Nick Taylor: Lucky Whitehead has ‘gotten way better’ since his season in Winnipeg

Photo courtesy: Jeff Vinnick/B.C. Lions

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive back Nick Taylor worked out with B.C. Lions’ receiver Lucky Whitehead in Miami during the CFL’s extended off-season and felt impressed by what he saw.

“He ran a route against me and I said, ‘Whoa, you’ve gotten way better from when you were in Winnipeg,'” Taylor told the media on Monday. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been working it.’ I’d seen him work all off-season on Instagram but when I saw him in person, I said, ‘OK, he’s going to be tough.'”

Taylor and Whitehead were teammates in Winnipeg during the 2019 season, though the receiver’s role decreased as the season progressed. Whitehead was a healthy scratch by the time the postseason got underway with Kenny Lawler and Rasheed Bailey emerging in the receiving corps and Janarion Grant taking over the return game.

The veteran defensive back is hoping that practicing against Whitehead last season will help him limit the receiver’s production in Friday’s game at BC Place Stadium.

“Some people have tendencies and then you know what to expect, like I know not to play around with Lucky Whitehead’s speed. He’s a fast guy, so I have to be on my Ps and Qs,” said Taylor. “We’ve just gotta know where he’s at at every moment, hit our bullseye with him, and respect him.”

Head coach Mike O’Shea was also complimentary regarding Whitehead’s progression as he is now the league’s leading receiver with 665 yards and four touchdowns on 36 receptions.

“I think he’s always had that in him. He’s certainly been impressive this year. He’s the type of guy, obviously, if you put the ball in his hands he can score from anywhere on the field,” said O’Shea.

Whitehead appears to have become Michael Reilly’s favourite target, particularly in the deep passing game. His average reception has gone for 18.5 yards this season, which ranks first among receivers with ten or more receptions, and he leads the league in yards-after-catch with 339.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.