Urgency for better starts continues to be preached by Argos' offence

Argonauts’ Robbie Smith (left) missed a key tackle last week against the Bombers. (JACK BOLAND/TORONTO SUN)

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Amazing how the Argos were able to start so quickly and so assertively in the pre-season when the team unveiled its new offence under co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine.

Then the lights came on and the Argos attack went dark.

Slow starts have doomed this unit and the need to start a game by engineering a drive and putting points on the board grows more urgent as the losses begin to mount.

“We need to make sure we start faster as an offence,” said starting centre Sean McEwen. “That’s been a big emphasis for us this week. Just going forward in the season, we need to start games faster, making sure we’re in it from the get-go.”

In four games, the Argos have only led once, a three-point advantage over visiting B.C.

Last Friday night in Winnipeg, the tone was set on the opening kickoff when the Argos’ cover unit yielded a touchdown.

Needless to say, a fast start against the host Stamps Thursday will go a long way in providing the Argos with a much-needed chance to win their first game.

By starting games so slowly and so inefficiently, the Argos dig themselves too large a hole to overcome.

“Obviously we haven’t been good enough,” said McEwen, who was referring to the offensive line, but he easily could have been talking about the entire team. “We’re taking a step each week, we have to take a certain amount of strides. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been good enough to produce a winning performance.

“We have to keep grinding and make sure we’re staying on top of it every single week and continue to get better.”

With starting right tackle Randy Richards (knee) placed on the six-game list, the Argos will start Will Campbell.

McEwen is a Calgary native where he’d call McMahon Stadium as his university football home.

Toronto’s extended stay in the city has allowed McEwen to reach out to family and friends, but the focus has been on the Argos.

“Just trying to maximize as much time as we can to meet as an O-line,” he said. “It’s not just bonding, but being able to watch everything together and making sure we’re doing everything together.

“If we’re not seeing everything the same way watching film it’s no good. We have to make sure the guy you’re playing beside is seeing the same things as you. There’s no commute, no families around, it’s very easy to spend that time together and watch tape as a group.”

ROOKIE VOWS TO LEARN FROM MISTAKE

CALGARY – Robbie Smith’s intentions were good and no one can fault the rookie for his efforts, but youthful mistakes do have a way of leading to big plays being yielded.

There was no bigger play last week when the Argos visited Winnipeg only to give up a touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff.

Smith was the culprit, a lesson learned, as painful and brutal as it was.

“As a rookie, of course, I was a little too excited,” said Smith, who lost containment that allowed Lucky Whitehead to go the distance. “Moving forward, I have to be better at managing my emotions, focus on my job and what I need to do. Obviously, I went to make the tackle and my eyes were in the wrong place.

“Immediately as I came to the sidelines, coach Chamb (head coach Corey Chamblin) said: ‘You got the nerves out of the way now?’ I said: ‘Yeah, of course.’ He was good about it. During film study, I got mine worth. I need to get my mind right moving forward and make sure I’m in the right place mentally.”

Smith is one of the many raw pieces the Argos are tying to develop, talented and yet young.

Mind you, even the most seasoned CFL vet on this team have been prone to give up plays.

“When you talk special teams, it’s a version of defence, eyes, hands, feet,” said Chamblin. “On that play he didn’t have the proper eyes. I can tell you he’s more focused, eyes in right place.

“Unfortunately, he had to learn through his mistake. That’s where we are with this team; we have to learn before the mistake happens.”

The issue with the winless Argos is that mistakes get compounded.

“We have to find a way to minimize the misses, miscommunication, missed field goals, missed tackles, missed reads, anything that’s a miss we have to get past that and start getting on point and on target,” added Chamblin.

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