July 2, 2023

Game Preview | Lions At Argonauts

They put the entire CFL on notice with a stifling 30-6 victory in Winnipeg last week. Now for the real good news: the 3-0-0 BC Lions are nowhere near satisfied yet as they look to establish themselves as the team to beat across this entire 2023 campaign. Up next is a test against the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts, 2-0-0 to start their season, on Monday at BMO Field (4:00 pm PT/TSN/CFL+/AM730).

You can throw out any term you want. Statement game, measuring stick. This Lions squad won’t view it like that. As a collective group, it’s about getting better and maintaining the mindset of just going 1-0 every week.

It was the defence getting most of the headlines following their third win of the young campaign. And that unit will get a good test against an Argonauts’ attack that leads the CFL in both points and rushing yards per game.

The Leos’ offence, however, should get a solid chance to shine with the return of both Keon Hatcher and Dominique Rhymes from their respective foot injuries. In Hatcher’s case, it will be his 2023 debut after having most of his training camp lost.

“It’s like going to the candy store and everybody getting candy but you,” explained Hatcher this week on his long road to recovery.

And the good news for all of these playmakers is the long week of preparation hasn’t felt long at all. Tempo and intensity were at an all-time high as the squad looks to remain unbeaten.

“The week has been very good. It’s been a dogfight,” added Rhymes.

“Everybody’s competing every day. These practices have felt like real games. We’re ready to keep building on what we’ve started. We’re really excited. The ceiling is super high for us. The offence has been doing some good things but now the goal is to bring more consistency and take a bit of pressure off our great defence.”

Playing good defence has also been a recipe for success to the defending champions’ 2-0 start. They held Hamilton to just 14 points in their first victory while a majority of the 31 they gave up in Edmonton came in garbage time. It will indeed be another big test, particularly up front on the line of scrimmage.

“You want to play against the best and they have one of the best defences in the league,” said Rhymes.

“It’s another statement game for our offence. It’s going to be a good test and all the more reason for us to go out and compete for 60 minutes.”

It should be a heavyweight fight indeed.

4 Lions To Watch

WR Keon Hatcher #4– you know ‘Hatch’ is just itching to make an impact after watching the majority of training camp from the sidelines. After a solid 2022 campaign where he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and then led all CFL receivers with 295 yards in the playoffs, the Arkansas product will add another big element to this high-flying offence.

OL Jarell Broxton #69– we have to give the offensive line more love in this space after highlighting Michael Couture in last week’s preview. Broxton has brought a seamless transition to the left tackle spot while Pro Football Focus metrics reveal he has not allowed a single quarterback sack through 121 snaps this season.

DL Mathieu Betts # 90– the CFL’s leader with five sacks entering this week, Betts led the charge in dismantling the Blue Bombers. It stands to reason that it will be worth watching what he has in store against a stout Argos’ front that has made life easier for running backs AJ Ouellette and Andrew Harris.

DB Garry Peters # 1- the play of the secondary has been perhaps a bit overshadowed by the dominance up front. Defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips was quick to point out that no single position group deserves all the credit for this brilliant start. Peters has been solid in coverage while leading the CFL with four pass knockdowns through week three.

Extra Yardage

Lucky Whitehead is back on the shelf as he continues to heal from a lingering hamstring problem. Fellow receiver Ayden Eberhardt and linebacker Brooks Parker will head to the practice squad this week. Global linebacker Maxime Rouyer will make his season debut in a special teams role to round out the roster changes for week four.

Former Lions linebacker Jordan Williams will not face his old squad this week due to a knee injury. The Toronto offence gets a big boost with the return of wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.

The Lions have started 3-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1994 and 1995. They now look for their first 4-0 start since 2007 when they went on to post a franchise-best 14-3-1 regular season record.

All about the smoke: running back Taquan Mizzell entered week four second to only Saskatchewan’s Jamal Morrow with 224 rushing yards.

On the road again: Dating back to the start of last season, the Lions have enjoyed a regular season record of 8-3-0 in games away from BC Place. With seven of the club’s away games taking place before Labour Day, these wins will only set them up nicely for the stretch drive.

A deeper dive into Vernon Adams Jr.: he has won five straight starts dating back to 2022, has recorded at least one touchdown pass in each of his last seven starts and now has a total record of 24-14 in his career. He is 7-2 overall with the Lions.

And how about a deeper dive into this all-world defence: the one touchdown allowed has come over a total of 39 possessions through three games. They have currently gone 27 straight possessions without allowing the opponents into the end zone. The opposing offence has recorded just 4.4 yards per play.

Matt Baker: