October 09, 2016 - 12:16 PM
TORONTO - Shawn Lemon feels there's a good reason why the Calgary Stampeders have allowed a CFL-low 13 sacks this season.
They haven't had to contend with him yet.
Lemon will be looking to add to his CFL-leading 12 sacks Monday afternoon when the Toronto Argonauts (5-9) host the streaking Stampeders (12-1-1) at BMO Field. Toronto comes in having lost seven of its last eight games while Calgary has won 11 straight and is unbeaten in 13 contests.
Calgary hasn't lost since suffering a season-opening 20-18 loss to B.C. on June 25.
Stellar protection up front has played a big role in Calgary's success. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has thrown for 4,590 yards and a CFL-best 26 TD strikes while running back Jerome Messam has run for a league-high 869 yards (5.3-yard average) and scored 10 touchdowns.
And Calgary leads the CFL in scoring (34.1 points per game) and fewest turnovers (17).
"Don't worry, I haven't played against them yet," a confident Lemon said following Sunday's walkthrough. "I ain't worried about it.
"We'll get to Bo Levi early and often."
But Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich says getting to Mitchell won't be easy.
"I don't know if you're going to get to him consistently," he said. "I think if we can push the pocket, put some big guys in his lap it could affect what he's doing to some degree.
"But he's playing at as high a level as anybody in this league."
Calgary has already clinched a playoff spot but can cement top spot in the West with a win. Toronto trails Hamilton (6-8-0) and Ottawa (6-7-1) in the East Division standings but is also behind the Edmonton Eskimos (7-7) who are fourth in the Western conference.
If the fourth-place finisher in the West finishes with more points than the third-place team in the East, then it will assume the Eastern conference's third playoff seed.
Lemon was emphatic Toronto isn't using Monday's game as a measuring stick against the CFL's top team.
"No, we're using Calgary to get a win," he said. "We think we can beat them, we know we can beat them.
"We'll come out and we'll play hard and we'll beat them (Monday)."
Lemon knows all about Calgary's winning history having helped the Stampeders win the 2014 Grey Cup. And Lemon is anxious to face his former team.
"There always is extra juice when you're playing against a team that you used to play for," he said.
Monday's game is also the first for Toronto defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler against his former team. Stubler directed Calgary's defence in 2014-15 before joining the Argos in the off-season.
Calgary's defence was very strong under Stubler but hasn't skipped a beat under new co-ordinator DeVone Claybrooks. The Stampeders are tops in fewest points allowed (22.2 points per game).
And Toronto will be playing with two rookie receivers. Canadians Brian Jones and Llevi Noel — both 2016 draft picks — will both start after Americans Kevin Elliott, Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley and Phil Bates were all released last week.
"They've had a good first week," Milanovich said. "As far as knowing what to do, that's got better as the week has gone."
Milanovich isn't worried about Jones and Noel getting a baptism by fire.
"We tried to wait this long so they could have some background," Milanovich said. "That they could stand behind the guys who were doing it and kind of get their walkthrough reps in when it wasn't so important.
"So they've had plenty of time. Jones missed training camp (with wrist injury) so it's a little bit harder for him but Llevi had an entire training camp and has played a little bit offensively."
Milanovich said while a solid start would help against Calgary, Toronto will have to play a complete game to secure the win.
"I'd love to play with a lead," he said. "It's not just the start, they've also been great in the fourth quarter.
"They've been in a number of games that were close in the fourth quarter and they've been able to finish, they've been able to find ways to win. You don't beat a team like this without playing a full game."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016