim Barker laid to rest any early speculation that the team may look for a change at the starting quarterback spot.
Montreal has jumped out to their usual blazing start, Winnipeg continues to string together strong outings and Hamilton found their way in Week 3, so it is important for the Boatmen to pull out a win against the Bombers this Saturday in Toronto.
Although calm, Lemon understands the importance of making sure the offence begins to adopt a rhythm. The sophomore CFL QB also states that the most important way to do so is to find a way to get more production on first down.
“It is early in the season but it’s the perfect time for us to get on track,” Lemon said.
“That’s what has been hindering us – we have been in so many second-and-longs. If we can get into more manageable second down [situations], we will have a much higher rate of success. We have to be more efficient on first down and stick with the run a bit longer, and also take what the defence gives us. Checking down for two or three yards is still probably better than an incompletion so that’s what I have to do.”
Lemon and the Argos offence have been slow out of the gate in 2011, especially in the last two games where the unit has only put up three combined touchdowns. Two of the majors came via Lemon who scampered out of play-action.
Part of the offence’s decrease in production has been due to turnovers.
It was something that plagued the team last season but was an area that seemed to have been cleaned up both in the pre-season and in the regular season opener. However, the turnover trend seems to be returning and it is something that Barker believes can largely be rectified by cleaning up handoffs between Lemon and the running backs.
“[We tell Lemon] that you have to make better decisions in the running game – period,” Barker said when asked Tuesday about what he can tell Lemon to try and avoid botched exchanges with his tailbacks.
“A big part of the running game is the quarterback and how he handles all of that, so those are things we have to be better at.”
Barker and his staff have been patient, both throughout last season and into the early part of this one, allowing their number one pivot to grow and grind through his mistakes. It seems as though that will not change.
“He knows exactly what he has to do,” Barker said of Lemon. “He has to bring an energy to the entire offence. There has to be an energy that he brings that makes the other people around him better.”
Lemon’s next chance to bring that ‘energy’ comes Saturday against a very active Blue Bombers defence which leads the Canadian Football League with 13 sacks, seven of which came against the Argos in week 2.
Despite the pressure Winnipeg’s front seven brought last time the two teams met, Lemon says he isn’t too concerned about the preparation that goes into facing a team that has allowed the fewest net yards of offence in the league.
“We have played them twice now, pre-season and regular season, so we feel comfortable going against their personnel but they have a good defence. We need to come out more aggressive, that is what we have been preaching this week. We need to take the physical nature of our game to them and don’t wait to get punched in the mouth.”
In addition to being physical on offence, Lemon is hoping that another factor that contributes to the Argos success is the Toronto fans.
“We have been on the road these first three weeks and we have faced some really rowdy crowds, so we would like to return the favour to our opponents,” Lemon said with a grin. “We want the fans to show up, be loud, root us on and just get behind us.”
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|