After all the off-season hype, the BC Lions have stumbled out of the gate with an 0-2 start.
New quarterback Mike Reilly was “The Most Wanted Man” in free agency this year, but has failed to make an impression yet this early in the season. The $700,000 man has gone 36 of 66 for 473 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions through two games, but isn’t solely to blame for his early season struggles.
The Lions’ offensive line has given up a league-high eight sacks through two games, including seven in the team’s Week 2 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. The pressure on Reilly was so constant Friday night there was post-game discussion over whether the Lions should have pulled him early.
Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks defended his decision to keep Reilly in the game, saying he had the bigger picture in mind.
“You have to look at it from the aspect of the whole season, and it’s about the makeup and the stand that you’re trying to establish on your team,” Claybrooks told TSN 1040 in Vancouver on Monday. “I’m preaching that the game’s not over until the last zero is on the clock and what kind of preaching would I be doing if I pulled my quarterback out when I’m telling my guys to fight until the final whistle?”
Along with the seven sacks the Eskimos recorded on Reilly, they were also flagged for five roughing-the-passer penalties on their former quarterback. Claybrooks said he was disappointed in a few of the hits, but pulling Reilly early was not a consideration.
“We talk to Mike all the time, it’s a very open line of communication,” Claybrooks said. “That’s my leader and that’s the guy that I’m going to ride.”
The CFL on TSN panel also chimed in on the debate with some differing opinions.
I have no problem with him finishing that game. They were down by 16 points, they still had an opportunity. Crazier things have happened. Believe me, I know. – Milt Stegall
I would have pulled him. That’s your franchise player. It’s Week 2. You’re not going to win that football game. – Matt Dunigan
While Claybrooks admitted his offensive line needs to protect Reilly better moving forward, he also gave credit to the Eskimos for generating pressure all game long.
“[The Eskimos] did a good job of being in a seven-up and moving around the front. So it was kind of tough identifying where we were going. Identifying it is key. If you’re able to ID it, then now we can understand it where you know who and what guy they have and what responsibility they have.
“If you’re having trouble identifying it, you’re having trouble knowing who you’re blocking, so that in turn is going to make you play slow. It’s things like that we have to clean up and everybody has to be on the same page.”
Claybrooks added he doesn’t think the offensive line, and the Lions’ offence as a whole, is far off from finding their groove.
“You see it in spurts. That’s the scary part, to see the potential of how good you can be and now we have to develop that consistency … we have to play every play like it’s our last play. If we can play every play that way, then we’ll be fine.”
After starting the season with tough matchups against the Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, things don’t get any easier for BC in Week 3 with a trip to Calgary.