Three things we learned from B.C. Lions pre-season opener

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Jon Jennings and others talked for days at training camp. The first game of the season for the B.C. Lions against the Calgary Stampeders absolutely couldn’t be like the last time they went to McMahon Stadium.

The stakes were higher back then sure enough, but the results were the same. B.C. looked as hopeless offensively Tuesday with their backup candidates than the regulars who were washed away at last year’s West Division final.

It ended in a 23-18 meaningless exhibition win by Calgary but reminded the Lions of the work ahead in order to even get close to the class of the CFL in the regular season last year.

“Calgary is setting the standard and have for a couple of years,” Jennings said at training camp. “We have to the raise our standard of play. We had a good team last year and had areas were we excelled but we have to work on the small things to become a championship team.”

Jennings had but a couple of offensive series against Calgary before watching what became a game befitting the 10th day of training camp. A few reflections about joining the handful who took in the opener:

Back to square one: There were two position groups that almost completely avoided scrutiny in Kamloops early because of their solid play and were the only two groups that had projected starters playing in the exhibition opener.

Naturally, Jennings and his fellow quarterbacks struggled Tuesday. The offensive line, which included all five projected starters, were worse. Jovan Olafioye is definitely going to be missed. There was plenty of blame to go around but coach/GM Wally Buono knew immediately what matters most.

“The quarterback has to get rid of the football,” said Buono. Jennings and Travel Lulay had but token appearances. The game was about settling on a third-stringer and in that competition incumbent Keith Price took a step behind rookie import Alex Ross (Coastal Carolina), who engineered a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives.

Mission accomplished: Despite the score, the game was about identifying backup candidates and on that front the Lions actually succeeded. Wideout Corey Jones (Toledo) showed he can be effective holding down the position that will be occupied by Chris Williams when he is healthy. B.C. needs a backup for tailback Jeremiah Johnson and Josh Harris (Wake Forest), playing his first game in two seasons, showed he is capable.

The game was a positive for defensive back Anthony Thompson, who wore Bo Lokombo’s old number (8) and showed similar versatility, possibly enough to devise some package work for a sophomore who has played two positions in the secondary but didn’t look out of place at nickleback. Rookie Micah Awe (Texas Tech) was never going to replace MLB Solomon Elimimian but played well enough to make the Lions contemplate making him designated import material behind Tony Burnett at Adam Bighill’s vacated weak-side linebacking position.

Longshot?: The Calgary barn may have only been half-full – odd for a game that wasn’t televised – but it was enough to draw talent evaluators ranging from Craig Smith (Winnipeg) to Hamilton GM Eric Tillman.

The Ticats need kicking help, after reportedly losing to the Lions on an off-season bid to sign free agent Swayze Waters, which may account for the Tillman sighting and the fact parked Waters on the sidelines while giving the entire game to rookie Ty Long (Alabama-Birmingham).

Word in Kamloops was that the Lions are so sold on Waters they offered Long to the Tiger-Cats in trade last week. Tillman got a look at a possible replacement that showed much consistency as Richie Leone. Long connected on a 46-yard-field goal but wasn’t perfect on punts, showing he has leg but not always directional accuracy.

About the author

Lowell Ullrich

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.

3DownNation is a website dedicated to covering the CFL and Canadian football.




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