When the Toronto Argonauts complete a home-and-home set with the B.C. Lions at Empire Field on Saturday they will be doing so with a new signal caller behind the line.
After being trounced by the Lions 29-16 at Rogers Centre last weekend, the Argos released veteran quarterback Cleo Lemon and replaced him in the starting unit with off-season acquisition Steven Jyles.
Jyles missed the first nine games with a shoulder injury, but says he’s ready to go in the rematch with the 3-6 Lions.
“I feel great,” Jyles told reporters at practice this week. “I’m just waiting to get back out there and play again. I’ve been out for a while and I’m ready to put my shoulder to the test and see how everything goes.”
Jyles spent 2010 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, throwing for over 2,800 yards and 19 touchdowns in 16 games as both a starter and a backup before being dealt to the Argonauts on March 30 for a first-round draft pick.
The Boatmen are hoping he can be the team’s saviour because, with their shoddy 2-7 record thus far, another loss could prove paralyzing to the team’s playoff chances.
“This is a great opportunity for [Jyles] to take control of this team,” head coach Jim Barker said. “It’s his first game [with the Argos] but it’s not his first game because he’s played in this league before, so he knows what to expect.
“He’s going to be rusty, there’s no doubt about that, but he’ll come along at the pace he comes along and hopefully it’ll be quick.”
His teammates are optimistic the transition will be a smooth one and that Jyles can come out slinging and find a way to overcome a Lions defence that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in its last two games.
Toronto earned all its points last week on special teams.
“The guys have a very positive attitude about everything and they’re confident in me,” Jyles said. “That gives me a lot [of confidence] to know that you have to lead the guys and create plays for them and get the balls in their hands.”
Lions can score
Regardless, even if Jyles manages to have a solid start to his Argo career, the Toronto defence still needs to stop a potent Lions attack that has helped the west coast team win three of their last four games.
“If you pay attention to last game, we shut them out for three quarters [but] we didn’t finish as a defence and that’s what we have to do,” linebacker Ejiro Kuale said. “I think we’re going to bring [a victory] home because we played them and we showed we can play with them.
“I’m not taking anything away from [Lions quarterback Travis Lulay]. He’s a good quarterback and they’re a good team. But this is my team and I think we’re a better team.”
Kuale and the rest of the team’s defenders will have a chance to prove that on Saturday during a contest that will also mark the last time the Lions play at Empire Field before they move back to the revamped B.C. Place for the remainder of the season.
The Argos are hoping to send them packing with a loss.