Argos offensive woes has Barker in a pickle

With so much on the line as the regular season takes the final turn, the Toronto Argonauts are stumbling mightily down the stretch, hitting a season-low in their most recent game.

The Argos put up just three points in a 30-3 thumping by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Friday, a result that hurt Toronto even more considering both teams shared second place heading into the contest.

Now 7-8 with three games left, the Argos remain in a good position as they hold a two-game lead on the BC Lions and Edmonton Eskimos.

But limping into the post-season is not a situation any team wants, especially when starting off with a promising 5-2 record that led the East Division at the time.

Since then, the Boatmen haven’t posted more than 24 points in a game despite possessing the CFL’s leading rusher in Cory Boyd.

Starting quarterback Cleo Lemon has struggled all season adjusting to the Canadian football style, but head coach Jim Barker has faith in the first-year quarterback.

“Cleo Lemon is our starter and we’re going to go as far as Cleo Lemon takes us,” Barker told the National Post. “I know that.”

Toronto remains the only team to have not scored more than 300 points this season, mainly because of a near non-existent passing game. The Argos rank last in all passing statistics: net passing yards, completions, and average passing yards per game to name a few.

Fortunately for the Double Blue, defence and special teams have both been more than formidable this season.

But in a quarterback-driven league, you need better passing numbers than that, leading to Barker’s desire to take a more active approach in the offence.

“I’m an offensive guy that really hasn’t been involved in that phase of it, and that’s my fault,” said Barker to the Globe and Mail. “I should have had a better grasp of things. It’s not a slight on [offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach] Jaime Elizondo. He’s growing and Jaime does a great job game planning and he’s going to be a great coach.

“But there are some issues right now and my job as the head coach is to go in and figure out what those issues are and get them solved.”

Barker has tried to throw backup Dalton Bell into the mix, but the young quarterback hasn’t been able to steal away the position from Lemon. His mot recent setback came last week, tossing an interception on his one and only possession of the game.

Heading into the season, the Argos knew they were taking a chance with four unproven CFL quarterbacks.

The first half of the season was supposed to be a time to adjust, with the second half a more likely time to surge.

Instead, Toronto has struggled outside its running game, never finding the groove through the air.

“I was waiting, and waiting, and hoping the passing game would get better, and it hasn’t,” Barker said. “And 30-3 is an indication that it’s time to go in and get help, whether you want it or not.”

With just three games left, there isn’t much time for Barker to come in and make any drastic changes before the playoffs.