Lions versus Esks thoughts, and the final cuts.

Friday night at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium the BC Lions closed out the CFL preseason with an 18-13 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. There were positives and negatives that came from the evening, so let’s get at it in this recap of the night.

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Of course the main question of the night was how Travis Lulay would look and would he survive the night and the result was a success on both fronts.

Lulay wasn’t spectacular, but he led the Lions on a (penalty aided) touchdown drive on the first series of the game, connecting with the ‘Manny Show’ to open the scoring. As a body of work, Lulay was able to accomplish what he wanted to. There was some rust, as he overthrew open receivers on a couple of occasions, but his vision downfield seemed solid, his composure in the pocket was impressive and he showed that he’s still going to use his feet when the opportunity presents itself.

Jonathan Jennings was next up and wasn’t quite as effective as he was in Calgary, going 4 of 8 for 63 yards, while also throwing an interception. He did connect with Terence Jeffers-Harris for 40 yards and survived a big hit. Greg McGhee impressed with his limited time, showing the running skill he has as well as a strong arm.

With the uncertainty of Lulay’s long-term future, the Lions will keep all four QB’s, with John Beck starting the season on the disabled list.

arceneauxEmmanuel Arceneaux looked solid scoring the Lions only touchdown of the game, and Austin Collie showed the value he will bring to the roster. Jeffers-Harris showed well again with his second deep reception of the preseason. Bryan Burnham and Tim Vizzi did not shine, while Courtenay Taylor still hasn’t seen action with a lingering hamstring injury. Marco Iannuzzi had a solid game, including the Lions biggest play of the night, a 64 yard catch and run from McGhee. The Lions continue to struggle to find a way to get Shawn Gore involved in the offence.

Generally speaking I thought the offensive line played decent, especially versus a talented Eskimos defence. Lulay got good protection in the first half, and don’t be surprised if T-Dre Player has surpassed Dean Valli for a starting role. At left tackle, it looks like Tommie Draheim will at least start the season there.

In the second half there was a drop off and both Jennings and McGhee were hurried or flushed out of the pocket often. The unit continues to be a work in progress, but new centre Jason Foster looks to be solid and can start looking for accommodations in the lower mainland.

The defensive line registered just one sack on the night, and had issues plugging gaps against the Eskimos running game in the first half. Running back Shakir Bell averaged 10.8 yards a carry against the starters and that’s just not good enough. Alex Bazzie was ejected for spitting on an opponent, and on a Jeff Tedford team that preaches discipline, that certainly won’t have him in the coach’s good books.

It was fun to listen to the oohs and awes from the crowd watching Richie Leone launch missiles with his punts. Sadly when it came to field goal kicking Leone missed two which should have been automatic and one of them was ugly. Anthony Fera connected on a 48 yarder, but his punting wasn’t as impressive. With that, Lions have decided to go with Leone and hope he improves his place kicking while offering Fera accept a spot on the practice roster.

The Flags

God help us all if the preseason flag fest continues into the regular season. The game became virtually unwatchable because of all the linen being thrown around. I get that in the preseason you want to crack down, especially with the new rules, but I am not that confident that much will be different when the season starts. For the sake of fans and the game itself, let’s hope so.

The Setting

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The BC Lions and the University of British Columbia deserve huge props for the way the game went off. From the clear directions to the stadium throughout the campus, to the crowd control afterwards it was very well done. Director of Fan Engagement, Jamie Pitblado and his team did a fantastic job.

Allowing the fans to watch from field level was a brilliant idea. There were tons of kids throwing footballs around and hanging out with Leo the Lion. For the diehard fan it gave them a chance to see the game up close and personal.

With the lush trees in the background and a beautiful west coast sunset, there couldn’t have been a better night to play football.

Because I needed to write about the game I stayed in the stands in order to see the action clearly, so the only negative from the night came from the sore butt and back from sitting on the wood benches.

BC Place, I love you.

In the End

Don’t lose sight of the fact that this a new beginning for the BC Lions, and coach Tedford will likely be continually tweaking things into his mold over the next few weeks. The Lions should become more proficient on offence with more targeted game planning reps.

The team will start the season with a bye, which will give Lulay more time to work on the timing with his receivers. The Lions will also have game film to work with on the Redblacks, while Ottawa will have only preseason footage at their disposal.

Final Cuts

No real surprises here but here is the full list of roster moves made by the Lions on cut down day. In all, 12 players were released, 10 were offered spots on the practice roster, 3 were placed on the 1-game injury list, and QB John Beck added to the disabled list.

Notable names offered practice roster spots were RB Keola Antolin who was injured through the first half of training camp, Terence Jeffers-Harris who was impressive after if his arrival in camp and in the preseason, and second year linebacker and special teamer Casey Chin.

Of their 2015 draft picks who were in camp, only DB Josh Brinkworth was released.

It all starts for real on July 4th.

Full list of the Lions roster moves:

Released:

DB Jordan Rwiyamilira (N), DB Josh Brinkworth (N), DB Jeremiah Johnson (I), DB Myron Lewis (I), LB Cody Acker (I), DL Tim Jackson (I), DL Andre Monroe (I), FB Brandon Deschamps (N), RB Rickey Galvin (I), RB Damien Thigpen (I), WR Tim Vizzi (I), WR Whitman Tomusiak (N).

Offered practice roster spots:

DB Darious Lane (I), LB Casey Chin (N), DL Craig Roh (I), DL Maxx Forde(N), DL Jamarkus McFarland (I), WR Terence Jeffers-Harris (I), K/P Anthony Fera (I), RB Keola Antolin (I), OL Josh Aladonoye (I), OL Campbell Allison (N).

Placed on one-game injured list:

DB Steven Clarke (I), OL Cody Husband (N), OL Matt Norman (N).

Placed on disabled list: QB John Beck (I).

Returned to juniors:

OL Anthony Daley (N), WR Derek Yachison (N).

Follow all the CFL final cuts.

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