It was opening day in the NFL and his best CFL performance took place in front of one of the lowest crowds at B.C. Place Stadium in 13 years but the B.C. Lions clearly took notice of the player who has now become their leading tailback candidate, Jeremiah Johnson (above).
The first 100-yard rushing game of his CFL career came on a September afternoon in which the Ottawa Redblacks bullied the Lions for their first-ever win at B.C. Place and their tailback led the way to a 31-18 rout with two touchdowns. It came ironically on the same day as Andrew Harris had a career-low three yards from four carries, which may have planted the seeds that now has him with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the next three years.
But Wally Buono wasn’t sleepwalking even if his team might have been that day, which is one of the reasons the soon-to-be 29-year-old officially signed a one-year contract Wednesday that addresses one of the team’s biggest free-agent needs they caused by letting Harris walk.
“He has a lot of respect on our team among our defensive players,” Buono said via a team news release of Johnson, another recruit with west coast roots, born in Los Angeles who played collegiately at Oregon.
The second day of free agency league-wide was busier than the first, and not always in a good way for the Lions, who lost out Wednesday on Canadian defensive lineman Justin Capicciotti, one of a bevy of players acquired by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The salary bar for Capicciotti was established Tuesday when Ted Laurent returned to Hamilton for a two-year deal worth a reported average of $250,000 annually, and with B.C. understandably unwilling to give Capicciotti money they weren’t willing to dole out to Harris, the focus shifted quickly.
Timing might be everything for Johnson too. Stuck in a place where he had to share time both in Ottawa (Chevon Walker, Jonathan Williams) and previously Toronto (Curtis Steele), Johnson saw a hole in the Lions depth chart and took a chance.
He’ll compete for a starting spot with street import free agent signings Mikel Leshoure and Sam Ojuri, but with a league-leading nine touchdowns for the Redblacks when he was lost last season with a dislocated foot already on his resume he should be given more than an even shot.
Later, the Lions tackled another need on the offensive line by signing import offensive lineman Levy Adcock, who doesn’t address the ratio but started at right tackle for Saskatchewan offensive line coach Dan Dorazio in two of three matchups against B.C. last season.