June 2, 2023

McInnis Shines As Offence Passes Preseason Test

2022 BC Lions Football vs Sask. Paul Yates.

Justin McInnis wants to make one thing crystal clear. He isn’t here to replace the acrobatic antics of one Bryan Burnham: even if his first touchdown grab in Lion colours was slightly reminiscent of the retired human highlight machine.

“Never,” the big target said with a laugh following Friday’s preseason win over Calgary.

“He’s a legend over here. Everybody knows who he is and his name will never be forgotten. Even coming from a different team I knew him and I knew what kind of statement he made for this city and the impact he had.”

Burnham’s retirement will no doubt have an impact on the field and in the locker room with number 16’s leadership void certainly a priority to be filled.

The good news is this Lion offence still boasts three receivers who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2022. The trio of Lucky Whitehead, Keon Hatcher and Dominique Rhymes will once again be counted on to carry the torch. A free agent addition in February, McInnis has certainly made his case to be an impact piece for Vernon Adams Jr.

The former Saskatchewan Roughrider and 2019 first-round round pick racked up 60 yards on three receptions while hauling in two of Adams Jr.’s three touchdown strikes before most of the starting offence exited before halftime. No doubt a good first impression as the squad looks for an even better crop of Canadian receivers in 2023.

“Absolutely. It’s been a long wait. Training camp is that grind. To finally get on the field and play a game and for it to end, as you said, with a win is always special, even though it’s pre-season,” McInnis explained.

The Lions were indeed already pretty set at receiver before the free agent market opened. McInnis no doubt gave the coaching staff some encouraging signs that there will be options up and down the depth chart as the long push toward a Grey Cup officially heats up.

“Absolutely. (I) made two big catches for touchdowns, I have the best guy in the league ahead of me showing me how to do that and motivating me to do that every day to go make plays in Rhymes. Like I said, I just couldn’t wait for this day to finally get on the field for this team, with this group, and just go and compete, make plays and have fun.”

Justin McInnis

Coming firing out of the gate with three touchdown drives before walking it off with a 25-22 win with Keiran Burnham’s field goal also reinforced the idea that chemistry has been a major asset throughout not only camp in Kamloops but the entire offseason preparation.

Adams Jr. had several of the receivers down at his Tacoma, Washington for an April mini-camp and those relationships forged served as a major benefit once camp got underway at Hillside Stadium last month.

“Just the atmosphere of this team; it’s always work hard and compete, but we always have fun, smile and laugh. Playing for this group, you can tell it’s something really special and I’m excited to see it for the regular season,” McInnis said.

Adams Jr.’s body of work will also provide some good vibes in the film room. He went 12/12 for 213 yards and the three majors while also serving as a threat on the ground with 26 yards on four carries. A full offseason with Jordan Maksymic and the offensive staff has no doubt served him well.

“I felt like I was seeing things clearly, Jordan did a great job just dialing things up,” Adams Jr. said.

“Guys were making tremendous catches for me, the o-line did their thing, used my feet a little bit to extend some drives and things like that. By the grace of God, he has helped me through this whole thing. I’m just so proud of how the team played and how we finished, how Dom (Davis) went down there and finished that drive to get us three, so that was good.”

And he may not have Burnham anymore, but it’s a tribute to the organization that a solid nucleus is still in place.

Matt Baker: