Lions Going Nowhere in 2019

Greetings, fun seekers! Well, it’s time to tell it like it is about the 2019 black, orange and white kitty cats from BC.

Let’s start with management. It’s a tough to replace the winningest coach in CFL history, an icon who was also GM and at times represented the Team at the Board of Governors level. And it’s typical for incoming GMs like Ed Hervey to bring in HIS guys, since GMs don’t want to be lose with the guys the last GM brought in.

But you have to ask yourself whether some of the guys that Buono and Hervey either cut, or otherwise let go in the last couple of years, (Solomon Elimimian, Adam Bighill, Anthony Orange, Micah Awe, Chandler Fenner, Anthony Gaitor, Ricky Collins Jr., Jermarcus Hardrick etc) wouldn’t be at least as good or better than some of the starters currently on the roster. The purpose or replacing players is to improve the team, not to change the deck chairs on the Titanic!

Now onto BC’s coaching staff. It’s too soon to criticize head coach Devon Claybrooks, but I have to say that crooked hat that seemed to make him appear eccentric and colourful back in June now seems to make him look silly and confused. I think his offensive coordinator, Jarius Jackson, has been calling passing plays that are way too one-dimensional, seldom moves the launch point around often enough to slow down the pass rush and takes too long to develop, which is contributing to the team’s high sack numbers and way too many hits on Mike Riley. Lately Jackson’s run game has improved considerably, which has helped keep the team get leads early and stay in games longer, but, hey, its a passing league, right? Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Rich Stubler’s bend-but-not-break philosophy has been bending and breaking too often, partly because his front seven have been on the field for far too long most games. (More on that below.)

In seven games BC’s big guys on both lines haven’t been able to stop a beach ball. Their offensive line this year has been truly offensive to watch; if they had any integrity they would all return their pay cheques, since all of them, including their so-called big additions (Brett Boyco, Sukh Chung) have been little more than turnstiles. Boyco has been so bad he dressed but never got into the club’s last debacle against the Roughriders. Bottom line: the hoggies are getting their quarterback Mike Riley killed nearly every week. That cannot continue to happen, or by October Riley will be an orange, white and black puddle, seven yards behind center. The running backs (White, Rutley) have been pretty good so far, but both need to be more effective at picking up the blitz. Out top two receivers, Burnham and Durant, been very solid so far, but the team needs a quality third top receiver, to replace that head case Duron Carter. Due to protection issues up front he hasn’t been targeted a lot, but he also doesn’t run good routes, and like many of BC’s other receivers he doesn’t seem to recognize blitzes and therefore adjust his route accordingly. Generally QBs look for the inside guy on th wide side of the field to brk off his rout and that just hasn’t been happening often enough. And Carter doesn’t compete hard enough to prevent interceptions if the ball is under-thrown. Finally, while he has been a warrior for BC this year, Mike Riley needs to cut down on his picks by eating the ball if it isn’t there. Better to punt and flip the flip the field than give opposition good field position.

The Leos’ D-Line hasn’t been much better. They’ve been okay on first down against the run, but on pass plays their rush ends can’t get home often enough and their defensive tackles haven’t provided nearly enough pocket push inside. At times on outside rushes their ends have rushed too deeply, allowing mobile quarterbacks like Harris, Misoli and Fajardo to escape the pocket up the B gap on one side or the other. That is pretty basic D-end tactics; don’t rush deeper than the QB. Odell Willis needs to either get home way more often to justify his big salary, or replaced with some who can do the job more effectively. What BC could ruse is a real stud inside, likely an import, a guy with the skill/compete level of a Micah Johnson or an Alonzo Sewell. I mean, when was the last time you saw a BC defensive tackle push a guard or center back into the quarterback like teams have been doing to us this year? This isn’t too likely to happen, since BC blew most of its spending cash in the off-season on the offense, hiring their big ticket QB and an all-star guard from Winnipeg who so far has neither guarded well nor stayed healthy. The rest of the defense, particularly the secondary,have been exposed a bit since on second and long because they’ve had to cover their guys for too long. I like BC’s linebackers, but their Mike linebacker Jordan Herdman needs to more often avoid getting picked off in the wash.

Special teams have been pretty good overall, but their cover teams have given up long returns for touchdown lately. Castillo has been a pretty good place kicker but he lost the punting job to former Tiger Cat Josh Bartel because his average was too low.

There is no question the Lions’schedule, including pre-season, facing six western teams in the first seen games has contributed to their poor start. But everybody plays teams in their conference more ften that the other conference, so what else is new? So BC definitely got screwed by the league office on that front.

What’s the bottom line? That gigantic sucking sound BC fans have been enduring all season needs to stop, and stop soon! Everyone from management to the coaches to the quarterbacks to the offensive and defensive lines to the running backs to the linebackers to the secondary needs to get five to ten percent better, or those players who have under-performed so far this year will get replaced when the last rounds of NFL cuts become available in late August or early September. If they aren’t replaced, Ed Hervey can count on even more empty seas in the lower bowl of BC Place Stadium this fall.

This situation reminds me a lot of the struggling Lions teams shortly after the turn of the century, three years after their latest a Grey Cup win, that mightily struggled and weren’t drawing well at the box office. The late Bobby Ackles turned that situation around by several key hires: getting Wally Buono and Dave Dickenson from Calgary and signing an up-and-coming receiver/kick returner named Geroy Simon from Winnipeg. Those changes helped BC win its fifth Grey Cup three years later. Hervey’s task is much harder than Ackles, because finding, developing and keeping great offensive and defensive linemen is the hardest job a CFL GM has. Good luck with that, Ed.

-Dooger in Vancouver

Yeah, it’s a bleak looking season or sure. The O line that you could strain spaghetti through…