Big Question Mark
The BC Lions are currently 2-1 and are tied for second in the West with Calgary, no thanks to their special teams unit.
Through Week 3, they’ve given up two blocked punts, botched an extra point and a short field goal, and returners Tim Brown and Korey Williams have combined for a measly 85 total return yards per game.
That is nowhere near good enough, and frankly, if the offense and defense hadn’t been so good the last two games, the Lions would be 0-3 right now.
They can’t expect to be bailed out by the defense after every major mistake and they need to give the offense good field position consistently.
With struggles such as these the finger usually points to the kicker, but Hugh O’Neill has not been the problem for the most part.
The blocked punts were mostly a result of missed blocking assignments and wide snaps, while the missed field goal were due in large part to a poor hold by Thomas DeMarco and wet conditions in Edmonton last week.
As for the returners, neither Brown nor Williams have been able to establish any type of consistent field position for the offense.
While there may be some problems with blocking schemes, the returners have been trying to break the big run rather than take what they have been given.
If they can start running north-south rather than east-west, they will have much more success.
The Lions made one major move on special teams last week, replacing long snapper Tim Cronk with newly acquired Jordan Matechuk, who was claimed from Saskatchewan’s practice roster. They don’t seem to be done yet however.
With both of them on the field at the same time, it could create some confusion for the Eskimos and open them up for bigger returns.
If they can improve their on field vision and decision making, look for them to have big games today.
Also, future Hall of Fame kicker Paul McCallum will play his first game of the year and will likely split the kicking duties with Hugh O’Neill.
McCallum will handle the field goals, O’Neill will take the kick offs, and both will likely alternate on punts. Having that experience back in the lineup will give the Lions more confidence in both of their kickers and will give O’Neill yet another opportunity to watch and learn from one of the greatest kickers in CFL history.
Bottom line: this unit needs to be better. They know it, the coaches know it, and the fans know it.
Now all they have to do is show us what they’re made of.
They don’t need to break a huge return or hem the Eskimos deep every time, but they need to avoid disastrous turnovers and be consistent. If they can do that, the Lions will be in good shape tonight.