As the BC Lions move closer to the start of training camp on June 2, there will be some interesting battles for roster spots. Some positions are loaded with veteran depth while others feature more inexperienced talent.
Whatever the case, these five positions should garner some tough competition.
Back Up/Third String Quarterback
Until yesterday, the battle to back up Travis Lulay was much clearer. It seemed to be a two horse race between third stringer Thomas DeMarco and Jarrett Brown, who was on the Lions’ practice roster for the latter part of 2012.
However, the Lions signed former Winnipeg Blue Bomber pivot Joey Elliott yesterday.
Elliott did not have a great season with the Bombers last year, but in his defense, he was playing for a terrible Bombers squad with a constant quarterback carousel. He did show some flashes of brilliance and if he combines that with a strong camp, he should get the backup spot.
That will likely leave DeMarco and Brown battling for the third string job. Brown has yet to take a CFL snap, as opposed to DeMarco, but has a strong throwing arm, which could be enticing to keep as an option on Hail Mary throws. Both players will compete fiercely for that spot and it will be fun to watch.
Shawn Gore, Nick Moore, Ernest Jackson, Courtney Taylor, Marco Iannuzzi, Akeem Foster, and Paris Jackson all had significant reps last season. They, along with the returning Emmanuel Arcenaux, should be virtual locks on the roster.
Who the starting five is will be decided in camp.
Assuming these guys all make the roster, that likely leaves one more spot for a receiver. There are six other receivers coming to camp as of now and, truthfully, I know little about them.
But if I had to pick based on what I know, that last spot will go either to free agent pickup Elvis Akpla, known for this incredible catch for Montana State or highly touted draft pick Seydou Junior Haydara.
Whatever happens, the Lions will once again boast one of the deepest receiving corps in the league.
With Cauchy Muamba departing in free agency (thank goodness), the safety job should be JR Larose‘s to lose. Though injury prone, Larose has been very solid there in the past. But he could have some company.
The only other natural safety on the roster is special teams demon Jason Arakgi, who should get a decent look in camp. Also, DB Ryan Phillips has played a little safety in the past and if coach Mike Benevides wants to shuffle the deck, that could be an option.
Strong Side Corner
The weakside will once again be patrolled by All Star CB Dante Marsh. The only question is who will play on the opposite side after Byron Parker was released following a disappointing first season as a Lion.
The leading candidate is likely Joshua Bell, who started one game last season in place of an injured Parker. He played a solid game, but only dressed in one other game all season.
He is unproven as a starter but with a good camp, he could easily grab that spot.
Expect these players to be tested at corner during training camp.
This could be one of the most intense battles of camp. 23 year old Hugh O’Neill will look to unseat Paul McCallum as the Lions’ starting kicker. McCallum, 43, is the oldest player in the league and it showed last year. He only hit 84% of his field goals, dropping 10% from 2011 and struggled mightily on kicks over 45 yards.
O’Neill has yet to kick in the CFL but appears to be ready to make the leap. He was healthy this entire season, but was on injury reserve all season to make space elsewhere on the roster.
Historically, the Lions don’t dress more than one kicker, but they will likely change that philosophy.
With the uncertainty of McCallum’s durability and O’Neill’s inexperience, it will be essential to have a capable replacement when needed.