Leos Fall Short
Virtually every fan simultaneously loves and hates preseason games in every sport. There are pros and cons to exhibition matches, more cons than pros depending on the specific league. The CFL is one of the better, if not the best, leagues when it comes to getting what’s necessary out of these meaningless games and moving quickly into the real season.
Other professional leagues, such as the MLB and NFL, drag their preseasons out far too long, but up here in the great white north it’s a quick two week test run then right into the thick of things.
I personally love how quick the CFL preseason flies by, but I do understand that it is a necessary part of pro sports. Fans love getting their first glimpse of the state of their team for the new season, albeit only likely a half of football for the starters. And it’s the coaching staff’s evaluation time for the players to make sure they’re putting the best possible product on the field for week one of the regular season. I was at last Friday’s B.C. Lions‘ game and here’s some key notes I took away from the five point loss to the Eskimos.
Lulay and Harris are business as usual
The two best players on the Lions, and arguably in the whole country, were in tip top shape against Edmonton. Travis Lulay‘s arm looked sharp and his footwork was quick and active. He seemed in near mid-season form, throwing for over 200 yards and a pair of scores. It’s a very different receiving core this year, so his chemistry with the other guys will be something to keep an eye on in the early season as well.
Andrew Harris looked great as expected. He seemed extra motivated and eager both on the field and impatiently waiting on the sidelines to get back out there. Expect nothing but amazing from number 33 this year as he will surely continue to showcase his great rushing, receiving and blocking skills.
On a somewhat surprising and risky note, both Lulay and Harris played well into the second half, and Harris even took snaps late in the fourth quarter. I was not impressed at all by the decision to allow our best asset to be subject to injury in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game.
Backup QB is a big question mark
The point of these preseason games is to feel out the uncertainties, one of which being the quarterback depth chart. Since we lost last year’s backup Mike Reilly to the Esks, it would have been nice to see someone really step up as the clear number two behind Lulay. Reilly was the opposition on Friday, and he looked very sharp. It was disappointing to see Lulay in the game so late, and even moreso that only DeMarco got time after that.
Neither Elliott nor Hart got any snaps. Hart is now on the practice squad, and Elliott is third string. DeMarco did no impress at all in the game. He looked rushed and in a state of panic for much of his time under centre. The last straw for me was seeing him mis-manage the game clock and situation at the end of the game. He needed to spike the ball and set up two good tries for the end zone, but instead rushed a play at the line on first down, which led to the obvious failed attempt and subsequent loss. Mistakes like that are why he is a backup I guess, but it sure would have been nice to see Elliott in action.
The defensive secondary looks suspect
The CFL is a fast paced, high scoring league. You can’t ask your defense to pitch a shutout or even completely stop your opponents air attack. But the defensive backs need to be able to slow the other QB down, and certainly need to not get beat deep. The Lions got beat deep a handfull of times against Edmonton, including two deep touchdowns over the heads of everyone. The first thing kids learn playing safety is don’t get beat deep, so it’s very frustrating to see our professional team falling into that horrendous habit.
There was some very apparent miscommunication between the safeties and corners in deep coverage, and it was ugly at times. Let’s hope those mistakes lead to some big corrections and changes for opening week.
The defense overall should be solid, with a very athletic front line and possibly the best linebacker core in the league. If the secondary can sort some things out then B.C. will be tough to beat in 2013.
With some big changes to last year’s team the Lions look very good overall. Some minor changes are needed entering week one of the regular season, so we shall soon see if they made those improvements.