B.C. Lions Victor Gamboa (23) tackles Edmonton Eskimos Greg Ellingson (82) during first half CFL pre-season action in Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday May 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.
The Matchup: Regular Season Game 2
BC Lions (0-1-0) at Edmonton Eskimos (1-0-0)
Friday, June 21st
The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium
6:00 PM PT
Lions last result: a 33-23 home loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on June 15th.
Eskimos last result: a 32-25 home win over the Montreal Alouettes on June 14th.
Recent History: the Lions won two out of three meetings with Edmonton in 2018, including a 42-32 triumph at BC Place on October 19th to lock up a spot in the playoffs.
Vegas Line: The Eskimos are listed as four-and-a-half point favourites with the over/under set at 55.5.
Reilly Return: Nostalgia Will Wait
Mike Reilly’s first business trip in stint number two with the Lions just happens to be against the team he spent the last six seasons with and helped take home a Grey Cup championship in 2015. During a conference call with Edmonton media this week, the veteran pivot couldn’t help but reflect on not only his on-field success in Edmonton but also just how much he evolved as a human being after Ed Hervey originally picked up his rights from the Lions in early 2013.
“I spent six great years in Edmonton and enjoyed every minute that I was there,” he said.
“A lot of life-changing experiences, both on and off the field. Obviously on the football field, winning a Grey Cup and a MOP and just being a part of six different teams because it truly is a different team every single year, to the off-field changes; being married prior to the 2015 season and then having both my daughters born in Edmonton during the ’16 and ’18 seasons respectively. I’m in a totally different point in my life being back in BC than I was the first time that I was here so going back to Edmonton is obviously going to bring back a ton of those memories. Honestly, it being this early in the season it doesn’t really feel like I’ve been gone for that long.”
At the end of the day, Reilly also knows it’s business trip above all else with the objective being to help his new/old team avoid their first 0-2 start since the 2014 season.
“I’m hoping to make some great memories as a visiting player now. I still have a lot of great, close friends, both on the coaching staff and on the roster, so it will be really good to see them. Once we go into the locker room and come back out for team warmups all of that will be gone. It will be all about the game.”
‘Road’ To Improvement
One of the things this revamped roster will look to improve on is the 2-7 regular season road record from 2018. The Lions only victories away from BC Place came in Montreal on September 7th and in Calgary on October 13th. It goes without saying that they must be better away from home if they want to take the next step in the first season of this new era.
“Absolutely. You’ve got to be able to win on the road,” said veteran Bryan Burnham.
“For me, it’s just no different. It’s a football game. We’re out there between the white lines playing football. I don’t hear the crowd; I don’t hear any of that. It’s another football game so we’ve got to go win. I want to win every one.”
And this one also marks the first of three straight road tests. After this, it is on to Calgary and then a voyage to Toronto before they return home to face these same Eskimos in week five. You know Burnham and this veteran core will embrace this challenge head-on.
Burnham and company are not looking ahead with focus 100 per cent on taking down the green and gold this week.
“They’ve got a lot of good playmakers. There is a lot of guys over there that I’ve played with or against in this past,” said Burnham of Edmonton’s defence.
“They fly around and make plays so we’re going to have to come with everything that we’ve got and it should be a good matchup.”
Despite last week’s loss, Burnham and Reilly showed flashes of the type of connection they could have this season. The receiver racked up 153 yards on five receptions.
Stopping The Bleeding
Specifically, the ground bleeding. After allowing Andrew Harris to finish with 175 yards from scrimmage last week, Maleki Harris and the defence have been zeroing in on all the film they can on Eskimos’ running back CJ Gable. Stopping the run and containing those short underneath throws will be essential to the game plan.
“We’ve definitely got to stop the run,” explained the linebacker.
“You’ve seen last week CJ Gable went for 150 (yards) and he’s going to be ready to do it again. He’s a good jump cutter. He’s a good patient runner but he still gets downhill and he’s a load to bring down. You definitely have to gang tackle and be ready for it.”
New personnel and some new schemes implemented by defensive coordinator Rich Stubler will certainly bring about some adjustments but the buy-in has been there from day one of training camp in Kamloops.
“You have to be consistent with your energy, consistent with your intensity,” added Harris.
“We have a standard we’re trying to set here and trying to play. We can’t come out and be licking our wounds after a loss or even be celebrating after a win. We come back and get ready to work.”
2019 W/L record: 0-1-0. Statistics: 36/66 for 473 yards, 2 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
- Reilly started 94 of the Eskimos’ 108 regular season games during his six-year tenure in Edmonton. His overall record was 53-41 for a winning percentage of .564.
2019 W/L record: 1-0-0. Statistics: 32/41 for 447 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
- Harris was the straw that stirred an Eskimos’ drink that finished with 605 net yards on offence in their win over Montreal. Last week was the fourth time in his career he went over 400 yards passing in a game.
The Lions hope Reilly’s addition will help bump an E-Town slump. Their last victory at Commonwealth Stadium came way back on July 13th of 2013, Reilly’s first season in green and gold. He passed for 97 yards and was intercepted once in that rain-soaked affair. The Eskimos have won six straight meetings there since with Reilly behind centre for all of those.
This marks the first of three regular season meetings between these two Western rivals. The Eskimos pay a visit to BC Place on Thursday, July 11th with the final matchup taking place October 12th back in the Alberta capital. This is the first time since 2015 where the Lions will make two trips to Edmonton.
Roster shuffle: defensive backs Josh Woodman and Victor Gamboa have been promoted to the active roster for this one with defensive back D’Londo Tucker and running back Wayne Moore coming off.
Brandon Rutley led all CFL kickoff returners with 226 yards last week with 108 of those coming on his touchdown return just before halftime.
One more nugget on the Eskimos’ solid offensive output last week: they recorded only one two-and-out the entire game and recorded multiple first downs on eight of their drives.
TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 4:00 PM. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta bring you the action at 6:00 PM PT. Viewers can watch on TSN 1 and RDS while Lions fans south of the border can tune in on ESPN 2. Fans across the pond in the UK and Ireland can view it on BT Sport.