Final wrap on free agency: Offence and Defence

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Matt Baker
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Wed Feb 22, 2017 3:16 pm

Greetings folks.

Now that we've had a week to digest the various signings, and re-signings, in the den I sat down with both Khari Jones and Mark Washington to get their respective takes on what we might see on each side of the ball. Links to both stories below. On offence it was of course more about hanging on to what they have and Chris Williams proved to be a nice bonus. On defence it was nice to see various holes filled. Now it will be fascinating to see some of these battles in camp. Enjoy!


http://www.bclions.com/2017/02/22/the-defensive-puzzle/

http://www.bclions.com/2017/02/20/embar ... of-riches/

As for future dates of note:

Final Week of March: "CFL Week" in Regina. Events include both the regional and national draft combines, Rules and Competition Committee meetings and player engagement with fans. Myself and videographer Cole Jackson will likely be on hand providing content for our website.

April 25th-28th: OTA"s at Surrey Facility. Like last year this involves all first year CFL players getting together for a couple days of practice and team meetings. It has been expanded from the two-day event from last year. Players report the 25th, followed by three days of on field activity.

May 7th- CFL Draft. Being held on a Sunday this year... 4PM

May 24th- First year players report to Kamloops followed by three day mini-camp.

May 27th- Veterans report to Kamloops with main camp starting the next day.

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WestCoastJoe
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Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:18 pm

Thanks, Matt. Lots of good information.

I have previously speculated that Mark W was going with the concept of a smaller, faster D Line, without necessarily having a 300-pound nose tackle type in the middle of the D Line.

http://lionbackers.com/bc_lions/viewtop ... 70#p379043

It seems that Calgary played it that way last year, with success. And we had success also.

Brooks and Turner do not bring the size that we had with Khalif Mitchell a few years back, or even earlier with Tyrone Williams and Aaron Hunt.

So, we will see ... The fans are getting revved up for the season. :thup:
John Madden's Team Policies: Be on time. Pay attention. Play like hell on game day.

Jimmy Johnson's Game Keys: Protect the ball. Make plays.

Walter Payton's Advice to Kids: Play hard. Play fair. Have fun.

B.C.FAN
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Wed Feb 22, 2017 10:09 pm

Thanks, Matt. No doubt the Lions are loaded on offence like never before. It remains to be seen what they have on defence and how the new players fit into the lineup.

Tony Burnett, in particular, is a wild card. He didn't lose out to established veteran Bighill for a linebacker spot in 2014; he lost to Josh Johnson in an open rookie competition for nickelback. Coaches say nice things now about how they liked him in 2014 but they gave him almost no reps in training camp despite listing him as the presumptive starter at the beginning of camp. Burnett is a converted cornerback and safety who could do better in coverage than Bighill at weakside linebacker but there are other players on the roster who are bigger and more suited to run support. I have a sense that Mark Washington sees that position as another DB who can be used anywhere in coverage or as an extra pass rusher.

The training camp schedule is moved up a week this year, with the first preseason game on June 6 in Calgary. I'm already thinking of taking a week off to attend camp. The offence will be fun to watch when the regular season rolls around. Until then, I'm most keen to see how this defence comes together.
"I think [Fred Fateri] was like a lot of people who watch football, hockey or any professional sport on television. They sit there and think they could coach better than the professional. Some people really think that." - Bob Ackles, The Water Boy

Matt Baker
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Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:29 am

Thanks for the feedback fellas. No doubt the depth chart features more than a few candidates who can fill Adam's spot. They were really high on Dyshawn Davis last year. Cameron Ontko is another guy to keep in mind. They also re-signed Gionni Paul who was added to the practice roster in September. Adrian Clarke and Nehemie Kankolongo could make it interesting, should they choose to use a non-import in certain situations. Even Arakgi you may recall was used in certain packages instead of Lokombo later in the season. And then of course there is the possibility of a rookie free agent turning heads, much like the way Purifoy did last season. It should be a fascinating storyline in camp.

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Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:23 am

Matt Baker wrote:Thanks for the feedback fellas. No doubt the depth chart features more than a few candidates who can fill Adam's spot. They were really high on Dyshawn Davis last year. Cameron Ontko is another guy to keep in mind. They also re-signed Gionni Paul who was added to the practice roster in September. Adrian Clarke and Nehemie Kankolongo could make it interesting, should they choose to use a non-import in certain situations. Even Arakgi you may recall was used in certain packages instead of Lokombo later in the season. And then of course there is the possibility of a rookie free agent turning heads, much like the way Purifoy did last season. It should be a fascinating storyline in camp.
Yes, those are the names I had in mind. It's great to have depth and roster flexibility, and the Lions seem to have a lot of it at the linebacker spot.
"I think [Fred Fateri] was like a lot of people who watch football, hockey or any professional sport on television. They sit there and think they could coach better than the professional. Some people really think that." - Bob Ackles, The Water Boy

Blitz
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Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:09 pm

This off-season has exceeded expectations in terms of free agency. When Wally signed Burnham, one would have expected it to end there on offence but he surprised hugely and signed Chris Williams. There is no doubt that Williams was highly influenced by the fact that Jonathan Jennings would be his quarterback if he signed in B.C.

We don't know whether Williams will fully recover from his knee injury but if that happens, we just signed perhaps the best receiver in the CFL. There was a great argument on cfl.ca in "Berg vs. Ferg" as to who was the CFL's best receiver - Bowman or Williams and the argument for Williams was a powerful one. If not, Williams is a Top 5 CFL receiver, as is Manny and Burnham. Defenses were able to runa lot of two deep safety/pressure man pass defense last year against us but Chris Williams has the potential to do what Sinkfield couldn't do....be a consistent third threat option who can take it all the way.

With our entire offensive line back, with Vaillencourt ready for his second season, with Jeremiah Johnson returning, with Rainey likely getting more offensive touches this year, and with Jonathan Jennnings at quarterback, who wouldn't be excited about the talent and skill on our 2017 Lions offence.

If Khari Jones could coach at the same level as these guys will play, our offence would be unstoppable. Trouble is he has not shown that ability so far. He runs inside zone reads on second and two, when the defense has more numbers than our offence has blockers, he runs quick swing passes to Rainey against press man coverage, rather than delaying him, while our recievers clear out the area, giving Rainey one on one against the middle linebacker, and Jones will keep calling long pass plays with Manny and Burhahm as primary receivers against double coverage. This 2017 offence has incredible speed (Rainey, Williams), talent at the skilled positions (Jennings, Johnson, Manny, Burnham, Wiliams, Rainey) and an offensive line that was able to block well enough, with one crummy running play that everyone knew was coming, to lead the CFL in rushing.

Defensively, we've lost some key players. I always saw Lokombo as a talent who had the ability to start at linebacker. Now, with that opportunity there, with the departure of Bighill, he left instead. Purifoy is also gone, so one starting outside linebacker in Bighill and a starting nickelback (Purifoy) means a rebuilding of our linebacking crew. Bazzie is also gone as his 11 team leading sacks. Jabar Westerman had 5 sacks last season to lead our defensive tackles in sacks and Purifoy had 5 sacks. That's a lot of quarterback pressure gone from a defense that struggled getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

I could also argue that of the defensive backs who were starting at the conclusion of last season, Gaitor and Phillips were the two best amongst them. Fenner had his challenges, Edem was not starting material, and Brandon Stewart was usually beaten like a piñata. Our defense needed to get younger in the defensive backfield. Trouble is that we counting on a lot of players coming well off injury. Ronnie Yell is a very good one, Clarke could be a great one, and T.J. Lee was looking good to start the 2016 season but his Achilles injury is a serious one to return from, especially for a defensive back.

But hope is eternal. There are players on this Leos defense who could really step up if given opportunity - players like Kenyan Parker, Anthony Thompson, Max Forde, Matt Bucknor, Dyshawn Davis are some who come to mind. While losing players like Adam Bighill, Bo Lokombo, Alex Bazzie and Anthony Gaitor hurts Linebacker Tony Burnett, defensive backs Buddy Jackson an as well as defensive linemen Dylan Ainsorth and DeQuin Evans look like potential positive defensive pieces to the puzzle of 2017.

With the abilility to start one and even two Nationals in the defensive backfield, we will have lots of options (eg: International safety, extra International on the defensive line. The key to our 2017 defense will be better quarterback pressure without the blitz and more aggressive defensive secondary play. The key to more aggressive defense will not just be on the players - we also need a more aggressive defensive scheme.

But no question, this has been an exciting off-season. Lots of excitement for the start of the 2017 season.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

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David
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Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:34 pm

Just to clarify, we did not lose Loucheiz Purifoy this off-season. In fact, he's been working out at the Surrey facility with strength and conditioning coach Boyko. I think some other Lionbackers were under this impression too, as it was speculated in the early part of last season that this would be his first and last season in the CFL.

:beer:


DH :cool:
Give the ball to Leroy.

Blitz
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Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:59 pm

David wrote:Just to clarify, we did not lose Loucheiz Purifoy this off-season. In fact, he's been working out at the Surrey facility with strength and conditioning coach Boyko. I think some other Lionbackers were under this impression too, as it was speculated in the early part of last season that this would be his first and last season in the CFL.

:beer:


DH :cool:
I just found that out David...as I tried to look up which NFL team he signed with....and found him on the Lions roster for 2017. But I thought Purifoy had only signed for the 2016 season, there were numerous newspaper articles that he would not be back, and I have not read that we signed him or extended him.

Thanks for posting this David. I am thrilled that Purifoy will be back. He was projected as a first round NFL round draft choice at one time and he has that kind of talent.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

cjones2451
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Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:13 pm

Matt Baker wrote:Thanks for the feedback fellas. No doubt the depth chart features more than a few candidates who can fill Adam's spot. They were really high on Dyshawn Davis last year. Cameron Ontko is another guy to keep in mind. They also re-signed Gionni Paul who was added to the practice roster in September. Adrian Clarke and Nehemie Kankolongo could make it interesting, should they choose to use a non-import in certain situations. Even Arakgi you may recall was used in certain packages instead of Lokombo later in the season. And then of course there is the possibility of a rookie free agent turning heads, much like the way Purifoy did last season. It should be a fascinating storyline in camp.
I know the team is high on Micah Awe out of Texas Tech at LB, 126 tackles his senior year.

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Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:16 am

Blitz wrote:I just found that out David...as I tried to look up which NFL team he signed with....and found him on the Lions roster for 2017. But I thought Purifoy had only signed for the 2016 season, there were numerous newspaper articles that he would not be back, and I have not read that we signed him or extended him.

Thanks for posting this David. I am thrilled that Purifoy will be back. He was projected as a first round NFL round draft choice at one time and he has that kind of talent.
Per the CBA Purifoy could not sign for only the 2016 season. All first contracts are mandated to include an option year. Purifoy's deal would've been a 1+1 including an option year for 2017. Per the CBA "For greater clarity, a Player's "First Contract" means any contract for his first year in the CFL and for which he has received payment for 1 regular season or playoff game". Option years cannot be included in a player's second contract thus it's not until the player signs his second contract that he can sign a pure 1 year deal. Purifoy always was under contract for 2017 assuming BC would pick up the option year.

I think there was some speculation that Purifoy may have negotiated something with Wally to have an out to try the NFL again this offseason. However that would really fly against the way Buono operates. It's one thing to give a valued and respected veteran player like Bighill an early out as part of a re-negotiation where there are some other trade-offs. It's quite another thing, not to mention a dangerous precedent, to cede that sort of privilege to a player who is really no different than any other with some NFL experience (and a certain amount of baggage) coming to camp for the first time.
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Blitz
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Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:37 am

Our defensive line looks interesting for 2017. We lost Bazzie, our best International defensive lineman and Jabar Westerman, our best National defensive lineman.

