As Lowell Ullrich pointed out on the The Fifth Quarter, the Lions took another hit to the depth of their leadership group with the retirement of Ben Archibald and the release of LB Anton McKenzie.
There is a re-tooling happening in BC, and it looks as though the Lions are looking to become a younger more aggressive team in 2014. To be sure there is still plenty of leadership in the Lions locker room after today’s losses, but when you throw Korey Banks and Angus Reid into the discussion, you can see why some are concerned.
Reid certainly feels the loss of Archibald will be a big one for the club, tweeting;
I'm not sure #BClions fans really realize what a HUGE loss @BenArchibald65 retirement really is. Both on and off the field. #leader #truePro
— Angus Reid (@angusreid64) March 28, 2014
The Lions do have some young talent coming on the offensive line which received a boost when 2013 draft pick Hunter Steward signed with the team. Kirby Fabien looked fantastic before his injury last season and the Lions will hope he comes back 100% for training camp. They’re also talking to the agent for 2010 draft pick Danny Watkins, who isn’t sure he wants to play football any more after toiling for a couple of seasons in the NFL.
But it’s going to have to be up to Jovan Olafioye, Dean Valli and Patrick Kabongo to be the leaders and guide the youth of a new look offensive line. Matt Norman enters his third season with the Lions and must have absorbed a ton of experience in 2013. There is no reason to expect he won’t continue to improve as the heir apparent to Angus Reid.
McKenzie’s loss will also be felt. The consummate team player, McKenzie was a solid option for the Lions in many situations. His play down the stretch in 2011 was outstanding and he was a big part of the playoffs that year. The writing was on the wall though and with Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian in the lineup and the addition of Jamall Johnson, the Lions can afford to go with a younger option to bring along.
While some are suggesting that the Lions may feel these departures when it comes to leadership, the fact is there are players ready to assume that role. Dante Marsh, Ryan Philips, Shawn Gore, Travis Lulay, Khreem Smith, Paul McCallum, Adam Bighill, Andrew Harris are all still here among others. One only has to point a young player in the direction of Marsh or Bighill to see what being a professional entails.
Leadership shouldn’t be an issue and as always, the decisions of Wally Buono will be judged in November. He usually gets pretty decent grades.