Posted by: Jeremy | October 15, 2009

Argos look to keep slim playoff hopes alive against Eskimos

Kerry Joseph is back at the helm for the Argos

Kerry Joseph is back at the helm for the Argos

Having struggled against seemingly everything the CFL has thrown at them thus far in 2009, the Argos may be relieved to face a team they haven’t seen yet this season. The Edmonton Eskimos (6-8) make their first trip to Rogers Centre Friday to face a Toronto team that needs four straight wins for a shot at a playoff spot.

At 3-11 and three games back of Hamilton and Winnipeg for third place in the East Division, the Argos need a win this weekend just to stay in hunt. Even with the postseason an outside shot at best, Bart Andrus’ squad isn’t about to throw in the towel.

“We know we have to win to control our fate,” quarterback Kerry Joseph said following Thursday’s walk-through. “Mathematically we’re still alive. We know we need some help, but at the same time we know if we don’t take care of own business, nothing else matters.”

Joseph will make his second consecutive start Friday, despite struggling in last week’s 32-22 loss to Saskatchewan. Starting in place of Cody Pickett, Joseph completed just 8-of-22 passes for 82 yards and left at halftime with an apparent neck injury. After Pickett left with an injury of his own, Joseph returned but wasn’t able to lead a fourth quarter comeback. Pickett isn’t expected to dress against Edmonton, meaning third-stringer Stephen Reaves will likely step in as Joseph’s backup.

With questions surrounding the Argos’ pivots, Jamal Robertson will again be called upon to carry a great deal of the offensive load. Robertson is fifth in the league with 945 rushing yards and second with eight touchdowns.

“Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to be there for the team,” Robertson said Thursday. “I’m a running back — I’m going to touch the ball every chance I get and try to make the most of it.”

Ricky Ray is amongst CFL leaders in most passing categories

Ricky Ray is amongst CFL leaders in most passing categories

The Argos’ defense, meanwhile, will be in for a challenge against an Edmonton offense led by quarterback Ricky Ray. Ray is second to Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo in passing yards (3,927), touchdown passes (19) and quarterback rating (97.5) in 2009. Slotback Fred Stamps leads all CFL receivers with 1,033 yards and wide receiver Maurice Mann is tied for third in the league with 66 receptions. Rookie running back Arkee Whitlock is seventh with 798 yards and tied for third with seven rushing touchdowns.

Though the Argos are yet to face the Eskimos this season, they’ll see a familiar face on the opposite side of the field. Cornerback Byron Parker, who was dealt to Edmonton for a fourth-round draft pick on Sept. 28, makes his first appearance against his former team. Despite never getting on the same page with Andrus, the Argos’ coach insists there was never any animosity.

“It was a decision based on our scheme and how guys fit into it,” Andrus said, noting Parker’s absense from training camp was a setback. “I had nothing against Byron, it just boiled down to the fact we had guys we liked better.”

Parker, a two-time CFL All-Star while a member of the Argos, joined the team in August after spending time in camp with the Philadelphia Eagles this summer. He’ll help anchor an Eskimos defense that has been decimated by injuries this season — one that Joseph and the Argos will be looking to capitalize on.

“They’ve been banged up on that side of the ball,” Joseph said Thursday. “We have to try to keep them off balance with the run and the passing game, and just be really agressive from the beginning.

“We just need to stay on the field and score,” he added. “We need to make sure we protect the football and keep drives alive.”

The Argos and Eskimos get underway at 7:30 Friday.

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