Lions ground game becomes more clear with Allen signing

It’s a pretty safe bet that Wally Buono didn’t sign Anthony Allen on the basis of a tweet from a former employee, but the message behind the words of Jerome Messam wasn’t lost on the B.C. Lions head man nonetheless.

A day into free agency and two days after he had secured his own future by re-signing with the Calgary Stampeders, the former Lions ramrod tailback gave some Twitter love to his former backfield mate with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Messam, of course, is absolutely right, and because the Lions agreed to a one-year deal with the 27-year-old Allen the blueprint being reformed by Buono is becoming a bit more clear.

Allen looked particularly promising statistically during the first of his two seasons with the Riders when he had 930 yards along the ground in just 13 games when Saskatchewan was trying to figure out what it had for a running attack. His numbers tailed off last season amid the mess that had become the Riders season and more apparent indecision on how to use him and Messam, but the ability was always there.

Allen evidently feels the same way, and is just as complimentary towards his agent, Darren Gill, for finding him work in a free agent market that at presently clearly favours teams over players.



Truth be told, when you pair Allen with Jeremiah Johnson, and add Chris Rainey and Shaquille Murray-Lawrence as backs,  you might actually have the makings of a ground attack that figures to be much more diversified than when the Lions gave the ball to Andrew Harris hoping he could make plays on his own.

“We’re trying to have starting point in training camp and Anthony Allen and Jeremiah Johnson. Both can run inside, have quicks to get outside and are decent in the protection game,” Buono said Thursday. “These are CFL-proven guys that haven’t been featured backs but if given the opportunity could be very productive.”

The addition of Allen makes it an even half-dozen players acquired in the current free agent signing period, and for all the grief the Lions have taken about their unwillingness to overspend in the lottery over the years, it also should be noted they were wise spenders last season when they picked up Rainey, Eric Fraser and Rennie Curran as needed.

The signing earlier this week of Levy Adcock also begins to bring some clarity to the offensive line, as the Lions plan to start him and fellow import Jovan Olafioye at starting tackle spots so as to become less reliant on injury-ravaged Hunter Steward by moving him inside to help fill one of the three interior Canadian spots. Stewart, said Buono, will become part of a mix that will include the likes of Kirby Fabien, Cam Thorn and Cody Husband, which can’t be good news for incumbent centre Jason Foster.

In fact the only glaring hole at present is a replacement for nickleback Josh Johnson, with Darious Lane moving up the off-season depth chart for the time being.

“Our scouting department has to come through for us like they did Zach Minter and Michael Brooks,” Buono said.

B.C. also didn’t land anyone for the defensive line out of free agency but already have 12 front-four candidates already under contract before conducting any tryout camps, and may still kick the tires on a handful of Americans who haven’t yet signed.

It’s not the kind of splash being made in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg these days but it is fair to think the Lions have filled a hole or two.

“I don’t think any of the guys we’ve signed are what you would say superstars but all of them are people who have helped make us better,” Buono said.


Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.