Saturday, July 11, 2009

Riders meets Argos today in week #2 CFL battle


MISSISSAUGA, Ontario -- Jamal Robertson ran for a league-high 134 yards last week but it's the Toronto Argonaut who had a single yard on the ground that worries Renaud Williams.

Containing and pressuring mobile quarterback Kerry Joseph will be top priorities for linebacker Williams and the Saskatchewan Roughriders when they face the Argos at Rogers Centre on Saturday (1:00 p.m. EDT on

A solid ground attack anchored Toronto's season-opening 30-17 road win over Hamilton on Canada Day. The Argos rolled up 153 yards rushing with Robertson leading the way.

Joseph managed just one yard on one carry, but the seven-year veteran is always a threat to use his legs to either extend plays and buy time for his receivers or head upfield for big gains. And at six foot and 215 pounds, Joseph can be a load to bring down.

"Jamal is a good running back, a very good running back," Williams said. "Our main goal is to contain Kerry and make sure he doesn't keep plays alive with his legs.

"He is really good at that. He has been doing that ever since he was in the league. When he was with us, that was his MO."

Joseph was named the CFL's outstanding player in '07 while with Saskatchewan, passing for 4,002 yards and rushing for 737 yards and 13 TDs. It was that double threat that gave rival defensive co-ordinators fits and helped guide the Roughriders to a Grey Cup championship.

Joseph was expected to provide more of the same to Toronto after being acquired in a huge off-season trade with Saskatchewan. But Joseph never got into sync with the Argos - first platooning with Michael Bishop before being benched for two games later in the year - as the Double Blue lost its final eight contests to miss the CFL playoffs with a 4-14 record.

Argos head coach Bart Andrus, who is also the club's offensive co-ordinator, says defences having to expect the unexpected is what helps make Joseph so dangerous.

"The thing that impresses me maybe moreso with Kerry is as he pulls it down and goes to the line of scrimmage, he's continually looking for that receiver to drop it off to," Andrus said. "A guy that will do what he does can give you fits because he pulls it down and everyone re-directs to get to him, then he dumps it off and that really creates some explosive plays."

Canadian football is generally regarded as a passing game due to the three downs and longer, wider field. But Joseph said the ground attack is paramount for success, especially with a hard-running tailback like Robertson.

"You need the running game," he said. "It is a wide-open game up here but when you have a guy like Jamal he needs his touches.

"Sometimes the defence doesn't dictate that and we have to throw the ball. But he's going to be in the game and we're going to make sure he touches the ball and the guys up front love it too because they love to run block."

Saskatchewan's defence will certainly provide a challenge for Toronto. The Riders recorded nine sacks and eight turnovers in a 28-24 win over B.C. last week, heady stats indeed for a unit that had several question marks given the off-season loss of defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall, linebackers Anton McKenzie and Maurice Lloyd and defensive lineman Kitwana Jones.

But it was a total effort that keyed the defensive performance. While defensive linemen Stevie Baggs and Keith Shologan both had two sacks against B.C., they were among six players to get to the quarterback. And veteran defensive back Omarr Morgan also contributed two interceptions and a team-high six tackles.

Williams said the defence's performance against B.C. gave the unit a huge confidence boost.

"No one knew what to expect," he said. "But we still have a lot of guys who've been there and played together for a couple of years.

"I think we have one of the best secondaries in the league and a good defensive line. As the weeks go on, people are going to see how good our defensive line is and we're going to play harder."

Riders quarterback Darian Durant will get the start despite suffering a severely bruised right thumb against B.C. after hitting a helmet following through on a pass. Durant had the thumb taped Friday to keep the swelling down and said he's hopeful the injury won't hamper his ability to handle the football.

"I'll be fine," said Durant, who enters the game 5-0 as a starter with the Riders. "It's sore but so are other body parts.

"I should be fine."

Durant finished 18-of-32 passing for 313 yards but also had three interceptions. And last year in his only start against Toronto, he suffered three broken ribs.

But Durant said Saskatchewan has to do a better job of protecting the football against Toronto.

"In this league, you can't win if you're turning the ball over especially if you're taking points off the board," he said. "There were a couple times (against B.C.) we were in field goal range and we had a turnover here and there.

"I feel like if we do that then it puts more pressure on their offence to score points."

NOTES - Matt O'Meara, who re-signed with Saskatchewan this week after being released by Winnipeg during training camp, will start at right tackle Saturday. O'Meara, 26, of Milton, Ont., began his CFL career with the Riders, who selected him third overall in the 2005 Canadian college draft out of McMaster.

Kickoff at the Rogers Centre is set for 1:00p.m. EDT. The broadcast, beginning at 12:00p.m. EDT can be heard on with Rod Pedersen and Carm Carteri calling all the plays.

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