June 7, 2018

Preseason Preview | Lions Host Blue Bombers

TJ Heath (23) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Shaq Johnson (88) of the BC Lions during the game at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC., on Friday, July 21, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Ricky Lloyd, in part due to performance and an injury to Cody Fajardo last week in Calgary, has, for the moment at least, climbed to number two on the Lions’ quarterback depth chart. Chalk it up as just one of the annual unpredictabilities that come in training camp. One thing is clear: the athletic pivot out of Concord, California isn’t letting any of last week’s success go to his head.

“It’s one game, so I can’t think too much ahead,” says Lloyd.

“I’m just trying to go into each game prepared and showing I can do it over and over again.  Like last game, I am approaching it as I’m starting.”

Lloyd benefited from a strong defensive showing and short field in a big third quarter eruption that led to the 36-23 win. He finished with 121 yards passing and threw for three majors in a span of 4:41 to help break the game open.

Another strong showing will also further validate the job Lloyd did the last couple of weeks in Kamloops and from the first time he worked out in front of the brass at free agent camps in Los Angeles in San Jose earlier this year.

“I’ve learned a lot,” adds Lloyd.

“At first it was a little overwhelming and there was a lot to learn in a short period of time, but I’ve had Trav, Jon and Cody just helping me out with everything and I’m asking them a lot of questions. It was a very good first camp for me. I loved it out here and had a great time. I had to learn a whole new game in a short period of time.”

The plan for Friday’s preseason finale against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is for Jonathon Jennings to play at least the first half before Lloyd takes it the rest of the way. Other than the second quarterback, this roster will have the look and feel of what they will be trotting out for the regular season opener on June 16th.

One area Lions fans will be extra keen to see for the first time is the revamped defensive line, featuring new ends Gabe Knapton and Odell Willis. Both of those veterans have shown they can still cause havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

“I’m ready to go,” states an excited Knapton.

“It’s always weird when you don’t play that first pre-season game. A big part of me wanted to be out there playing with my team and I’m more than ready to get out on the field and play for real. I really like the guys I’m playing next to, I feel comfortable with the scheme and the people I work around make it easy to have fun.”

And the chance to play well in front of the home fans will be on all of their minds.

“I can’t wait to see what BC Place has to offer,” says Lloyd.

“I’ve heard stories and seen a lot of videos, but I can’t wait to see it first hand.”

Ricky Lloyd throws a pass during last Friday’s pre-season victory against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium. Photo: Kyle Clapham.

The Matchup 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers ( 1-0-0 pre-season) at BC Lions ( 1-0-0 preseason)

Friday, June 8th, BC Place

7:30 PM PT


Radio: TSN 1040

Weather forecast for kickoff: light rain with a high of 13 degrees Celsius.

5 Lions To Watch

Shaq Johnson– far and away the most productive offensive player in camp, look for Johnson to make the most of his first live game action of the season. His 542 receiving yards in 2017 was second highest amongst Canadians, behind only Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli.

William Watson– the 2018 draft pick and pride of UBC was left out of the Calgary game with concussion symptoms will get some time in at slotback behind Emmanuel Arceneaux. The Surrey native has been a long time fan of Geroy Simon’s and it is worth seeing if he can do enough to play a role beyond this week.

Davon Coleman- a late addition to camp following his trade from Hamilton, Coleman is expected to be a key run stopper as part of the interior rotation.

Dyshawn Davis– a strong candidate to fill Adam Bighill and Micah Awe‘s old spot at WILL linebacker, Davis once again demonstrated he has quite the mean streak in Kamloops and had a productive outing against the Stampeders, forcing a fumble on a strip sack that set up a touchdown return for Kendall James. The third-year Lion has made great strides since first coming north.

Anthony Orange– there is no shortage of intriguing newcomers in the secondary. Orange, formerly known as AJ Jefferson, has been one of the more consistent and certainly has the makings of being a lockdown corner in 2018.


The Other Guys

Lions fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Bighill, Chandler Fenner or perhaps Craig Roh will have to wait until the Bombers’ regular season visit on July 14th. Alex Ross will start at quarterback, while the only other ex-Lion signed this offseason featured on Winnipeg’s depth chart is Anthony Gaitor who is slated to play his familiar halfback position.

On Thursday it was announced that starting quarterback Matt Nichols will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a right knee injury suffered in training camp practice

Ross, of course, beat out incumbent Keith Price for the number three job last season and then was cut loose on April 12th, the same day Lloyd was officially signed. With Nichols on the shelf for awhile, Ross has a bigger opportunity to make an early impact in 2018. He spoke with Ed Tait from before the club departed for Vancouver on Thursday:

“I’m out here to show what I can do. So, my mindset doesn’t change,” said Ross. “Regardless of the situation, I have to go out there every single week and show that I can compete.

“This week is going to be big for me because I didn’t play as well as I wanted to last week, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve watched the film, I know what I need to fix, I know what I need to correct. I’m just going to go out there and have fun. Sling the ball around and do what I do.”

Former South Dakota pivot Chris Streveler is expected to get a fair bit of the reps after Ross comes out. Beyond that, the blue and gold will not be exactly dressing their veteran-laden lineup. Fixtures such as Andrew Harris, Weston Dressler, Maurice Leggett and Taylor Loffler will all be staying home for this one.

Diamond and Diamond Injury List

The following players will not be suited up on Friday night:

QB Cody Fajardo (ankle)

WR Tyler Davis (ankle)

DL Maxx Forde (shoulder)

DB TJ Lee (tendinitis)

Extra Yardage

The Lions have not gone undefeated in pre-season play since the 2014 season. This also marks the first pre-season meeting with the Blue Bombers since 2002 when the Lions prevailed 27-4 at BC Place. That was Damon Allen’s first full season as our starting quarterback.

Another area worth watching: the backfield. Newly acquired Brandon Rutley gets his first taste after an injury kept him out last week. When healthy, the former Montreal Alouette has shown he can compete with Jeremiah Johnson.

The Lions took two of three regular season meetings from Winnipeg last season, including a thrilling come from behind 42-41 victory on July 21st. In that contest, Travis Lulay helped orchestrate the fourth quarter comeback, one week after Jonathon Jennings went down with his shoulder injury in Hamilton.

Fans can tune into the radio broadcast on TSN 1040 with the pre-game coverage underway at 5:30 PM. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta have the action at 7:30 PM PT. Viewers can watch on TSN 1 while Lions fans south of the border can stream the action online at ESPN+

Matt Baker: