-It doesn’t count in the standings
-The players are up against guys who have little to no chance to making the roster
-Players who are guaranteed roster spots play little and when they do they are trying to avoid injury.
This is all true, but the main goal of the preseason, in any sport, is to evaluate young players and depth players in game situations that simply cannot be simulated in training camp.
Many of these types of players made an impact with the Lions this preseason. Most of my observances are based on the 1st game against the Roughriders, as I could barely watch the Eskimo game on their website.
First of all, I have to commend the rock solid play of QB Mike Reilly and WR Nick Moore. Reilly, who has a combined 321 yards in the preseason, dominated Saskatchewan in 2 quarters of action, 189 yards passing, 3 TD passes, as well as over 50 yards rushing. He took a back seat to Travis Lulay against Edmonton, rightfully so, but I think Reilly has been watching Lulay closely and is starting to look a lot like him with his confidence, grasp of the playbook, scrambling/running ability, and obviously his passing. God forbid something happen to Lulay *KNOCK ON WOOD*, Mike Reilly would certainly be a capable replacement.
Moore, on the other hand, is much more prepared than he was at this time last year. He seems to have lost his case of the dropsies, which basically cost the Lions the season opener last year. He’s got some swagger in his game now, especially after his 2 TD game against the Riders. He’s even got the attention of a notable NFL WR. Yes it is his brother Lance Moore, who plays for the Saints, but this influence can garner attention to the CFL south of the border. Nick Moore has certainly made his case to stick around on the Lions roster this year.
Other encouraging players through the preseason:
OL Matt Norman – Not originally expected to crack the lineup, injuries to Jon Hameister-Reis and Dean Valli, as well as Kirby Fabien’s return to the CIS has opened the door for Norman, who has gotten significant minutes this preseason.
“Matt…is one of the surprise stories,” said head coach Mike Benevides, “I see him as being part of this team.”
KR Anthony Stewart- Battling with Tim Brown for the import kick returner spot, Stewart is certainly making a strong case for himself. He had 98 yards on 7 attempts on special teams in the first game, as well as some significant yardage along the ground on offense, much like Brown did last year.
“We’ve had discussions about, ‘How do we keep him on the roster?” said special teams coach Chuck McMann. “Both Anthony and Tim Brown are very good players. I hope there’s a way we’re able to keep both of them.”
QB Thomas DeMarco- Undoubtedly the third stringer with the great play of Mike Reilly and non import Jordan Yantz’s return to the Vancouver Island Raiders. However, DeMarco is highly touted as a quarterback of the future; he was even compared by one of his team-mates to one of the greatest QB’s in CFL history:
“I call him Little Dunigan,” said slotback Geroy Simon, talking of course about Matt Dunigan. “He can really throw the football. He can put it out there.”
LB Adam Bighill- The departure of Solomon Elimimian to the NFL’s Vikings certainly dealt a blow to the Lions’ linebacking corps. The popular picks to replace him are Anton McKenzie and James Yurichuk, but Bighill has made a name for himself in the preseason with his long interception return for a TD against Saskatchewan. Players with 5’10″ and 230 lb. frame generally don’t make an impact on most teams, but Bighill has a big opportunity to do just that.
Adam Bighill on replacing Elimimian: “Now it’s my time to try to put it on the field — show what I know, show what I can do and try to impress somebody.”
Yes the preseason is not an extremely accurate measuring stick for a team and yes it means nothing in the standings, but the Lions, old and new have proven that they are out to win and, to them, there’s no such thing as a Grey Cup hangover.