Lions have Esks on speed dial; Sinkfield makes CFL season debut Friday

A large grin rests on the face of Shawn Gore most days, but it grew bigger this week when pondering the immediate prospects of the B.C. Lions offence now that it includes fellow receiver Terrell Sinkfield.

Gore was asked whether Sinkfield (above) would prevail in a 40-yard race or Chris Rainey.

“Hah!” gasped Gore, assessing the matchup. “I haven’t seen Sinkfield open it up too much. I hear he’s got it but I got to go with my boy Rainey.”

Rainey vs. Sinkfield is as amusing as the Lions facing the Edmonton Eskimos Friday  with speed to burn.

With one bye-week signing of a free agent who was with the Minnesota Vikings three weeks ago, the Lions receiving corps has suddenly shifted from being solid through the first 11 games of the season to potentially lethal, or at least as fast as any of their West Division playoff rivals.

Sinkfield’s hand-timed 4.19-second showing at his 2013 pro day was the talk of camp when he arrived for his first day with the Lions earlier this week. It took almost the same time for the Lions to realize the stress they can potentially put on a defence with Sinkfield and Rainey on the field simultaneously.

It may not happen a great deal Friday but if it does the Eskimos will surely realize their offensive one-two punch of Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker isn’t the only duo capable of stretching the field.

Also, think of the possibilities with Rainey, who is being ignored on special teams lately because of his productivity, and Sinkfield returning kicks, another aspect of play the Lions will endeavor to develop in the weeks ahead.

Sinkfield was the other returner during his days with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“I was on the team with Brandon Banks,” said Sinkfield. “We made that work. You kick away from him, you’ve got to kick it to me.” Banks got the headlines during the Ticats’ run to the 2014 Grey Cup game but their other returner not only was dangerous that year he also posted 1,030 receiving yards last season in Hamilton.

Hamilton coach/GM Kent Austin talked to Sinkfield about a return visit and got real serious when Chad Owens went down last week, but to the delight of Lions counterpart Wally Buono the receiver made good on the verbal agreement of terms he had already made.

It’s therefore quite easy to imagine the possibilities providing the Lions don’t out-think themselves and just let two speedsters keep opponents wondering which direction either receiver might run.

But there are several other storylines besides the Lions new potential offensive threat that makes their return to work after a bye week more than a little intriguing.

For one thing, the Lions still have to stop the two top receiving threats in the league, and it shouldn’t take long for Edmonton to launch an approach. During practice all week the Lions lined up first-year CFLers Anthony Gaitor and Chandler Fenner on one side in the defensive secondary while reuniting Brandon Stewart and Ryan Phillips on the other.

To Phillips, all that should mean to Gaitor and Fenner is a chance to secure permanent work.

“They’re going to be targeted,” Phillips said. “If you’re looking for opportunity this is the week.”

While Edmonton is looking for find some combination to halt a three-game losing streak, the Lions are anxious to see if the work of their offensive line last time out against Montreal is more than a one-game wonder.

B.C. had 252 yards on the ground against the Alouettes led by Jeremiah Johnson, who not surprisingly gets another start, prompting Buono to proclaim his offensive line played its best game since 2006.

“It’s great to be compared but we want to establish our own legacy,” Lions centre Cody Husband said.

Most anticipated of all, however, would be a Sinkfield/Rainey match race after practice one day soon. Gore and a few others can’t wait.

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.