I'll be previewing all eight CFL teams in the lead-up to the long-awaited 2021 season. First up is the B.C. Lions, who will be looking to climb out of the West Division basement.
The Leos are coming off a disastrous 2019 campaign that saw them win just five games and finish in last place in the West Division. That outcome was even more disappointing when you consider the splash the Lions made prior to that season, acquiring star quarterback Mike Reilly.
Unfortunately the Lions couldn't keep Reilly upright with an offensive line that served as nothing more than a swinging door. The good news is B.C. made a concerted effort to upgrade its o-line this offseason, acquiring Ryker Mathews from the defending champion Tiger-Cats. Reilly is back under center with a new contract and has an opportunity for a 'do-over' of sorts after the 2020 campaign was wiped out by Covid-19.
The pieces are in place for the Lions offense to take a big step forward with the addition of RB Shaq Cooper, who will be given the chance to take on a more substantial role in an offense after departing Edmonton, not to mention the presence of elite WR Bryan Burnham, who racked up career-highs in both receiving yards (1,492) and touchdowns (11) back in 2019. Burnham leads a talented group of wide receivers that didn't reach their full potential due to Reilly's inability to find time in the pocket two years ago.
Keep an eye on the Lions special teams early in the season as that unit should make its presence known with Lucky Whitehead back to anchor a group that was among the league's best in 2019. Special teams is one area that I feel is rarely properly factored in when it comes to CFL odds. Kick return touchdowns became commonplace in the 2019 season and I would anticipate more of the same here in 2021.
Defensively, B.C. needs some work but has the potential to be better should 2020 first overall draft pick Jordan Williams turn out to be the player (and leader) the Lions expect him to be. Unfortunately the Lions 'D' won't have the benefit of time as it tries to come together and contend with the likes of the Stampeders and Roughriders - two of the league's most potent offensive squads - which both reside in the West Division.
The Lions are a longshot to win the Grey Cup, priced around 10-1 at most books.