Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/18/12
The Orange-clad warriors Even when the regular season seemed so easy, it was the BC Lions record breaking defence that stumbled late in the season. But not bringing home a Grey Cup is no reason to cast aside a notable season. I’m just excited for what this group can do next year after a full off-season of pent-up aggression. This will be the only column where no “D” is a good thing for these guys. Defensive Line B+ This unit should have garnered an A grade but unfortunately transgressions and poor social media skills led to Khalif Mitchell missing a handful of starts. This group was equally effective rushing the passer as it was shutting down the run, making it one of the more balanced forces in the CFL. I would have liked to have seen a bit more production from Defensive End Khreem Smith as he saw less double teams than his line-mates, Eric Taylor, Keron Williams, and Mitchell. That being said, Smith was a solid defender in comparison to league standards. Williams finished the 2012 campaign leading the league in sacks but in my opinion the most significant aspect of the group was the emergence of three young talents in Jabar Westerman, Maurice Evans, and Brandon Jordan. Each of these three had promising starts to their professional careers. Mitchell was the top dog on D this year (Photo: CTV news) Line Backers A Just how good of a LB is James Yurichuk? Yuri battled Adam Bighill every day of training camp for the starting spot only relinquishing the role to Bighill on the final day of camp before the regular season opened. Bighill went on to collect numerous “Player of the Week” awards and set franchise records for tackles in a season. This group rivals only the receiving corps for overall depth, with Yurichuk, Joash Gesse, Special Team phenom Jason Aragki, and 2010 CFL Rookie of the Year Solomon Elimimian all playing a back-up role. The other starters, Anton MacKenzie and Anthony Reddick provided veteran savvy and shut down strength all season. Defensive Backs C A collection of highly skilled individuals with impressive resumes roamed in the secondary for the Leos, unfortunately they just never clicked together, leaving gaps in the passing zones or failing to provide adequate man to man coverage. The secondary started slow in the turnover battle as well, not registering their first interception until Dante Marsh picked off Ricky Ray on August 6th. Newcomers Byron Parker and Lin-J Shell will probably find more success next year, guided by veterans Korey Banks and Ryan Phillips, both 2012 CFL All-Stars. One up and comer I really liked was rookie Josh Bell. Bell proved he play the short corner and has a bit of a nasty streak in him. The man with the golden boot (Photo: BC Lions) Special Teams C+ Paul McCallum pulls this grade into the “better than average” range solely based on his consistency in both kicking and punting. He may have lost a couple of yards in his Field Goal range but his ability to pin offences deep in their own zone more than makes up for it. I, too, would take my chances with this defense. McCallum finished tops amongst kickers in points this year while averaging 41.0 yards per punt. Kick coverage improved drastically after week 3 but a real sore spot for the Lions this season was punt returns. It’s almost as if the Lions’ up-field blockers turned to watch Tim Brown field a punt, altogether forgetting about their blocking assignments. This phase of football will require some extra attention to detail as well as some internal pride this off-season. Comments Overall, the Defence seemed to lose its’ swagger late in the season. After a humbling loss in Calgary, they never seemed to get off the mat to answer the bell. In the Western Conference Final, it was Calgary again that exploited an obvious breakdown of communications in the Lions secondary. Optimism abounds for 2013 though as many of the lapses will be solidified in the off-season as players become more familiar with their roles and responsibilities.  Now if there was only a defensive strategy that could use all those Linebackers at once… Cheers, The Bartender CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT OUR B.C. LIONS BLOG IN THE NWSB LIONS CLUBHOUSE!
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