Lions hope healthy O-line allows for new opportunities vs. Ticats
SURREY, B.C. — After a rough start to the season, the B.C. Lions are hoping a week of rest and the return of some key players can help swing the squad’s fortunes.
Quarterback Mike Reilly admits that the Lions (1-6) had different expectations for what they’d be able to execute offensively this year.
Seven games in, the former Grey Cup MVP has been limited to 1,668 passing yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Making adjustments is simply part of the game, Reilly said.
"That’s a challenge that I think every team in the league has to go through, on both sides of the ball," said Reilly, who signed with the Lions during the off-season, opting to leave the Edmonton Eskimos. "You have to be able to do that. And that’s something we’ve certainly been working through in the first seven games of the season."
Coming off a bye week, the Lions are hoping their latest adjustments — including bringing back some newly healthy offensive lineman — will give the team a boost when they face the Tiger-Cats (5-2) in Hamilton on Saturday.
The offensive line has been a weak spot for B.C. all season, having allowed Reilly to be sacked a league-high 25 times.
Early injuries to stalwarts like Sukh Chungh and Joel Figueroa were part of the problem, but both are expected to be in lineup against Hamilton.
"Hopefully through the course of having all the guys healthy, we can develop some continuity," said B.C. coach DeVone Claybrooks. "When having consistency, you play better because you know what the other guy likes to do beside you. So hopefully that will turn into Mike not getting hit too much and getting more ball control and better on offence."
The Lions have also added a new face to the O-line, bringing in Justin Renfrow from the Calgary Stampeders.
The 29-year-old Philadelphia native said he learned of the deal via an Instagram notification.
Leaving Calgary was tough because he was very involved in the community, he added.
"But when it came to the football side of me, I’ve been waiting for a chance to play," said Renfrow, who’s expected to start at right tackle for B.C. this week.
Claybrooks, a former defensive co-ordinator for the Stamps, was already familiar with the Lions’ latest addition and called Renfrow "a good kid."
"(He) plays hard, a former defensive lineman who’s been converted and has a bunch of years under his belt over in Calgary. He brings in some toughness and that kind of thing," the coach said. "He’s a great addition to our team and I think he makes our front better."
Now the Lions’ star quarterback is hoping that an improved O-line will allow the team to open up the play book and try some new things.
Going through a tough stretch to start the season hasn’t been without positives, however, Reilly added.
"The one thing I think it forced us to do is be better at the run game. I do think that we all had the expectation that we were going to be able to come out and stretch the ball down the field and things like that," he said. "And then we had to make some moves, we were forced to re-evaluate how we were doing things in the run game.
"It’s never fun going through that but I do think that if we can get things on track and start playing good football and get some wins, it will benefit us later in the year."
B.C. LIONS (1-6) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (5-2)
Saturday, Tim Hortons Field
BANKS IS BACK: Brandon Banks is expected to return to the Ticats lineup after sitting out last week’s 24-19 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders with an injury. The speedy receiver has chalked up 554 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season, good for third in the league.
HOME-TEAM ADVANTAGE: The Ticats have yet to lose in Hamilton this season and currently boast a 4-0 record at Tim Hortons Field. Home teams have dominated across the league this year, winning 20-of-31 games.
PERFECT CHALLENGE: Claybrooks, a first-year bench boss, has won all eight of his coaches’ challenges so far this season.