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May 13, 2024

One Question for 2024: Can Lions’ offence stay dominant?

2024 BC Lions Training Camp - Rookie Camp Day 2. Steven Chang/BC Lions

As the 2024 season approaches, each team has a question that looms over it that will shape its season. CFL.ca asked players across the league about that question. Our series continues with the BC Lions and their aerial offence looking to stay dominant. 


VANCOUVER — If you are facing the BC Lions you have to prepare for the air show.

The Leos led the league in passing offence in 2023 and doubled down on their strength heading into this season by extending the contract of top-two targets Alexander Hollins and Keon Hatcher.

The duo, alongside star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., was responsible for 2,399 receiving yards and 15 majors last season, gassing opponents left and right with a lethal combination of size and speed.

That’s because the team also features a potent National duo in Justin McInnis and Jevon Cottoy, who combined for another 1,497 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, creating a pick-your-poison style of offence that is very hard for defences to deal with.

“Unfortunately it’s business, you won’t be able to keep everybody, we all know that,” Hollins told CFL.ca last month in Hamilton at the league’s content capture. “We understand that, but to still keep majority of the guys around, that’s a big plus.”

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One of the key departures for the receiving group this off-season was veteran Lucky Whitehead. The pass-catcher caught 196 passes for 2,671 yards and 10 touchdowns over three seasons with the Orange and Black and has yet to sign with any club.

Lucky Whitehead, he still has the speed,” said Hollins about his former teammate. “Can take the top off, can run any route on the route tree. He’s reliable. He’s going to get that opportunity and he’ll go in ready to work and make plays.”

It’ll be up to Hollins and the rest of the receiving corps to pick up for not only Whitehead’s absence but also Hatcher’s, who suffered an Achilles injury against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Western Final and could miss some time during the season.

That means even more responsibility for No. 13, who’s says he still has room to get better after his breakout season in 2023.

“I want to probably improve on those tough 50/50 catches,” Hollins said. “I don’t want to be the guy known for just deep threats and double moves. I want to make tough catches for my team and put us in a better position to finish drives, score touchdowns and win games.”

 

More than just the receivers stepping up, the Leos are hoping that the offence can have a more balanced approach in 2024, with the running game assisting in taking some of the responsibility away from Adams Jr. and the passing attack.

To accomplish that the team brought in veteran running back William Stanback, who’s coming off a championship win with the Montreal Alouettes and offers plenty of power to BC’s backfield.

“I’m really excited,” said Hollins after seeing his new teammate for the first time at the league’s content capture. “To see him in a (BC Lions) jersey, I can’t wait to be on the field with him.”

Another name that could make plays in Vancouver this summer is American receiver Ayden Eberhardt. The 26-year-old didn’t get a lot of playing time after being signed in 2023 but has already caught the attention of his teammates.

“He is a very hardworking guy,” said Hollins about his teammate. “Started practice every day working on stuff, he’s always working to get better. I’m excited to see how well he does.”

BC also added to the offensive line via CFL Draft by selecting offensive lineman George Una in the first round (sixth overall) and Theo Benedet in the second (15th overall). The team also added wide receiver Ezechiel Tieide in the second round (19th overall) to add yet another young name to an explosive wide receiver group.

Hollins isn’t worried about departures, injuries or anything else that could potentially stop the Leos air show.

“We’re just motivated and not worrying about what’s not there. We can still focus on what we do have and the guys coming in.”

Can BC stay just as dominant through the air and repeat a season that had Adams Jr. throwing for 4,769 yards and 31 touchdowns? More importantly, will that be enough to finally win the Western Final after back-to-back losses to the Bombers? Hollins is sure the Leos have the right man under centre to do just that.

“I’m not taking with me any other quarterback,” Hollins said about his pivot. “He’s going to do whatever he has to do to put his team in position to win.”