Who steps up for the Lions if Bruce and Simon sit?
VANCOUVER — It may be premature to assume that the two most veteran receivers in the BC Lions offence may miss Saturday’s game against Calgary, but if they do, it may not have come at a worse time for the first place Leos.
Both Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce lll went down in the first half of last Saturday’s loss in Saskatchewan. Simon pulled up on the Lions’ last drive of the first half with a tweaked hamstring, while Bruce absorbed a hit where he fell awkwardly. It is a sight that Lions fans and coaches are not used to seeing. In fact, the two have not missed a game together since the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers were reunited in the middle of the 2011 season.
Simon missed one game earlier this season versus Montreal, the first game in 72 that he has sat out. Meanwhile, should Bruce be sidelined for the matchup with the Stampeders this weekend it will be the first he has not dressed for since being traded to BC.
It is too early in the week for the Lions to rule out either from playing but head coach Mike Benevides knows that he must start working on how to make up for their lack of production if one or neither can go – possibly looking to Nick Moore and Courtney Taylor.
“We have Nick, Courtney and Ernest Jackson,” Benevides said. “Two of those three would certainly be considered for that. Arland’s spot would be a good place for Courtney [a Seattle Seahawk draft pick who has yet to play a game for the Lions]. We’ll take a good look at that. But we’ve still got a few days here to work with.”
Moore filled in admirably for Simon three weeks ago when the CFL’s all-time leading receiver missed the aforementioned contest, making 6 receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Regardless of who potentially fills their spots, matching Simon and Bruce’s output will be no easy task. They sit 13th and 16th respectively among the Top 20 receivers in the CFL right now and have combined for 1,260 yards and 6 touchdowns in BC’s 13 games.
It is a difficult scenario but Simon states that he has confidence in the players around him to pick up the slack just as they did in Regina despite the loss.
“It’s a tough situation to be in, with your top two guys going out,” Simon said. “I think the other guys did a good job, trying to recover. Marco [Iannuzzi] played well. K.J. [Kierrie Johnson] played well. Paris [Jackson] stepped up and did a good job. But it was a tough situation. They had to move around into different positions than they were used to.”
Iannuzzi seemed to be QB Travis Lulay’s go-to target late in the game with the two vets out of the lineup, making two crucial touchdown grabs to put the Lions within striking distance to win the game.
Another target was Canadian Akeem Foster who weighed in on the significance of losing two top receivers in the same game.
“When you lose Arland and Geroy it’s tough,” Foster said after the game. “But, as young bucks, we want to step in and make plays. We haven’t been playing up to par for weeks now. Somebody finally knocked us off. We’ve just got to get that hunger back. You don’t really learn anything when you’re always winning. This loss was a reality check. We’ve all got to work harder and come back and be the champions that we are.”
Now the Lions face their most important game of the season, hosting the surging Stampeders on Saturday. The Stamps have quietly worked their way back into the discussion for taking first place, victors in five of their last six contests and sitting just one game behind the Lions for first place.