Cam Cole: ‘Young’ Lions’ quarterback ready, willing

 

New year: Jonathon Jennings is feeling confident, but time will tell how much rope he’ll be given

 
 
 
 
Quarterbacks Jonathon Jennings, left, and Travis Lulay represent the best chance the Lions have of regaining some of the team’s lost popularity, Cam Cole writes.
 

Quarterbacks Jonathon Jennings, left, and Travis Lulay represent the best chance the Lions have of regaining some of the team’s lost popularity, Cam Cole writes.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG

More on This Story

 

On the same day that quite a different football scenario was playing out in court, the B.C. Lions were rerouting the public’s attention to a happier theme.

It may have been a coincidence.

In downtown Vancouver, a B.C. Supreme Court justice hearing arguments over jurisdiction in the case of former B.C. receiver Arland Bruce, who claims that the Lions, Montreal Alouettes and the Canadian Football League are responsible for mishandling multiple concussions he suffered while playing.

Meanwhile, at the club’s training facility in Surrey, the Leos trotted out their two quarterbacks, young Jonathon Jennings and old Travis Lulay — “OldER,” Lulay amended, grinning — who together represent the best chance the team has of regaining some of its lost popularity after a couple of disheartening seasons.

It is a quarterbacks league. Contenders have them; pretenders don’t. The Lions think they are among the haves, and they could be right, but then again …

What they have, in the 23-year-old Jennings, is a low mileage second-year pro whose strong arm and precocious field awareness briefly gave the team hope last season and netted him the No. 1 job, which he held even after Lulay returned from a knee injury.

They also have, in the 32-year-old Lulay, a proven but injury-plagued veteran more than four seasons past his greatest year, the 2011 campaign when he was both the CFL’s outstanding player and Grey Cup MVP.

No one doubts Lulay’s ability to get the job done, if he can stay in one piece long enough to do it. That he has been laid low time and again by shoulder problems, then last year’s torn knee ligaments, explains why he probably had to take something like a 50 per cent haircut to remain with the Lions when his contract expired this winter.

As for Jennings, he gave every indication last fall that he has all the tools to be among the next wave of young star quarterbacks, and may be able to turn that promise into a re-structured deal, but these career arcs are rarely without dips, and there hasn’t been enough evidence to be certain which way his will go.

“We’ve just taken an opportunity with Jon here in town to sit down with Khari (Jones, offensive coordinator) and start talkin’ shop. That’s kind of what we do. We’re football nerds,” Lulay said.

“I’m excited about it. One of the things I respect most about Khari … he has a wealth of playing experience that wasn’t a long time ago, so when we say something, he knows what we’re saying because he’s stood in our shoes. That’s an awesome resource to have.”

Jones is in his third year here, and his second go-round as coordinator after a semi-disastrous season in which a lot of George Cortez’s offence had to be scrapped in midterm.

Jennings, who at least had Jones as his position coach last year, faces a whole different level of pressure now as the No. 1 than at any time last season, which began with him as one of nine (9) QBs on the roster.

“I relate it to how it was in college,” Jennings said. “Coming into my sophomore year, expectations were higher. Everyone knows what you can do, so you have to try to live up to that.

“But I’m confident because of the way I prep. I’m willing to put in the work, learn new things, come in with a better understanding than where I was last year.”

This is another show-me season for the Lions, even with Wally Buono back running the on-field show. He hasn’t coached since handing the reins to his defensive protégé, Mike Benevides, after the 2011 Grey Cup win — that was two coaches ago — so he and Lulay have that in common: four years removed from glory.

Has Buono, the CFL’s winningest coach ever, still got it? Did he choose the right assistants after all the trendiest commodities got snapped up? Lulay likes the addition of former Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille as receivers coach, and both he and Jennings like Jones, so there’s that.

But the Lions have changed their ratio structure, so it’ll be import tailbacks now where Andrew Harris had been a fixture, meaning Buono has to commit to a Canadian starter somewhere that an import played last year. Exactly where may be, as they say, a fluid situation through the first part of the season.

“It will be different,” Lulay said. “Andrew’s figured heavily in our offensive plan the last five-six years. But there’s still a lot of familiarity. A lot of these guys have worked with Khari, and bringing back Nick Moore, a lot of us have worked with Nick in the past.”

Jennings just dropped in from Florida, where he’d been training in the sunshine with Moore. The two went to the same high school in Ohio, albeit six years apart.

The young QB needs every edge he can find. If he should falter out of the gate, how much rope will Buono give him, with Lulay — a forceful, confident personality, articulate and inspiring — standing beside him on the sidelines?

But there will be no quarterback controversy … until there is.

ccole@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Quarterbacks Jonathon Jennings, left, and Travis Lulay represent the best chance the Lions have of regaining some of the team’s lost popularity, Cam Cole writes.
 

Quarterbacks Jonathon Jennings, left, and Travis Lulay represent the best chance the Lions have of regaining some of the team’s lost popularity, Cam Cole writes.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice