After the first four days of BC Lions training camp, there is a lot of positives to take from the sessions. It’s also obvious that there is much work to do between now and July 4th, when the the club opens the 2010 season in Edmonton.
The club has found some nice talent in some areas of need, but there are certainly some concerns. In this report we’ll take a quick look at the key positions on offense so far. This is from our observations and restricted access. It should be noted that the Lions have restricted fans to the stands for the first time in several years, so we are a good distance away depending on where the drills are. For instance, the offensive line is often taken to a separate field that does not provide for a good view from the stands.
These observations are from four days and seven sessions of training camp.
Casey Printers started camp looking sharp and confident. But the last day and a half has seen a step backwards. He often scrambles for a big gain, but it means little when no one is allowed to hit you. Printers has shown visible signs of frustration at times, but as the club’s new leader he needs to get back on the saddle and onto the next play and rally the troops when things aren’t going right. He’s had good velocity on the ball and good accuracy for the most part. He looks quick and agile and judging on the pressure the defensive line has gotten on him in practice he’ll need those skills, especially early on as the offensive line takes time to gel into a unit. The backups haven’t shown as much. Jarious Jackson’s velocity looks a bit off. He was shut down from throwing in one session, possibility a maintenance day on his shoulder. Travis Lulay has also struggled with his accuracy. Both have had good sessions, but the consistency is not there. Fourth arm Kyle Parrish is getting reps, but he’s done nothing to suggest he’ll be moving up in the QB pecking order.
One of the biggest questions heading into camp was the status of the offensive line, and from what we can see it remains a question. The Lions sent Jason Jimenez packing and are moving Sherko Haji-Rasouli on the right side, and last year’s practice roster tackle Dumane Duckett will is lining up on the left. In between the tackles are Daren Heerspink, Jon Hameister-Ries and pre-camp newly appointed centre Dean Valli.
The unit is going to take some time to gel, and that is pretty evident on a lot of the drills so far. The club’s mandate has been to be a more physical club this season, and judging by the skirmishes we’ve seen this week, that aspect is certainly evident. But there are concerns, particularly at the tackles and many drills seem to see defensive ends in the backfield quickly. None of the players the Lions have brought in have looked particularly impressive or a threat to supplant the starters listed above, and that has to be a concern if the current lineup proves not good enough. Dane Randolph and Jovan Olafioye have not impressed to date, but have been working exclusively with the backup unit, as the team is obviously hoping to give the chosen starters that gel time we spoke of earlier. Angus Reid is competing hard in a new backup role, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting again at some point as Valli continues to evolve in the position. Justin Sorensen seems to have take the more physical plea from Wally to heart and has been very physical at camp, including the domination of Jeremy Gibbs in a heated exchange that saw “Walby Junior” land two heavy punches before teammates could separate them.
The Lions have brought in some nice talent here and it compliments what they already had. That said, Jamal Robertson has separated himself from the pack, and as things stand will be the starting running back on July 4th. It’s who will back him up that becomes interesting. Jamall Lee is lining up at fullback in camp along with the large and quick Jerome Messam. Imports Yonus Davis and Toddrick Pendland have both had some success, but the player pushing Robertson the most is junior star Andrew Harris, who didn’t look out of place at camp last year. Harris has been consistently good and is getting lots of reps and he’s also seen some time on kick returns. The offense has some new looks this year and the possibilities are encouraging for anyone thinking the Lions may be abandoning the running game this year.
The Lions have brought in some nice talent here. Almost every receiver has had their moments, and a few have had some they should have caught. Newcomer Tony Washington has been very impressive, pretty much catching everything thrown his way. Kerry Reed has shown some nice speed, as has Darius Passmore and Steven Black. Matt Chapdelaine has proven he belongs in camp and has had a fairly solid four days, which will hopefully give the kid a break from some fans thinking he’s getting a free ride. Last year’s practice roster Terence Scott was injured early in camp and much to this fans dismay hasn’t been a factor. Nate Binder and Akeem Foster have had a tough time getting noticed.
Amongst the veterans, you can be assured that Emmanuel Arceneaux has come back to improve on his great rookie campaign. He’s easily been the class of the receivers thus far and looks to be headed for a dominant season. On the other end of the spectrum, Derick Armstrong has been a disappointment in the sessions we’ve seen. Too many drops for what you’re used to seeing from Armstrong who is usually pretty sure-handed. Paris Jackson was looking strong before an injury which has kept him out of two sessions as of this post. O’Neil Wilson has had a nice camp and Geroy is looking as gifted as ever. He even got a rude awakening at camp by Tad Crawford who caught him over the middle in the air. It will be tough for a rookie import to crack this receiving core, but if you’re looking for an early candidate for a surprise cut, Armstrong needs to show more.
What’s the outlook?
The Lions look to have added some nice packages to the offense and it looks like there is a lot of speed to choose from. The offensive line is going to be a key, and with a few new twists to the offense thrown into the mix the Lions may need a few weeks to gel and hope the defence can give them the luxury to do so. The recievers and running backs look solid and if Casey Printers and the offensive line can get cohesive the Lions could have a lot of weapons at their disposal.
Next time, we’ll look at the defence and special teams.