Call rewrite. The Lions thought they had authored the right script by importing anyone with a northern Alberta postal code to help fix their problems but a 41-22 spanking by the Edmonton Eskimos proved otherwise.
Here’s three things worth pondering in the wake of yet another significant setback at Commonwealth Stadium Friday:
What happens now?: it’s not exactly difficult to lash out at the things that are still holding back the Lions because they are all too evident. What is not as clear, and may change soon, is how the man in charge sees the Lions now that a tepid start against Montreal made their problems all too apparent in the loss against Edmonton.
Hervey went heavy on former players when reworking the Lions during the winter, following a predictable path. A good number of the moves have worked out and will continue paying dividends, like the free agent signings of Otha Foster and Joel Figueroa. Early returns on the trade that enabled the Lions to acquire Gabe Knapton for Chris Williams is a win too, and of course Odell Willis only cost Hervey a draft pick and futures.
But there were suggestions from the moment the Lions went all in on the defensive line that the talent behind them was suspect, which is precisely the category in which the defensive secondary as a whole now finds itself.
Hervey went heavy on three former Eskimos, A.J. Orange, Garry Peters and Marcell Young, who were established as starters for the Lions from the first day of training camp.
There are undoubtedly other former Eskimos who are out of work in the event the Lions felt compelled to make a change or two in the back end. What will be interesting to watch in the days ahead is whether Hervey will pull out his Rolodex, seek a trade or two or as Wally Buono often did in similar circumstances, sit tight and hope the group will find answers.
Make no mistake, the secondary wasn’t up against a chump quarterback but the league’s most outstanding player, Mike Reilly, who simply chewed up the Lions secondary. An early assessment, however, is that this secondary group isn’t much better than the once Buono assembled last year. Ronnie Yell, Kendall James, Loucheiz Purifoy, Keynan Parker and Matt Bucknor, five players who ended last season on the Lions roster, would have been just as good as the group which was part of a defence that gave up 504 net yards Friday.
Early rundown: Another conclusion was another case study in the skill demonstrated by the coaching stuff under Edmonton’s Jason Maas at deciphering game film.
In the Lions season opening win, it was apparent to everyone except the Montreal Alouettes that Buono’s defence couldn’t stop the run. Tyrell Sutton of the Alouettes gashed the Lions early in the season opener, but for reasons known only to them he wasn’t heard from during the final three quarters of that June 16 game, and Montreal was not down so far it had to abandon the run.
Edmonton noticed and benefitted greatly. C.J. Gable ravaged the Lions to the tune of 165 yards on an NFL-like 23 carries. Once they made sure to get a block on Solomon Elimimian, the Eskimos simply did what they wanted.
Andrew Harris is up for the next two weeks. Hervey may want to think about more than the secondary if changes are in store.
Missed opportunity: Jon Jennings could still unlock the darker mysteries of the offence he is being asked to run and against Edmonton made a number of solid throws. He was also one desperation pass at the end of the first half away from an interception-free outing that was a staple of his work last year.
The hope, however, was that the Lions quarterback had spent enough time with new offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson that he would be able to take a step back to the elite form he showed upon taking the CFL by storm two years ago.
But he didn’t. Now Jennings is 1-6 against the Eskimos and 3-14 against Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg in his career. What happens next is clear. Perform well against those division rivals and the league will start to take the Lions seriously. It’s not hard to figure out how the league will react if form holds.