What a difference a week makes. While fans left last week’s preseason game feeling optimistic about their 2014 Leos, Saturday afternoon’s home opener showed that this team is a work in progress, and there is plenty of work to be done. Here’s how I saw things, from the stands.
Obviously the story of this game was turnovers, and they weren’t the type you could just consider as unlucky. Kevin Glenn had a strong training camp and preseason and had provided comfort to the masses who were worried about life without Travis Lulay. Four interceptions may have taken some of that comfort and turned it into doubt for some.
After a decent first half, Glenn and his offence were ineffective in the second. Glenn owned the loss after the game, but as anyone who understands football know, it’s never the fault of one player. Collectively the offence didn’t provide enough support.
If the interceptions were just bad luck, that would be one thing, but at least three of the four were just poor decisions by the veteran. It wasn’t a great way to start the season for Glenn but I expect he’ll bounce back in week two with a strong performance.
The Lions’ offensive line wasn’t giving much support against a solid Edmonton defensive line, and that wasn’t helped when Andre Ramsay went down leaving Dean Valli to play the left tackle spot. With most of the guys the Lions brought in to plug that spot gone either through their own decision or the club’s, the o-line will continue to be a growing concern and a work in progress early in 2014.
On the defensive line, things were more positive. Khreem Smith had a very strong game, and the Lions were getting in the Edmonton backfield frequently. Eric Taylor and Khalif Mitchell looked good in the middle. The problem was that Mike Reilly and the Eskimos figured out they could pick up seven or eight yards with quick screen and swing passes, and they had success with that, making that pressure irrelevant and extending drives in the process.
The running game
Stefan Logan and Andrew Harris could not get on track along the ground, with just 48 yards rushing between them. The Eskimos had a solid game plan for Logan, and with the offensive line struggling at times, it didn’t leave much of a chance for the Lions’ one-two punch.
If teams are going to game-plan for Logan, the Lions need to find a way to have Harris pick up the load. Fans will hope the Lions can find a way to make both of these players more effective on the ground.
On the whole the Lions defence had a decent day, but on two TD’s Edmonton receivers were wide open. Adarius Bowman got behind Cord Parks for seven, while Fred Stamps; yes Fred Stamps, was left unmarked for another, leaving this fan to wonder how that’s even possible.
In the stands
The Lions drew more fans for a preseason game than they did for their home opener. Perhaps a lot of freebies were in the house for the exhibition game, but on a day when the weather was hit or miss, the turnout for game one was somewhat disappointing. It is a long weekend of sorts, and we should be used to these smaller summer crowds by now, but I thought there would more in attendance.
The Lions themselves are doing their best to engineer more fan participation during the game. Their marketing strategy in 2014 encourages fans to “Bring the noise”. Their hashtag on Twitter is #ROAR, but once again it seems Vancouver fans are content to just cheer when something excites them, rather than do it to help the team on the field.
Each year this is the case, and each year the crowds get better as the season churns on, but it’s something I will never understand. It starts with the core fans. The season ticket holders and fans that attend all the games. They need to show the way for the casual fan and until that happens, nothing much is going to change.
Perhaps it is time the Lions draped off the upper bowl, at least in the areas where they don’t sell seats. Perception is everything for some, and empty seats don’t inspire the casual fan to think they are at a big time event.
Lastly if you were one of the fans that left in droves with 9:00 plus to play in the fourth quarter, unless you had a valid excuse; shame on you.
What were your thoughts on game one? Seventeen more to go, and lots of work remains to be done for the Lions. With both Winnipeg and Edmonton proving the West Division is going to very tough this year, the Lions best figure out some solutions quicker than later.