Returning Nationals are David Menard (259 lbs.) who rotated with Roh at defensive end for the second half of 2016 and Max Forde, a reserve defensive lineman who could be ready for the next step. We also signed National Dylan Ainsworth (247 lbs.) in free agency.

Returning International lineman include Mic'heal Brooks (295 lbs), Bryant Turner Jr. (278 lbs.) and Craig Roh (265 lbs.). We also signed free agent Dequin Evens. Also back for another look see are Darius Allen (240 lbs.) and Andrew Hudson (245 lbs.). Neither were able to make a big impression last year.

New Internationals who will be coming to training camp at this point include.

Adrien Bellard I 325 lbs.
Kenneth Boatwright 245 lbs.
Marquis Jackson 255 lbs.
Luther Maddy 285 lbs.
Louis Palmer 265 lbs.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

maxlion
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Wed Mar 01, 2017 11:55 am

Hambone wrote:
Per the CBA Purifoy could not sign for only the 2016 season. All first contracts are mandated to include an option year. Purifoy's deal would've been a 1+1 including an option year for 2017. Per the CBA "For greater clarity, a Player's "First Contract" means any contract for his first year in the CFL and for which he has received payment for 1 regular season or playoff game". Option years cannot be included in a player's second contract thus it's not until the player signs his second contract that he can sign a pure 1 year deal. Purifoy always was under contract for 2017 assuming BC would pick up the option year.

I think there was some speculation that Purifoy may have negotiated something with Wally to have an out to try the NFL again this offseason. However that would really fly against the way Buono operates. It's one thing to give a valued and respected veteran player like Bighill an early out as part of a re-negotiation where there are some other trade-offs. It's quite another thing, not to mention a dangerous precedent, to cede that sort of privilege to a player who is really no different than any other with some NFL experience (and a certain amount of baggage) coming to camp for the first time.
Steven Clarke was granted a release after 1 year to try the NFL, if I recall correctly. Perhaps a different contractual thing that I'm missing? My sense was that Purifoy had burned a lot of bridges in the US and that there was a lack of interest as a result. If he has another good year and keeps out of trouble, we will likely see him back in the NFL in a year.

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Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:19 pm

maxlion wrote:Steven Clarke was granted a release after 1 year to try the NFL, if I recall correctly. Perhaps a different contractual thing that I'm missing? My sense was that Purifoy had burned a lot of bridges in the US and that there was a lack of interest as a result. If he has another good year and keeps out of trouble, we will likely see him back in the NFL in a year.
Clarke was a pending FA when he was released early in 2016.
http://www.cfl.ca/2016/02/07/fa16/

He was signed late in 2014 and played 2 games. He played 16 games in 2015, his 2nd season as a Lion.
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Blitz
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Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:29 am

Last season our Leos tied the Stamps with 52 sacks to lead the CFL in that category. Yet we only had 9 interceptions for the 2016 season, worst in the CFL and a historic low for our Leos. Our defense also only forced 14 fumbles, making our defense the worst in the CFL at creating turnovers.

Its a serious disconnect between our sack totals and the very few defensive turnovers we created in 2016. Its certainly was not aggressive defence, outside of our pass rush. Our pass rush also had difficulty at times getting pressure on the opposing quarterback unless we blitzed.

Lets look at 2016 and our pass rush.

Our leading sacker was defensive end Alex Bazzie and he is gone. Our leading sacker at defensive tackle, Jabar Westerman (5 sacks is gone).

Individually, this is who got to the quarterback last year.

Alex Bazzie - 11
Sol E. -8
Craig Roh - 7
Jabar Westerman - 5
Louchez Purifoy - 5
Adam Bighill - 5
Bryant Turner Jr. 3
David Menard - 2
Stephen Ckarke - 1
Mic'heal Brooks - 1
T.J. Lee - 1
Darius Allen - 1
Kache Palacio - 1
Andrew Hudson - 1

Most of Bazzie's sacks came in the first half of the season. No other field side defensive end (Hudson, Palacio, Darius Allen) showed anything when they spelled Bazzie off. At boundary side defensive end, once Menard got into the rotation in the last third of the season, Roh's play picked up.

