Despite starting the 2019 CFL season with a 1-4 record, B.C. Lions wide receiver Duron Carter believes it's just a matter of time before the team gels. He spoke to TSN Radio 1040 Vancouver about the slow start to the Lions' season, what they need to improve upon, and their rookie head coach.
“I think there’s definitely a lot of frustration from everybody, and that’s frustration on yourself," said Carter. "I’m frustrated with myself and my performance. I’m sure a lot of other guys are (too), they feel they leave a few plays out there. But we know what type of talent we have in the room, we’ve played with some of these guys, I’ve played against some of these guys and I know what we can do. And we have to for sure do one thing, (that) is, keep our best player in the game and that’s Mike Reilly, if we allow Mike to play his game then there will be no more questions.”
The Lions' off-season was filled with optimism when they signed the former CFL Most Outstanding player Reilly, but the quarterback has struggled early in the year and much of the problem has been due to protection. Carter says that it's an entire team effort to help their star quarterback.
"I’ve asked the coaches what can we do as receivers to help, in a sense, because we can’t see what’s really going on with Mike," said Carter. "So we come back to watch the film and we see even with the passes we do catch he’s getting hit, knocked to the ground, slammed on his head, and we can’t see that. So for us as a receiving group, anything that comes to us that we can get to in terms of blocking, or anything we can help in the small details there, to getting to the right depths, we need to do that because we don’t need Mike to have any more stress.”
Carter, a former single-season thousand yards receiver, struggled in 2018 while splitting time between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Toronto Argonauts. The 28-year-old had 18 receptions, 230 yards and two touchdowns, drastically lower than his 2017 totals with the Riders, when he made 73 catches for 1,043 yards and eight touchdowns. Carter was asked to evaluate his own performance through Week 5 of the CFL schedule.
“Mediocre. A lot of the plays, my so-called big plays, that we get called, we have a mishap happen, we don’t get the ball off and we have guys running around wide open and you could get frustrated when you’re in there watching film and you have this guy open and that guy open, and if Mike could get to his fifth step it would be gone, but its all a bunch of hearsay and just when my plays come to me, whether it be anything, I need to capitalize on my opportunities because that’s what I’m here to do.”
Protection for Reilly has been as issue for the Lions all season. B.C. has allowed the most sacks (17) this season and Reilly has only found the endzone five times, equaling his five interceptions thrown, but Carter insists it's not on Reilly.
"Yeah, he’s not missing guys, a lot of times he’s either sacked or has to move before things happen. But, it’s more a timing things right now, we have to get everything together perfectly timed right so Mike isn’t getting hit."
"They have great leadership in their own room," Carter adds in reference to his offensive line. "We’ve had some injuries with (Brett) Boyko and Fig (Joel Figueroa), just small knick-knack stuff that eventually takes over in a season but they have great leadership with (Sukh) Chungh in there and I have full confidence in those guys to get their room together and band together. It's definitely not a talent issue at all, it's really just about coming together as a group and an o-line, most o-lines are just super chemistry, they’re like glue and that’s how they go about it and our glue is just taking a little longer to form."
Carter also addressed playing for first-time head coach DeVone Claybrooks, who he considers to be a true players' coach.
"It's actually been great, and I want to get some wins so it can keep on being great and he doesn’t turn into one of those old coaches because that’s the way he has to win. And it's really on us as players, do we want to have a player’s coach, do we want to have a say with what’s going on with our team, and when you're given responsibilities like that, you got to produce and right now were not producing. So coach (Claybrooks) has to make a decision, 'well I’m putting the onus on the players and production isn’t happening so what do I do then?' You’ve got to pull the reigns tighter and that’s football. So for us, not only as football players but as men, we need to come together and show more support for his system.”
Cater says he's played for "one of those old coaches" in Nick Saban and describes Claybrooks' coaching style as very different.
"It’s more about understanding the day-to-day grind that goes into being a professional athlete, the waking up early, getting a lift in, getting your treatment in, after a game your body hurting and going into practice hurting, knowing you have to play another game and its just the constant awareness of where your team is at physically and mentally. It doesn’t particularly have to do with wins or losses because teams can be great physically and mentally and still lose. I feel like it’s the coaches' job to sort of prepare everybody mentally for the game, for what’s about to come, the ebbs and flows of what’s going on and I think coach Claybrooks has been doing a good job we just have to go out and produce for him.”
The Lions' lone win this season came against the 0-4 Toronto Argonauts in Week 4. They are coming off a 33-6 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos last week and look ahead to a home-and-home against the 1-3 Roughriders starting in Saskatchewan on Saturday.