Jim Mullin is the former Sports Director at CKNW 980 in Vancouver. He is the play-by-play voice of Canada West Football on SHAW TV. In 2011, he will broadcast his 15th season of university football on the coast. He is also the founder of the University Football Reporters of Canada.
Davis Sanchez has witnessed a lot in his football career. Now he will have to see a fair bit more.
The veteran cornerback is a rookie all over again as he will start at safety for the Lions as they take on the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
Sanchez will have to get accustomed to changing his focus from one-on-one battles to surveying the entire field.
“Playing safety is a completely different mindset,” said Sanchez.
”You have to read the whole field and adjust like you’re the quarterback of the defence where you have to see it all, instead of worrying about one guy only.”
The move and shuffle was made by the Lions after the gruesome leg injury to halfback Stanley Franks in the second half of their home opening loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
Travis Williams will move to corner, while multi-purpose defensive back David Hyland will move to strong side halfback. Hyland has previously played on the field corner, safety and halfback. The tandem of Hyland and Williams was employed extensively during training camp.
Heading into the start of the season, the Lions knew they had to make an impression against the defending Grey Cup Champion Alouettes, and the Calgary Stampeders who are the consensus pick to win the west.
Wasted opportunities on both sides of the ball have resulted in two close losses out of the gate.
On offence, a truckload of dropped passes left game winning points on the board against the Stamps.
In Sanchez’s department of defence, sloppy tackling led to major scores and second life for both the Alouettes and Stamps.
“We should have won the Calgary game because in the first half we left so many points out there. But on defence there were tackles we should have made. If we make them, we get off the field and we wipe out big gains.”
Sanchez has been leaning on defensive backs coach Barron Miles, who, throughout his career, owned the safety spot in Montreal and later BC. The switch in position could add some longevity to Sanchez’s career, but he’s just focused on finding a way to get the Lions their first win of the year.
“When you get up in age to 36 or 37 it’s different when you’re running against a 22 year-old. Playing free safety, reading the game, it’s a more cerebral approach which might just suit me at this stage. But right now, I’m just taking this game by game.”
Rushing over the Rockies
Former Lions running back and newly minted Eskimos main man Jerome Messam heads into this week’s game just nine yards behind league leader Fred Reid of Winnipeg. So far, last he has racked up 141 rushing yards.
Messam was traded from the Lions before game one due to disciplinary issues for a fifth round draft pick in 2013.
What a bargain for Kavis Reed, Eric Tillman and the Eskimos so far.
The move has certainly not gone unnoticed in BC, as Jamal Robertson and Andrew Harris have registered combined 27 rushing yards between them.
The offensive line has stepped to the microphone this week to accept the blame for the anaemic output.
“We have to establish the running game and we have to establish it early,” offensive tackle Ben Archibald said.
“The blame for the lack of a running game is on the O-line. It’s on us.”
Last week, Calgary’s strategy of putting seven players in the box forced Lions quarterback Travis Lulay to switch to pass on called running plays on a handful of occasions.
“We’re aware there’s a need to utilize the running game, and as an offence it’s something we understand we need to do,” Lulay said.
Heading into this week, the top three rushing teams – Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton – all held 2-0 records. The Lions not surprisingly are dead last in rushing and winless in two.
GET THE VETS
Former Eskimo Kamau Peterson has dressed for a game, but he will actually get to play in tonight’s game for the Lions in the building where he won the Most Outstanding Canadian award in 2008.
His Achilles injury which hobbled him in 2009 and 2010 is apparently a thing of the past.