MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO (Argonauts.ca) – With every bump in the road that Cleo Lemon hit last season, Jim Barker continued to say that it was all part of his growth as a quarterback. A year later and a year wiser, Lemon still has a lot to prove. Just by talking to him, however, one can quickly tell that he is a different quarterback.
While Steven Jyles' 2011 debut is in question, and a groin injury will sideline Dalton Bell, it has become more evident that the starting role is Lemon's to lose. Last year's starter is approaching this week's pre-season game, and the week of practice thereafter, as though he'll be the main man behind centre again in 2011.
"I've always been confident," Lemon said. "I am a confident player. I have always felt that I can get the job done, no matter the circumstances. I now have a year on my belt so I am feeling confident about that and I am confident with the guys around me."
It is difficult to put a lot of stock in just one pre-season game but Lemon's performance, in limited action, last Saturday could have gone a long way in the very early growth of the second-year CFL pivot. While most signal-callers use the pre-season games to fine-tune and shake off any off-season rust, Lemon was forced to use the last game as one of his final auditions to prove that he can lead this team.
He completed 11 of 14 passes for 130 yards and executed two touchdown drives including an impressive 97-yard series that was capped off with a pass to RB Dwayne Wright for a touchdown. The numbers don't leap off the page but Lemon's one-and-a-half quarters of play showed that he had poise in the pocket and a solid grasp on the location and timing of his receivers.
"I always felt like that if I go out there I can do the job," Lemon said.
This week, Lemon will play the majority of the Argos' matchup in Winnipeg. Danny Brannagan will join Bell and Jyles on the injured list even though he will dress for the game. While watching his teammates go down is not something that Lemon enjoys seeing, he will undoubtedly get more reps and more time to prepare for the Argos' season opener.
"You don't like seeing players hurt but whenever you have an opportunity you have to take advantage of it, and that is what I am looking to do."