Report Card – From the 50 Yard Line
I teach. Therefore I grade.
Sitting at 6-3 halfway through the 2012 schedule, the BC Lions have seen a roller coaster of season despite the year being only half complete.
While their record is currently good enough to place them on top of the Western Conference and tied with the Montreal Alouettes, the Leos last two games have left fans and followers wondering which team is going to show up come the post season.
To be fair to the Lions, a loss to the Al’s at this point in the season gives the team a benchmark as to what will await them come playoff time and a five point loss without one of your showcase receivers can easily be flipped the other way.
However, a last second three point victory over the CFL bottom feeder Winnipeg Blue Bombers can also go the other way.
Far from last years hideous start, the Lions are still one of the favorites to appear in and possibly capture the 100th Grey Cup this season, but in order to accomplish their goal, some tweeks may be needed.
The Lions go as Travis Lulay goes and he has continued to prove that last years stats were no fluke. The “do everything” QB has been a hybrid of former Lions pivots Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers, with his ability to dissect the short passing routes, scramble for extra yardage and throw the long ball.
Currently sitting third among the CFL quarterback ranks with 2,388 passing yards, Lulay also places ninth in the entire league for rushing yards. That ninth place ranking equates to second on the Lions roster with 322 yards, 236 more than Tim Brown.
Backup Mike Reilly has done an excellent job patrolling the sidelines with clipboard in hand and providing cleanup duty on the 1-2 yard scrambles.
The Lions have recorded twenty or more points seven times this season, and 226 points overall this season, good enough for fourth overall in the CFL standings. The great thing about the Lions scoring attack this year is that it appears as though there are more options for Lulay to connect with than in previous years.
Andrew Harris and Arland Bruce lead the way with six and four TD’s respectively, while surprisingly to many, Geroy Simon has not graced the Lions fans with a Superman pose in the end zone this season.
Along with Simon’s unknown return from his current hamstring injury and the loss of Kierre Johnson until mid October, the Lions are going to need Shawn Gore, Akeem Foster, Marco Iannuzi and North Vancouver native Paris Jackson to step up and provide targets for their red headed QB.
While the passing game is stable, the ground attack can use a pick-me-up as Harris and Lulay are the only two players with over 100 rushing yards to date this season. Though the lack of ground yardage is not their fault, Tim Brown and Gore will need to provide Lulay and Coach Benevides with another option if the defense clamps down on Lions receivers.
For three straight games the BC Lions defensive crew held their opponents not only under ten points, but also without a touchdown. The next game, they allowed only one trip to the house.
That was fourteen quarters of football in which the defense halted their opponent from visiting the end zone. Ranking as the second stingiest team in the league with 171 allowed points (the Edmonton Eskimos have allowed only 154), the Lions defense has been more than impressive to date this season.
Led by the duo of Adam Bighill and Anton McKenzie who have combined for 95 tackles in the open field and the tag team of Keron Williams and Khreem Smith who have tallied 11 QB sacks, the Lions have found multiple ways to halt their opponent.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
When you look at the CFL special teams stats, most teams have at least two players posting notable numbers. The Lions have one, Tim Brown.
Playing double duty as a kick returner and a running back, Brown has been asked to do a lot this year, to the point in which the team would benefit from having another option to fill in his spot from time to time ( aka a healthy K. Johnson).
With regards to moving the ball with the foot, look no further than Paul McCallum. With a 100% completion rate on his extra point attempts and only four missed field goals (20-24), McCallum is the start and finish when it comes to Lions kickers.
Defensively, the Lions special teams lineup ranks among the best in the league as Jason Arakgi, Lin-J Shell and Bighill have provided the team with 27 stops between them.
OVERALL: Borderline A/A+
Maybe fans were spoiled by the amazing run last year and the Grey Cup championship that accompanied it, as expectations for the Lions have been set high this season.
At 6-3, which includes their Friday afternoon loss to Montreal, the Lions are still sitting in first place overall in the Western Division, though the Eskimos could join them depending on the result of their Labor Day meeting with the Stamps.
Either way, the Lions appear to be the team to beat in the West.
While they faced opposite ends of the Eastern spectrum in their last two games with varying results, the Lions know that there is still room to improve their game in order to keep the holy grail of the CFL in Vancouver.