It’s now up to Steven Jyles to set the Argo ship back on course.
The struggling Toronto Argonauts (2-7) released quarterback Cleo Lemon this week and will hand the ball over to the 28-year-old from Independence, La. in Saturday’s rematch against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.
Although he has yet to take a snap after opening the season on the nine-game injured list, Jyles believes his mobility is the reason why he’ll be on the field.
“The difference between Cleo and me is I look to run the ball more,” Jyles told the Canadian Press. “Cleo is a pocket guy.
“I can be a pocket guy too, but I can throw on the run. I can run around with the ball. I think that adds a little to the team.
“Quarterback mobility can take the pressure off the offensive line.”
Mobility is also why Argos coach and GM Jim Barker acquired the six-foot-one, 218-pound Jyles in the off-season from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the fourth overall pick in the 2011 CFL Draft.
Jyles was expected to compete with Lemon for the starting quarterback job in training camp but he was still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained last year.
“It will almost be like a pre-season game for him and we expect them [the Lions] to bring a lot of pressure and treat him like a rookie quarterback,” Barker said during a media scrum after Tuesday’s practice. “He has experience in understanding coverage and understanding what your players can and can’t do.
“But the biggest thing is when things break down, he can make things happen.”
Although he didn’t arrive in Toronto with the same fanfare as Doug Flutie, Damon Allen or even Kerry Joseph, Jyles is a six-year veteran of the Canadian game with stops in Edmonton (2006-07) and Saskatchewan (2008-09) before joining former Roughriders offensive co-ordinator (and new Blue Bombers head coach) Paul LaPolice in Winnipeg.
But just two months after Jyles came to the Blue and Gold, the Bombers signed Buck Pierce and Jyles was battling for the starting role. Pierce suffered an injury-plagued 2010 season and Jyles started 11 games, posting a 3-8 record and passing for 2,804 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“You can tell he has the veteran status as a quarterback,” Argos receiver Jeremaine Copeland told CP. “You can tell he knows about every situation and where the ball needs to go.
“Things are coming out a little bit quicker, reads for us are going to be a lot easier. He’s going to spread the ball around.”
Dalton Bell remains the team’s backup for now, after completing only five of 16 passes and throwing four interceptions against the Lions on Friday. With the Argos parting ways with Lemon, Jyles is firmly in the starting role.
“I’m excited about that,” Barker said. “For him, this is an opportunity to take control of a team.”