June 14, 2023

Game Preview | Lions vs. Elks

They re-established BC Place as a fortress in 2022 with a 7-3 overall record and a few dominating performances that got the locals fired up about Lions football once again.

For TJ Lee and the 1-0 squad, that quest to take one step further on the Grey Cup journey continues against the 0-1 Edmonton Elks on Saturday (4:00 pm/TSN/CFL+/CBS Sports Network/AM730). Lee and company are expectedly fired up to be back in front of the Leos’ faithful.

“It’s fresh for everybody, it’s a fresh start at home with the fans. We get to see them, they get to see us and we get to put on a show for them,” Lee explained.

The defence turned out a pretty solid performance in their opener at Calgary, not allowing a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter and holding the opposition to 235 yards of net offence. You would have to think they are licking their chops at the prospect of facing Taylor Cornelius and an Elk’s offence that struggled in their week one loss to Saskatchewan. Still, every game presents a unique set of challenges.

“They want to get the ball to Geno (Lewis) and everybody else, they are going to use them and they are going put on a show, put in flash and mirrors for us but they really want to get the ball to Geno. We want them to beat us outside of the hashes. (We have to) get the quarterback off balance, get him out of the pocket, get him out of scrambling and make plays.”

“That’s amazing. Especially these division games, we want to make sure we win,” Lee added.

“We play them 2-3 times, we want to make sure we win that tiebreaker. Ultimately, we want to make sure we want to get a win to generate momentum going into the next game so we can build on that and become a better team.”

The teams will meet twice more, both in Edmonton, on July 29 and September 22.

Eberhardt Draws In

Just the one lineup change for this week-two clash as rookie receiver Ayden Eberhardt makes his regular season debut with Lucky Whitehead (hamstring) on the shelf. The Leos’ depth at receiver was evident from day one of camp and Eberhardt was a shining star in pre-season play at Saskatchewan, hauling in six receptions for a team-leading 104 yards. The University of Wyoming product knows this week will be an entirely different animal.

“I think the pre-season definitely helped out a little bit and at least a little bit of personal confidence as well going in, knowing I can go in and make some players,” Eberhardt said.

“Like you said, confidence with the QBs is huge and I think that definitely helped out.”

Eberhardt’s parents will drive up from Colorado for the occasion.

“I’ll finally have a car here after they arrive,” he chuckled.

Whitehead’s injury is not expected to keep him out for long. Keon Hatcher (foot) appears to be inching closer as well after beginning sprints this week.

4 More Lions To Watch

RB Taquan Mizzell #25– ‘smoke’ served as a key cog against the Stampeders, eclipsing the 80-yard mark on the ground and coming up with a big second-down run in the late stages to prevent a punting situation. Campbell has repeatedly compared the running backs on this roster to James Butler, so hopefully that question has been answered for now.

WR Justin McInnis # 18- the big target made a potential game-saving grab to help them bleed more clock and tack on a crucial three points in the week one triumph. Easy to get lost in the shuffle with a star group of receivers, McInnis will prove to be a valuable contributor in this offence with plays like that.

DL Mathieu Betts #90– credited with one sack in Calgary last week, Betts will be counted on to bring pressure once again as the Lions look to give Taylor Cornelius another rough outing. They won’t keep the opposition out of the end zone for 55 minutes every week, but wreaking havoc up front will be a major benefit.

DB/LB Manny Rugamba # 33- has shown no signs of slowing down in year two with another solid training camp performance and the ability to adjust in his limited game action in 2023 thus far.

Extra Yardage

Quarterback Veron Adams Jr. has enjoyed some recent success against Edmonton. He was behind centre for a 31-14 win in the Albert capital on October 21 of last year, a victory that clinched second in the West and a home playoff date. Dating back to his arrival last September, Adams Jr. is now 5-2 as a starter with the Lions

A week one nugget to be proud of: the Lions were the only CFL team to not allow a quarterback sack.

The experience factor: the Lions currently have seven players on the active roster who have suited up in over 100 career CFL games.

The Lions have welcomed Edmonton for a home opener on 15 previous occasions, winning just five of those contests. Behind Nathan Rourke and company, the Leos crushed the Elks 59-15 on an unforgettable opening night in 2022 where Butler scored four touchdowns.

Matt Baker: