Argos sophomore back feels he should be running Wilder

James Wilder Jr. was not trying to be his harshest critic Wednesday.

But with the Argos season slipping in the wrong direction and with a pivotal game against Ottawa at BMO Field on Thursday night, the subject of the running back’s performance through six games came up.

And Wilder is not impressed with his performance.

“Not there yet, no way,” Wilder said Wednesday.

“I think I have two games (out of six) over 125 yards, and at the running back position in this league, and going into our seventh game, that’s not going to cut it. It’s not consistent enough. I’ve had sparks in games, then there’s been games where I have negative yardage. That’s not where I want to be, that’s not where I need to be … it’s not close to the goals I was raving about in the off-season.”

Wilder is fifth in rushing yards in the CFL with 301 yards. Only four backs have more than 400 yards — led by Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris with 638 — and it is a group the defending rookie of the year should be in.

Wilder was among the CFL leaders a year ago in combined yards, and he’s 10th this year with 581. He also has three of the Argos’ nine offensive touchdowns this season.

The problem for the Argos is those nine majors reflect a team that has lost five of six games while looking far too inconsistent.

Toronto’s offence is at or near the bottom in terms of touchdowns, offensive points, net offence, and passing touchdowns. Combine that with a frustrating turnover rate, penalties, and a defence that has mirrored the offence in terms of failing to find itself, and the Argos are in crisis mode right now.

“We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot, penalties, turnovers, its been a bit of a comedy of errors …,” offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl said.

“It’s not one guy hurting us through a game, it’s a culmination of everyone taking their turns. You can see how good we can be, but there’s been (inconsistencies) … I think consistency is a good word for us right now, we need to be more consistent. When we find it, we’ll be in a good place.”

The Argos were the better yardage team against Winnipeg last week, but they lost in large part because of seven turnovers.

Wilder, like Van Zeyl, sees Thursday’s game against Ottawa as a must-win game, or as close to one there is at this time of the season.

The Redblacks, the leaders in the CFL East, arguably possess the best group of defensive backs and linemen in the East. They will pose a huge challenge for Wilder, Van Zeyl and the rest of the Argos offence, especially with McLeod Bethel-Thompson making his season debut at quarterback.

“We don’t look at (Bethel-Thompson) as a new quarterback, he’s been around here for a year and a half, and he’s been around football for a long time,” Van Zeyl said.

The 30-year-old Bethel-Thompson, who has spent time with nine other pro teams, said the Argos are chalk full of top-shelf players and it is his goal to “make their day a little smoother.”

The San Francisco native says he’s as calm and collected as the rest of his teammates appear to be, regardless of what the standings say.

“I’ve been cut 11 or 12 times from NFL teams, signed and cut,” Bethel-Thompson said. “It takes a level of insanity and obsession to keep at it. I think I’m insane enough to still be here.”

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