Lions’ passing attack catches fire without Taylor

 

 
 
 
 
B.C. Lions slotback Courtney Taylor says it’s tough sitting on the sidelines, but the receivers have been ‘picking it up’ over the last few weeks.
 
 

B.C. Lions slotback Courtney Taylor says it’s tough sitting on the sidelines, but the receivers have been ‘picking it up’ over the last few weeks.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

More on This Story

 

Wearing a ball cap of the defunct Vancouver Grizzlies — a natural conversation starter — it doesn’t take long before Courtney Taylor delves into the subject of Bryant (Big Country) Reeves, the lumbering seven-foot centre from the Lilliputian town of Gans, Okla.

“We could have told you guys he was terrible,” the veteran receiver of the B.C. Lions said. “Who was their scouting department? He was a big body. He just couldn’t move.”

Granted, Reeves didn’t have the footwork of a ballerina, but he was as immovable as a backhoe in the paint.

In the end, he just never panned out — much like the Lions’ weird experiment with a couple of prototypical NFL tight ends, Cam Morrah and A.C. Leonard.

In an attempt to rewrite the operating manual for building an explosive CFL offence, the Lions went the Big Country route with Morrah and Leonard slated to play significant snaps.

It didn’t go very far.

Morrah suffered a season-ending knee injury on July 13 against Saskatchewan. Leonard was gone by the end of August, done in by his lack of speed and inability to hang on to the football.

“I wish our season would have started with the same philosophy we have now,” Taylor says. “When you think about it, how many tight ends do you see in the CFL? I don’t know why that would be successful.”

That realization took a while to take hold with the coaching staff. But now that it is has, the Lions’ ability to stretch the field and spread out defenders, making them feel naked and alone in open spaces, has been enhanced.

Since he got into the mix six games ago, essentially replacing Leonard, former NFL wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins has 24 catches for 441 yards and two touchdowns.

Second-year player Bryan Burnham, who also became a starter six games ago, has 22 catches, 274 yards and a touchdown over that span.

Daring downfield strikes by rookie quarterback Jonathon Jennings, and receivers stepping up their game and making defenders backpedal, have the attack improving by the week. Getting the starting call for the fourth straight week, Saturday afternoon in Edmonton, Jennings has thrown for 1,269 yards and nine touchdowns since his first appearance, Sept. 18 in Calgary.

“The receivers most definitely have been picking it up and playing consistent ball for the past four or five weeks,” Taylor says. “I lick my chops when I see what they’re doing. I’d like to get in there and be a part of that myself.”

When his 2014 season ended prematurely because of foot surgery, Taylor was among the CFL’s leading receivers. He was supposed to play a key role for the Lions this year, but a hamstring injury in training camp kept him idled and allowed head coach Jeff Tedford to get a good look at Burnham.

Six years younger than Taylor, Burnham’s ascension to front-line status is not only an acknowledgment of his progress but another sign that the Lions are indeed in a rebuilding mode.

“For sure, they’re trying to move his development along, speed things up,” Taylor says. “I guess I didn’t fit that description (up-and-comer). But I respect him a lot. He’s like a big sponge for knowledge. He’s going to be a great ballplayer.”

As a pending free agent who hasn’t played a down since Aug. 20, the 31-year-old Taylor believes his career is coming to a close in B.C.

Until that happens, the four-year Lion and two-year Seattle Seahawk intends to set a certain example by working with younger players, enforcing the coach’s concept of team, reflecting no sense of entitlement.

“It’s tough,” he acknowledges. “But I have to keep a smile on my face for the guys I support. I want them to do good. I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy.”

Adds Burnham: “He could have sulked. Or, he could be the guy he is right now: a great teammate and a great mentor. He’s still a mentor to me.”

Nearing the end here, it’s important for Taylor to exit with style and grace and no animosity — unlike Vancouver’s departed NBA franchise and the centre who moved like a tectonic plate.

mbeamish@vancouversun.comtwitter.com/sixbeamers

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
B.C. Lions slotback Courtney Taylor says it’s tough sitting on the sidelines, but the receivers have been ‘picking it up’ over the last few weeks.
 

B.C. Lions slotback Courtney Taylor says it’s tough sitting on the sidelines, but the receivers have been ‘picking it up’ over the last few weeks.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

 
B.C. Lions slotback Courtney Taylor says it’s tough sitting on the sidelines, but the receivers have been ‘picking it up’ over the last few weeks.
Bryan Burnham during BC Lions practice at their facility in Surrey on Sept. 8.
BC Lions Courtney Taylor.
Bryan Burnham during B.C. Lions practice at their facility in Surrey on Sept. 8.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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