The State of the B.C. Lions
The BC Lions haven’t really amounted to much this season, in both terms of negative and positive measures. The orange and white are kind of just going through the motions of a season it seems, with few front page issues or successes.
Sitting in third place in the West Division was certainly not what head coach Mike Benevides drew up in the off-season for the Lions.
The West is very competitive this year, which is one key reason the Lions’ 4-2 record is only good for third place. And we all know, or think we know, that the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ hot start to 2013 is sure to cool off very soon. The real scary team out west, as they proved to be last year as well, are the Calgary Stampeders.
The Stamps have had B.C.’s number as of late, and don’t show signs of slowing down this year either. B.C. has had little trouble with Edmonton thus far in 2013, and have yet to square off against the Riders and former long-time Lions receiver Geroy Simon.
The East Division is downright dismal this year, with the exception of Toronto, who looks decent in their Grey Cup defense campaign.
The key to the home stretch of this year for B.C. will be winning the season series versus Calgary, and then of course finishing business the way they couldn’t last November.
The state of the Lions at this point of the season can be broken down many different ways, but for the sake of simplicity here is a breakdown of the three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.
The days of B.C.’s high powered offense seem to be numbered. The team ranks fourth in points scored after six games this season. Travis Lulay, although having a solid statistical season, really hasn’t seemed to hit his groove yet.
Andrew Harris has been the offense’s rock and much needed spark thus far in the year. But if they are to have any sort of post-season success they need to establish the air attack as Harris can’t, and shouldn’t be expected to, handle the weight of the team’s fate on his shoulders.
Offensive grade: B-
Being coached by a defensive minded man like Mike Benevides usually takes shape on the field. The Lions have been noted for their stellar defense over the past two seasons, including their Grey Cup victory over the Blue Bombers in 2011.
The Leos’ D has allowed the third fewest points through the first third of the season.
They fall just behind Toronto for second in that category, which is impressive for a squad with some aging key members and brand new additions. The downfall of the B.C. defense this year, unlike years past, is the lack of pressure generated up front.
The Lions sit last in the league in sacks so far this season, a very uncharacteristic start for the usually tenacious group.
Note that the Lions lost DT Khalif Mitchell to Toronto, which could be a reason for the decreased production from the line, although most B.C. players would tell you they’d prefer big number 96 stay gone for good.
The Lions need to step up the intensity and get their line to start wreaking havoc on opponents to take some pressure off the secondary.
Defensive grade: B
This could be the real sore spot for B.C. this season. So far, not so good for the special teams unit. The particular problem area is the kicking game. Kickers Paul McCallum and
Hugh O’Neill have been splitting duties, as McCallum is getting too old to boot the long ball.
But neither has impressed to this point, and in fact the Lions agreed, releasing the Canadian O’Neill Friday morning.
This leaves a gap to be filled, and hopefully rather quickly as we all know how imperative specials teams get late into the season and into the playoffs.
The return game has been decent with Tim Brown and Korey Williams fielding punts and kick offs.
Special teams grade: C
Overall the Lions aren’t far from where they need to be, but they also aren’t far from slipping into mediocrity this year. Some things need to change in that locker room quickly, which is definitely not news to the staff or the players.
With the veteran leaders this team has, expect to see things improve in a hurry in B.C. as this 2013 season marches on.