On the inside, only Jabar Westerman was able to get pressure until we inserted Bryant Turner Jr. into the rotation in the last third of the season. Brooks only had one sack all season.

Overall, we got 18 sacks from our linebackers (Sol. E, Purifoy, Bighill) and only 9 sacks fron the tackle postion (and actually one of Turner's sacks came while he was lined up at defensive end.

What needs to change for 2017.

Defensive Pressure

1. We need much more pressure and penetration from the tackle position. Most opposing quaterbacks are in the pocket these days. You have to get defenders in their face. Bliting linebackers was the ony way we could get that kind of pressure in 2016 and the Sol E/Bighill A/B gap blitz was often very predictable.

2. We need to get more consistent pressure from the field size defensive end position. We really didn't have a rotation in 2016 at this spot. If Bazzie couldn't get it done, no one got it done. Hudson, Palacio, and Allen were just dressed up in uniform but they couldn't get pressure. Bazzie was spent by the 2/3 mark of the season and had little left.

Ball Hawking

There is simply no excuse for 9 interceptions on a season. Of course, some of that is personell. With Sol E. and Bighill having an interception, our defensive backs only had 7 interceptions in 18 games. That's atrocious. Stewart was picked on all season. Ryan Phillips play slipped. Anthony Gaitor, who started both at corner and halfback for part of the 2016 season led us with 2 interceptions. Mike Edem also had two interceptions later in the season, after Jennnings and Lulay worked with Edem at the end of a practice to improve his angles.

COACHING

But this is not just a personell problem. Its also a coaching problem. Ronnne Yell, Stephen Clarke, and T.J. Lee are aggressive defensive backs. Ryan Phillips used to love to jump routes. However, when you are stuck in a passive zone defensive concept, its hard to do that. Our defense needs to play more man defense in 2017 and to play some press man. It also needs to run some combo man/zone coverages. We are a very predictable, passive defense. Washington also does a terrible job of pre-game scouting and game planning. There were good reasons why good teams like Winnipeg and Calgary got early leads on us and those reasons came down to better coaching, scouting, and game planning.

We can change personell and change personell but until we stop advantaging opposing teams in the coaching deparment, we're going to lose to good teams more often than we beat them. The best example to show the difference in coaching last season was Calgary. In the early going, when talent plays a more predominant role than coaching, we beat Calgary in the first regular season game of 2016 and should have beaten them in Calgary.

But by Game 3 of the season Calgary's superior coaching, scouting, and game planning began to show. Calgary kicked our butts in the third game of the regular season, both on offence and on defense, and they dominated us in the playoff too. The differende in talent was minimal between both teams. The difference in coaching was significant.

For 2017, we need a more consistent and improved inside pass rush, we need better depth at field defensive end, we need more aggressive pass defence, and most importantly, we need better coaching.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

B.C.FAN
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Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:06 am

Good breakdown, Blitz. I'm encouraged by Mark Washington's offseason statements that the Lions need to generate more turnovers, especially interceptions. I think a lot of the problem last year was personnel. Ryan Phillips used to feast on reading QBs and jumping routes in zone coverage. He just couldn't get there last year, and when he was there he lost jump balls. Teams picked on him deep and capitalized. With an ineffective Brandon Stewart and Mike Edem also giving up big plays on either side of him and the two boundary-starters injured for much of the season, the secondary was ineffective.

Still, it's a credit to Washington that the defence led the league in several categories, including fewest yards from scrimmage and fewest first downs. The Lions just gave up too many big pass plays, primarily due to the personnel in the secondary.
"I think [Fred Fateri] was like a lot of people who watch football, hockey or any professional sport on television. They sit there and think they could coach better than the professional. Some people really think that." - Bob Ackles, The Water Boy

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