April 28, 2014

Morris: Lions offence working on new language


What can define a coach as a genius is finding a new way to do the same thing.

Maybe that’s why Khari Jones chuckled when asked how he plans to change the BC Lions offence.

“What is old is new again,” said Jones, hired in the off-season as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“I always say in football there are only two things that you can do on every play; run or pass. I try to keep the game in its simplest terms and let the guys do what they do.”

That being said, Jones promised there will be changes.

“There is a different language,” said Jones. “Some things have stayed the same, some things are different.

“It will take some time to get that terminology right. I told the guys it’s natural to lean on what you know already. The sooner we can all speak the same language the better. ”

To assist in that transition the Lions held a three-day mini-camp this week at their Surrey practice facility. It was sort of a meet-and-greet with Jones, the former CFL quarterback, getting to know the players.

“I’m just hoping to see these guys in person,” said Jones. “I’ve seen them on film a lot.

“It’s always different when you get to see a guy up close and see how he moves, see how he understands the new offence we are bringing in. It will be a good chance to see the new guys and see what they bring to the table as well.”

For a new philosophy to work the players have to understand and be on board. So far quarterback Travis Lulay is willing to buy what Jones is selling.

“I don’t think it’s change just to change,” said Lulay, who is still recovering from November surgery on his right shoulder. “It’s change because it’s what he believes in and this is what he thinks is the best way to attack defences.

“My first impression is, everything he has said makes perfect sense. Khari has quarterback eyes. It seems the way he thinks about the game is very similar to the way I’ve thought about the game. ’’

Jones replaces Jacques Chapdelaine, who resigned as the Lions’ offensive coordinator and since has been hired as head coach at Simon Fraser University.

Jones spent the last two seasons as quarterbacks coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. His work with quarterback Darian Durant was one reason the Riders won the Grey Cup in November.

Prior to working in Regina, Jones was the offensive coordinator with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. As a player, he spent three years in BC before being traded to Winnipeg. During his five years with the Blue Bombers Jones threw for over 3,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.

For about two-thirds of last season the Lions offence was stale and predictable. The running game stalled. It wasn’t until late in the year when running back Stefan Logan returned from the NFL, and a new blocking scheme was introduced, that the team found its legs.

Jones won’t bring a magic wand to the Lions. He will incorporate some wrinkles and design plays to exploit the strength of individual players.

“I hope we take advantage of matchups,” said Jones. “I hope we take advantage of the play makers. That’s the biggest thing I can say.

“Plays are just plays. It’s how you approach the plays, how you go out there and try to build different matchups within the game. Everybody runs pretty similar plays throughout the league. It’s about the athletes out there, getting the best out of those guys.”

While Lulay participated in the drills he limited himself to short throws, none longer than 20 yards. The goal of the surgery was to strengthen ligaments in his shoulder and Lulay doesn’t want to rush the recovery process.

“You can’t get ahead of yourself,” said the 30-year-old. “You have to understand what you are doing and where you are in the process.

“I’m five months out from the operation. I still have a little ways to go but we have a little bit of time left.”

A partial dislocation of his throwing shoulder kept Lulay on the bench for the final seven weeks of the season. He did play in the Western Semi-Final loss to Saskatchewan.

Lulay finished the year completing 224 of 347 passes for 2,841 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Among the three other quarterbacks participating in the camp John Beck drew a lot of attention. The BYU grad was a second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 NFL draft. During a six-year career he also played in Baltimore, Washington and Houston, starting seven games.

Beck said the mini-camp will help his learning curve for the Canadian game.

“I just wanted a head start,” he said. “I just wanted to as quickly as I could start soaking up whatever I could.”

Not at the camp was quarterback Steven Jyles, who the Lions signed earlier this year as a backup. The seven-year CFL veteran sat out the 2013 season.

Jyles told the team he couldn’t attend because of a work commitment in Dallas. Lions head coach Mike Benevides didn’t sound optimistic when asked if he expects to see the quarterback this year.

“I don’t know if we will,” said Benevides. “He has some decisions to make, some family commitments and some job opportunities to take a look it.

“The fact he’s not here, I will concentrate on the other guys.”