Lions preview: Key additions/subtractions, players to watch, biggest storylines of 2023 season
Coach: Rick Campbell
GM: Neil McEvoy, Rick Campbell
2022 Record: 12-6; lost Western Final to Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Opening game: June 8 @ Calgary Stampeders
Coming off a magical 2022 campaign led by Most Outstanding Canadian-winning quarterback Nathan Rourke, the 2023 new-look BC Lions are in the hands of Vernon Adams Jr. as they look to get back to the Western Final and their first Grey Cup since 2011.
Though he lost Rourke as the Ontario-born, Victoria-raised pivot begins a new chapter of his football career with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars combined with the retirement of three-time All-Star wide receiver Bryan Burnham, head coach Rick Campbell returns for his third season.
Key additions and subtractions
After sitting behind two-time Grey Cup champ and 2015 Grey Cup MVP Michael Reilly, Rourke dazzled in his second year with the Lions.
The former Ohio Bobcat threw for 3,349 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions en route to winning the CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian award, despite missing half the season due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.
As Rourke healed, the Lions acquired Adams from the Alouettes. Adams, 30, played in eight games for the Lions last season, completing 118 passes for 1,504 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. Former Tiger-Cats starting quarterback Dane Evans joined the Lions as well in free agency.
Adams returns for the Lions in ’23 alongside former Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Justin McCinnis to help fill the hole that Burnham’s retirement leaves in the Lions’ offence.
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Michael Couture joined the offensive line to protect the mobile and shifty Adams.
Sukh Chungh, CFL West Division All-Star offensive lineman in 2018, returns to the Lions with 2021 Most Outstanding Canadian Award-winning linebacker Bo Lokombo. Running back David Mackie, offensive lineman Andrew Peirson and defensive back T.J. Lee all return for another kick at the can with the Lions.
Offensive lineman Joel Figueroa returned to Hamilton for a second stint with the Tiger-Cats along with 1,000-yard rusher James Butler. The Lions parted ways with linebacker Jordan Williams as he was traded to the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft.
The Lions executed another trade days before the start of the regular season, sending Jonathan Kongbo to the Tiger-Cats in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2024 CFL Draft.
Player to watch
With Adams assuming the quarterbacking duties as a starter for the first time since the 2019 – a season where he finished fourth in passing with 3,942 yards and second in touchdowns (24) and tied for first in rushing touchdowns (12) – weapons like Dominique Rhymes, Jevon Cottoy, Keon Hatcher, and Lucky Whitehead are at Adams’ disposal as he looks to set the league on fire again.
“The Lions no longer have Nathan Rourke but Vernon Adams Jr. and Dane Evans give them the league’s most experienced quarterback room, with short-yardage specialist Dom Davis behind them. Even with Bryan Burnham’s retirement, the receiving unit is strong with Keon Hatcher, Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes.” – TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor
“While most are looking to see if Vernon Adams can return to his 2019 form, I think V.A. is very well prepared and is in position to be the best version of himself. I’m more interested to see how the left side of BC’s o-line will fare. After essentially not playing a game in two years, can David Knevel hold up and live up to the potential from his draft year, and can Jerell Broxton effectively replace Joel Figueroa? If that happens, I think BC’s offence will be as good as any in the league.” – TSN Football Insider Farhan Lalji
Week 3 – The Lions travel to Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers in a rematch of the 2022 Western Final.
Week 4 – The Lions head to BMO Field to take on the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts.
Week 5 – Adams and the Lions take on his former team as they host the Alouettes.
Week 12 – Figueroa and Butler return to BC Place as the Lions host the Tiger-Cats.
Week 13 – The Lions travel to Montreal to take on the Alouettes on Labour Day Weekend.
Week 15 – Teammates in the 2018 preseason, Jeremiah Masoli and the Ottawa Redblacks take on Adams and the Lions.