When it comes to days at the office, Wally Buono can certainly say he had a great one as free agency opened across the CFL on Friday. After the firestorm of the Geroy Simon trade, it had to be a feel good day out in Surrey. Here is a recap and some thoughts on today’s activity.
The Lions started the day by announcing the re-signing of veteran receiver Paris Jackson and an extension for Korey Banks. As Lowell Ullrich of The Province tweeted, the extension for Banks was just part of the annual off-season routine for the Lions and the veteran defensive back.
The Jackson signing was news simply because there is a notion that after two years of accepting a lesser role, Jackson and the Lions are indicating that he’ll be given every opportunity to use his experience and get back on the playing field. Jackson had asked for his release from the Lions, but his leadership among the receiving corps could be the reason why the Lions had second thoughts, especially after the departure of Geroy Simon.
With those signings out of the way, the Lions turned their attention to their most high profile free agents. Free agency began with the news that Solomon Elimimian had decided to remain in the CFL. Farhan Lalji from TSN modified partner Dave Naylor’s tweet by saying Elimimian would not be signing in BC.
That set off some excitement on Twitter, with fans of other teams wondering how Elimimian would fit into their team’s plans. Shortly after that, reports began to surface that the Lions had re-signed Elimimian, though it took a while for all sides to finally confirm. The Lions had Elimimian take a medical prior to the deadline, and obviously feel there are no serious issues there. It’s believed that Elimimian received a similar deal to that of Adam Bighill, who he will have a whole training camp to get in sync with heading into the 2013 season.
The news got even better when the Lions announced (before Elimimian was confirmed) that they had signed 2012 most outstanding offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye to a new deal. It was widely known that Olafioye would explore his options in the NFL, but after last year’s experience and the lack of a real commitment by anyone this year, he appears to have made the decision to carve out a nice career here in BC. That’s great news for the Lions (and for Travis Lulay) who would have had a big hole to fill on the offensive line, particularly with the question marks at the guard spots heading into training camp. In fact the only downer on the day was the fact the Lions weren’t able to add any depth for the offensive line, thanks largely in part to teams re-signing their own players and the crop being rather thin this year.
The Lions also plucked defensive lineman Julius Williams from the Edmonton Eskimos to add to their stacked defensive line corps. Williams, listed at 6’2 257 pounds, is entering his third year in the league and was deemed expendable by Edmonton GM Ed Hervey after his club signed Odell Willis away from Saskatchewan moments after free agency opened. Williams has compiled 25 tackles and 7 sacks over his 24 regular season and 3 playoff appearances. The signing could give the Lions two Williams as defensive ends, with all-star Keron the other bookend.
The Lions did lose James Yurichuk to the Toronto Argonauts on Friday. The Ontario native chose to sign in his home province rather than re-up with the Lions and you can’t blame him. His work on special teams will be missed, but Yurichuk wasn’t going to see much playing time behind McKenzie, Bighill and Elimimian.
Defensive back Cauchy Muamba also entered the day as a free agent but as of this blog had not signed with anyone yet.
So all in all it was a great day for the Lions and their fans and who knows, there could be another tweak or two in the coming days.
We’ll leave the last word to the boss:
The BC Lions announced following the Super Bowl that the popular veteran non-import receiver had extended with the Lions for another year plus an option.
Jackson assumed a back up role for the team last season and helped mentor younger receivers such as Akeem Foster, Shawn Gore and Marco Iannuzzi. He’ll assume that role again and also be ready to make a clutch catch when called on, as he did in last season’s Western Final and Grey Cup game.
“Paris has always been a very good receiver and in recent years he has developed into both a leader and mentor for our younger receivers,” said VP of football operations and GM Wally Buono. “He is an important part of our team and this is another offseason win for the club to have him returning.”
It’s the week of dramatic finales in the CFL. After the Edmonton Eskimos stunned the Calgary Stampeders with an improbable touchdown strike in the waning seconds on Thursday, tonight the BC Lions rallied for a victory on the road in Hogtown.
After all but being left for dead at the half, down 19-7 and having nothing positive to show offensively other than a single 33-yard drive culminating in a Rolly Lumbala touchdown, the BC Lions stormed back to capsize the Toronto Argonauts and their hopes of capturing a victory at home walking away with a 36-28 victory.
