Preseason or not, Friday’s game versus the Calgary Stampeders was going to be a measuring stick for the BC Lions and their fans to see what they had heading into the 2014 season. If what fans were treated to on a beautiful summer night is going to be the norm this year it could be a special season of BC Lions Football.
It was great to back in the lot at Tailgate Empire, where the attendance was just as impressive as the 26,445 who took in the Stamps and Lions. It was like a big reunion after a long season and the regulars cooked up a storm while discussing what was in store for the club in 2014. The tailgate culture has certainly taken hold here in Vancouver, and many fans have joined our initial group.
As for the game, it felt so good to be back watching football in BC Place, with the roof open on a perfect night and the football did not disappoint if you were a BC Lions fan. For the Lions it gave them some very tough decisions to make on Saturday, a result of some stellar off-season scouting by Neil McEvoy and his scouting staff.
With new coordinators on offence and defence, one thing became clear very quickly. The 2014 BC Lions are going to attack you with speed. Speed at receiver, speed at running back, speed on defence, speed on special teams.
Using a limited playbook, the Lions played simple well executed football on offence and it was effective. Those who were leery about the Kevin Glenn trade had to leave convinced it was a brilliant move by Wally Buono to acquire the 35 year old QB. Glenn played with poise and confidence while his former teammates Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell sputtered badly for the Stamps, leaving John Hufnagel no closer to a decision on who is number one will be on opening day.
Stefan Logan served notice that he will be a force this year. Both on a 93-yard punt return and out of the backfield. The dual threat of Logan and Harris should ensure that the Lions running game will in no way resemble the one that stumbled along at times last year.
At receiver the Lions look to have some options. Kory Williams had a strong game as did Courtney Taylor and Ernest Jackson, with Manny Arceneaux soon to return. Stephen Adekolu is going to give the coaching staff plenty to consider as the Lions appear to have some solid depth at non-import, check that; national receiver. It’s going to very interesting to see how the roster shakes down, and whether or not a roster player from last year doesn’t survive the final cut.
The offensive line was not really noticeable, and anytime that happens it’s a good thing.
On defence, Khalif Mitchell demonstrated the problem he provides for opposing offensive lines and the defensive line has the potential to be scary good, especially considering the linebackers they have behind them.
The Lions pursuit to the ball was constant all night long from whistle to whistle. In the secondary, coverage was outstanding for the most part. After getting burned for a touchdown early, TJ Lee was very noticeable in a positive way with two picks, three tackles and two knockdowns.
As for fan experience, it was nice to have Matt Baker of the TEAM 1040 doing in game commentary. Matt is a smart sports guy and he’s a fan of the CFL. He should be a nice addition to the in game production and provide some nice insights as the game unfolds.
It was nice to see a social media component on the big screen, with a display of fan tweets and photos during the game. Fans want to feel engaged and there is no better way to do that as well as grow your brand, than effective use of social media.
Still, I would love to see a campaign that fans want to gravitate to. The 12th man in Seattle, more supporters groups, formation of a “Lions Nation” if you will. It needs to be something original, yet make fans want to be a part of something special. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl rings (In my opinion recent Grey Cup Rings are nicer), but they included the “12” logo as a tribute to the fans. The Lions have done a fantastic job with their off-season marketing but coming up with something to unite the fan community in this ways would be icing on the cake and would take the brand to new heights.
All in all it was a great night of football, which likely created a long night for those who decide the roster, but this fan left feeling pretty optimistic about what the Lions could be in 2014.