The BC Lions are 1-2 and preparing for a home game with the the 2-2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers this weekend at BC Place Stadium. A re-match of the game Winnipeg dominated last week to win 41-19. Coming on the heels of a 41-22 defeat at Edmonton it seems clear that the Lions need to make some changes, and do so quickly, if they want to be more competitive.
The first place fans and coaches look when things are going awry like this is at the quarterback. Unfortunately for incumbent starter Jonathon Jennings when people do look there things don’t look too great just now.
The B.C. Lions QB is acutely aware of the situation, having been quoted on soprtsnet.ca as saying, “I’m very disappointed. I didn’t play up to my standards at all…Back to the drawing board once again. There’s no excuses, just got to find a way to get it done.” https://www.sportsnet.ca/football/cfl/quarterback-questions-loom-b-c-lions-following-pair-losses/
How many times do the Lions want to go back to that drawing board though? The nature of the 3 down game means passing has to be an integral part of your offensive arsenal. Right now that is downright anaemic for BC. Jennings hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards this season in the CFL. Over his last 2 games, (which BC have lost by a combined 82 points to 41), he has gone just 28 of 48 for 304 yards zero TD’s and 3 interceptions.
With the best will in the world, that’s not ever going to be good enough. Even the best ground games and D’s would struggle to support that kind of QB output at this level of football.
So what is the alternative for BC? At first glance they may seem to have the perfect ready-made replacement in Travis Lulay. He is a veteran player known for quick decision-making. In fact Lulay was the clear starter for the Lions before going down to injury and eventually being replaced by Jennings who for a while had the hot hand. They know what they have in Lulay. He has spent his entire CFL career in BC and over that time the Montana State alum has thrown for 18, 858 yards with a 63.9% completion rate and 113 TD’s to just 64 interceptions.
Despite the struggles of the current starter, the problem for the Lions, and for Lulay, stem from the fact that the 34-year-old suffered a season-ending ACL injury last September against the Montreal Alouettes. The typical recovery time for an injury as severe as this is 9-12 months meaning we are in the window of when the recovery might be expected.
However desperate the Lions are though they don’t want to rush Lulay. After practice last Tuesday Head Coach Wally Buono said he didn’t know who his starter will be against Winnipeg. At that moment it would be Jennings but “that could change.” Far from a vote of confidence in the current starter then.
It all depends on Travis Lulay’s health it seems. Buono is quoted on cfl.ca as refusing to put a player out who is not a 100% ready. “We never tell a player to play,” he said. “The doctors clear him; the doctors evaluate him and then there is a joint decision based on all three parties.” https://www.cfl.ca/2018/07/11/morris-risk-isnt-worth-potential-reward-rushing-lulay-back/
This is a big call for the Lions. In any normal set of circumstances you would simply go with the player most likely to help you win and stick with them for as long as possible. The problem is that here the deciding factor is from a medical point of view. Is Lulay back to a 100% ? If he is less than 100% ready, and recent reports have used figures like 90% or 95% ready then is it worth, for one potential win, running the risk of re-injuring a potential long-term starter ?
Something has to give soon for the Leos to be more competitive. Either Jennings has to burst into life. Or a healthy Travis Lulay needs to come back into the fold. Neither guarantees wins but the Lions need to be more competitive, and fast or they might just see the 2018 CFL season disappearing over the horizon all too rapidly.
Of course we won’t know until the decisions are made and the games are played what is going to happen, but as ever, it’s going to be fun watching it all unfold.
Image originally from cfl.ca