You have heard time and time again how continuity has served the 2022 Lions well through four contests. A small sample size indeed, but if you had told Obum Gwacham and company they would be 3-1 heading into late July, they would have gladly accepted.
Gwacham and the defensive line are certainly a big piece of that continuity pie. Prior to their setback against the Blue Bombers earlier this month, the defence had recorded ten quarterback sacks in their three victories to start the season. Those improvements are something they all take pride in.
“I feel so good about this unit. I think from last year to this year, I think it’s safe to say we’ve made some pretty big strides including the additions that have come in,” explained Gwacham.
“I feel great about these guys. We love playing together.”
The focus now lies on Thursday night and a clash with the 1-4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BC Place. You might as well throw the won/loss record out the window. After all, Dane Evans and company have represented the East in the last two Grey Cups and the Tiger-Cats starting pivot has put up some massive numbers through five games, sitting third in the CFL with 1,423 passing yards.
“I think it would be the worst thing to sleep on anyone in this league,” added Gwacham.
“Any given day you play anybody, any team can put up 40-50 points against you. You’ve just got to come at it with that mindset and come ready to fight.”
They also want to re-emphasize the importance of getting to the quarterback and creating as many 2nd and long situations as possible. Gwacham expects a good test.
“We need to keep fighting, scratching and doing what we can do to get home this week,” he said.
“This defensive line can definitely do it and it’s going to help out our linebackers and the defensive backs if we can get something early and often.”
Head coach Rick Campbell has commended his players for continuing to battle and approaching preparation for the Tiger-Cats like they would anybody else. That includes Nathan Rourke who has been known to respond well to adversity so far in 2022.
“That comes with the territory if you want to be a pro quarterback,” said the head coach.
“So I think he gets that. His work ethic has just been like he always is, he shows up here to work every day which I think is going to serve him well and he knows that we’re all just trying to battle here to get our fourth win and he’s on track.”
All three facets will have to be at their best in order to come out on top in this one.
BC Lions (3-1-0) vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1-4-0)
Thursday, July 21
7:00 pm, BC Place
TV: TSN, ESPN+
Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 167 Canada Talks
Season Series: Thursday marks the lone regular season meeting between these two teams in 2022
3 Lions To Watch
#46 LB- Ben Hladik- The UBC product gets the task of filling in for Bo Lokombo at the WILL spot. The 2021 draft pick has been eased into the task, taking over for Lokombo during a June 25 win over Toronto and last game against Winnipeg when the veteran went down with his elbow injury in the first half.
#23 DB- Delvin Breaux Sr.- Let’s see how jacked up Mr. Breaux is to face his old Ticat friends. The Lions saw in previous meetings with Hamilton just how impactful he can be in coverage.
# 19 WR Dominique Rhymes- The Lions’ leading receiver in the week five loss to Winnipeg, it will be intriguing to watch how high he can elevate himself with Bryan Burnham on the shelf for a few more weeks.
The two starting quarterbacks for this contest boast the two-highest single-game passing totals of this young season. Nathan Rourke recorded 436 yards in the week three thrashing of Toronto while Dane Evans put together a 425-yard effort in a week two loss against Calgary.
Evans also leads the Ticats with 75 rushing yards, although that is also a product of the two-back system Hamilton has used through five games. Don Jackson was listed as a game-time decision on their roster ahead of Sean Thomas-Erlington.
Evans is 2-0 lifetime against the Lions with those victories coming by a combined four points. Rourke will make his first ever regular seaosn start against the team that was closest to his backyard of Oakville, Ontario.
Injury updates: Wide receiver Josh Pearson tweaked a knee in Tuesday’s practice which means Jacob Scarfone moves up to the starting lineup and American Miles Fox makes his CFL debut as a back up defensive tackle. American Omar Fortt also gets his first taste of game action in the roster spot of Sione Teuhema as the defensive lineman rests an injured shoulder.
Following this contest, the Lions will play five straight games against West Division opponents leading into their final bye in early September: at Saskatchewan on July 29, home to Edmonton on August 6, at Calgary on August 13, at Saskatchewan on August 19 and home to Saskatchewan on August 26. They can ill afford to look past this rejuvenated Tiger-Cats squad.
The visitors will be without one of their top defenders and most vocal leader as linebacker Simoni Lawrence remains out with a groin injury. While the Ticats will surely miss their heart and soul on defence, Louie Butko of the Ticats Audio Network spoke highly of his replacement, Kyle Wilson, on this week’s 1st and Now Podcast.