If the preseason is any indication of what is to come, then the 2017 B.C. Lions are in for a monster year. In both exhibition contests, the Lions showed that they will not be content with second place this season in the West. This year, they will field a high powered offence led by Jonathan Jennings, and a bruising defence. Only the Calgary Stampeders stood in the way of their Grey Cup dreams last year. The same may not be the case this time around.
Here is a look at the who, what, where, and why as we bring you the:
2017 B.C. Lions Season Preview
There is a lot to be excited about this season in Vancouver. New offensive weapons will improve an already stacked roster. Returning linebacker Solomon Elimimian leads a sack-happy defence that made life hell for Kevin Glenn in game two of the preseason. They also have one of the league’s most explosive kick returners on their roster. It has all the trappings of a championship season. The question is, can they finish the job this year?
Who to Watch
It is difficult to narrow this to just one player. Some would argue that Chris Williams should hold that distinction. With is 1,246 yards for the Ottawa Redblacks last season, he is as big a threat as the beloved Emmanuel Arceneaux. Williams has not seen the field yet for the Lions, but when he does, defensive backs will have a hard time devoting attention to both on every down. One of them will be open for Jennings and that spells trouble for the rest of the league.
The athletic ability of Chris Rainey is undeniable. Last season, B.C. made an attempt to get the versatile running back more touches. This season, they will need to step up those efforts. With the departure of Anthony Allen, Rainey should see a few more offensive snaps. But he will do most of his damage in the return game. Watch for him to continue his special teams domination again this year.
Of note: First round draft pick Danny Vandervoort had only two catches for 22 yards combined in the preseason. Free agent running back Josh Harris looked impressive carrying for 78 yards in the first preseason game. He gained 38 of those on an explosive touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
What to Be Nervous About
The Leos need to fear every team in the West. From the top down, each team in the division has made itself stronger in the off-season. The competition for the division was already tight last season: four out of the five teams finished with a better record than the East Division champion Ottawa Redblacks. Even the bottom-dwelling Saskatchewan Roughriders addressed their issues at quarterback and are poised to make a run at the pack. There will be no rest for the bridesmaids this year, they will certainly have their work cut out for them.
Where They Play
The new season will begin at home for the Lions with a matchup against the Edmonton Eskimos in a West Conference showdown. From there, they will spend considerable time out east. B.C. will take on the Argonauts, Alouettes, and Tiger-Cats in consecutive weeks.
Week five they finally get to sleep in their own beds but will still have to contend with the Blue Bombers, who will be no pushovers this season. After a trip to Edmonton, they will host Saskatchewan only to turn around and travel to Regina to play the Roughriders again. The Lions will not see their first bye until week 11. Their second comes four weeks later in week 15. From the last bye week on, B.C. will enjoy three more home games and only two away. Should they be in the playoff hunt, this may make things easier.
Why the Lions Will Play for the Grey Cup
B.C. is stocked with a super charged offence and a defence that is out to demolish anything that stands in its way. With the aforementioned Chris Williams added to an already talented group of receivers, Calgary will need to look over its shoulder in 2017. The Lions will keep pace stride for stride with the Stamps throughout the course of the season. This year though, they will not have to settle for the silver in the division.
B.C. has assembled a squad capable of toppling the defending division champs. Chances are beyond good that they will be in Ottawa playing for the Grey Cup come November.