The Toronto hopes looked good, with the Boatmen holding an eight point edge with just over six minutes to play, but Jarious Jackson seemed to have found a gap in the Argos’ defensive scheme in the second half- a susceptibility to long throws down the middle of the field.
Head Coach Wally Buono decided at the half to try to do something to shake the Lions’ offense up, electing to put third-stringer Travis Lulay behind centre to open the third quarter, to no avail, as the Lions sandwiched a pair of two-and-outs around an 11-play, 84-yard Toronto drive culminating in one of Justin Medlock’s seven field goals of the night.
The Lions defence continued what seemed to be a policy of “bend but don’t break” in holding Toronto out of the end zone for most of the game, yielding only a single major, but came up with a game-changing two-and-out stop of the Argos which seemed to spark the rally.
Lulay only played two more snaps before being the second BC quarterback knocked out of the game. Jarious Jackson returned to the game and proceeded to take the team in for six on a 35-yard strike to Paris Jackson on a post pattern to make it 22-14.
After a bad penalty call against Barron Miles looked to have the Argos seriously threatening on the ensuing possession, Ricky Foley shut the door and forced Toronto to settle for a 52-yard field goal from Medlock to close the third quarter.
The Jackson to Jackson connexion struck again under a minute into the fourth, with Paris reeling in a pass for a 57 yard gain, setting up another Jackson to Jackson pass two plays later to close the gap to 25-21, and suddenly rather than being the one-sided affair it looked like at the half, the Lions were in striking distance.
The mental lapses which plagued the first few games of the season almost struck again on the conversion attempt, with the interception by Jason Shivers returned 51 yards. Fortunately, Shivers was brought down by Jarious Jackson, back-checking to make amends for his error.
Ten Argo plays and seventy-six yards later, the Lions forced Toronto to settle for yet another field goal to set the gap at seven points with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter.
A pair of pass interference flags against the Argos paved the way for another Jackson touchdown toss, this one to Emmanuel Arcineaux, and even after the two-point conversion failed, the gap was down to just a single point at 28-27.
The Lions’ defence roared again on the ensuing possession, forcing Argos’ quarterback Cody Pickett to take a loss of eight yards at the three-minute warning and holding Toronto to another key two-and-out capped by the only mistake Medlock would make all night- under-kicking his coverage resulting in a no-yards fifteen yard penalty on the punt, giving the Lions the ball back at midfield with 2:32 left on the clock.
Seven plays and two minutes and twenty-four seconds later, the Lions took the lead on a chip-shot field goal from Sean Whyte, making it 31-28 Lions with eight ticks later.
Not to be outdone in the heroics, the special teams unit put the exclamation mark on the game with Ryan Phillips walking into the end-zone after intercepting a lateral attempt from Reggie McNeal intended for Jamal Robertson, leaving just a Whyte conversion to register the final margin at 36-28.
This is still a Lions’ team with a lot of work to do as they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a week from today before heading into their bye week, but it’s a team which has now gotten up off the mat to string together a pair of victories. The offense can’t rely solely on the deep ball to get them through the season, but is going to have to find a way to fire on all cylinders getting the attack balanced although they did a good job identifying the gap in the Argos’ secondary and effectively exploiting it. The offensive line seemed to rally from a shaky start, but with Jarious Jackson at the helm the coverage isn’t quite as essential as with the less-mobile Buck Pierce.
The defence performed well in keeping Toronto out of the red zone for much of the game, but it would be nice to see them yield fewer yards against.
Three weeks ago, this game would have had a different outcome. Tonight, it probably should have, but Lion fans should take heart in the victory and in the fact that their team hung tough and refused to fold.
The return of CFL football is upon us, and as training camps break across the league, all eight teams are setting their sights on winning the Grey Cup. For the first time in a couple of seasons, the BC Lions are going to have a very competitive training camp. The off-season saw the team release several veterans, many of the big name variety in an effort to build a younger, faster team. Here’s our 2 cents about where the battles will take place at camp and who to keep your eye on. In part 1 of our training camp primer, we’ll examine the offense. Read more