The BC Lions returned to the practice field Monday after another loss on their record, and some new faces on the field. With holiday Monday and a beautiful day to take in practice, I ventured down to the Surrey training facility to check out our lethargic Lions.
New faces in town
As was rumored Sunday by @littlemissCFL on Twitter, and posted on BCLionsden.ca, the Lions announced the signing of linebacker JoJuan Armour on Monday, as well as that of former Edmonton Eskimo running back A.J. Harris and defensive end James Edwards. All three players were at practice and it was instantly recognized that Armour was immediately taking on a starting role with the team. The physical Armour, who started his CFL career with the BC Lions, was taking all of the first team reps in Javy Glatt’s middle linebacker position, while Glatt watched from the sidelines. This move was later confirmed by Armour who told the Team 1040 that he was assuming the middle linebacker position.
When asked about the move Glatt told the Team 1040:
“When you lose games, people lose their jobs and they picked me – I’m the guy that takes it and I’ve just got to stay positive about it and help the guys as much as I can, and if I’m here, I’m here, and if not, we’ll deal with that when we get to it. Basically, I was told I’m not athletic enough and I’m a liability in some things. That’s what happens when you lose. A lot of things come out that are negative and you just have to deal with it.”
Glatt can hardly take all the blame for the team’s defensive woes. The defensive line has been at fault as well, and there are questions about the scheme of the defense itself. But the fact remains that something had to change, and the with the Lions giving up an average of 150 yards rushing per game,the middle linebacker position was a good place to start.
Wally Buono explained it this way:
“Well, we’re not replacing Javy, we’re just changing his responsibilities. Part of (the move) was trying to get a spark into this football team. I’m not going to go into issues. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to function and we just wanted to make sure we address a situation that wasn’t good. We didn’t stop the run in the past two weeks and for us to be better as a football club, we have to do that.”
There was no scheme change, with Armour and McKenzie being joined by Korey Banks in certain situations as the nickleback. It will remain to be seen how much the scheme itself has to do with the Lions lack of success with the run, now that Armour is in the mix.
A.J. Harris didn’t seem to have as much of a prominent role at Monday’s practice, and Martell Mallett seemed to be taking all the first team reps, with Darren Toney and Ryan Grice-Mullen returning punts. According to Lowell Ullrich, Buono confirmed that Harris is here for the time being as insurance behind Mallett, and because Ian Smart was due to have surgery today on his banged up knee. With an average of 5.6 yards per carry last season for the Eskimos and good hands coming out of the backfield, it was not a bad insurance policy to take a chance on.
A quiet bunch
I’ve attended a few Lions practices over the last few years, and one thing was noticeable off the bat at this one, there wasn’t a lot of talking going on. Korey Banks quipped “We still have fans? Really, we still have fans?”, as he jogged out to the practice field, but the usual banter amongst players was muted at best.
Wally Buono took a much more hands on approach in today’s practice, particularly on special teams drills where he was fairly vocal. Buono’s style is usually to sit back and let his coaches run the practice, but obviously desperate times call for a more involved role from the boss.
For those still dreaming of the return of Stefan Logan here is an update on his quest to make the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Monday’s Practice Photo Gallery: