Lions lick­ing lips over tasty pass­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties

Jen­nings could be more lethal with speedy new tar­get Wil­liams

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Chris Wil­liams is do­ing some ex­tra work af­ter a train­ing camp ses­sion, cut­ting and stop­ping to test his sur­gi­cally re­paired knee un­der a trainer’s watch­ful eye.

A few me­tres away, B.C. Lions quar­ter­back Jonathon Jen­nings ex­plains with the same pre­ci­sion what the new­est ad­di­tion to the club’s re­ceiv­ing corps brings to the ta­ble.

“Speed and in­tim­i­da­tion,” Jen­nings said with­out miss­ing a beat. “If I’m lined up at corner, I know I’m go­ing to be afraid of some­body who runs like that.”

It’s early, but it’s also al­ready pretty clear op­pos­ing de­fences will have a lot to worry about when fac­ing the Lions’ aerial at­tack in 2017.

Apart from Wil­liams, who signed with B.C. af­ter two stand­out sea­sons with the Ot­tawa Redblacks, the Lions have the CFL’s third- and fourth-lead­ing re­ceivers from a year ago in Em­manuel Arce­neaux and Bryan Burn­ham. “Ex­plo­sive­ness,” Jen­nings added when asked what comes to mind for the group as a whole. “Those guys are su­per dy­namic. You’ve got mul­ti­ple guys that can do dif­fer­ent things.

“It’s hard to stop that threat when there’s so many of them.”

Arce­neaux had 105 catches for 1,566 yards and a CFL-high 13 touch­downs in 2016, while Burn­ham caught 79 balls for 1,392 yards and three TDs.

Mix in Wil­liams, who fin­ished sixth in re­ceiv­ing with 1,246 yards de­spite miss­ing the last four games of the reg­u­lar sea­son af­ter tear­ing his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment and menis­cus, and the Lions feel like the sky’s pretty much the limit in terms of pro­duc­tion though the air as they look to im­prove on last year’s 12-6 mark.

“All across the board you’ve got guys who can be a No. 1 re­ceiver any­where they go,” said Burn­ham. “It’s pretty awe­some, es­pe­cially the way we’ve meshed and have been work­ing to­gether. There’s no egos here.

“We bring our lunch pails and we go to work.”

The Lions were con­fi­dent enough in Wil­liams’ re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to bring him on board as a big-ticket free agent in Fe­bru­ary, a move that head coach and gen­eral man­ager Wally Buono said should give de­fences pause no mat­ter where the man who hauled in 77 catches and 10 touch­downs with the Redblacks last sea­son lines up.

“Chris tilts the cov­er­ages,” Buono said of the 29-year-old fol­low­ing a morn­ing prac­tice on the cam­pus of Thomp­son Rivers Univer­sity in Kam­loops. “When you play against Chris Wil­liams you’ve al­ways got to be aware of Chris Wil­liams.

“If noth­ing else, it takes some of the pres­sure off the other re­ceivers.”

The Lions led the CFL with 40 pass­ing plays of 30 yards or more in 2016, but Jen­nings said Wil­liams’ abil­ity to go deep should cre­ate even more op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“That threat­ens the de­fence so much,” said the 24-year-old quar­ter­back set to be­gin his sec­ond full sea­son as a starter. “Just that threat of go­ing deep will al­low us to run smaller things un­der­neath and get things over top as well when they press up.”

While there’s al­ready lots of talk about B.C.’s pass­ing game, it should be noted the club led the league in rush­ing last sea­son and tied for the third-fewest sacks al­lowed thanks to a resur­gent of­fen­sive line that looks to be in pretty good shape head­ing into 2017.

Wil­liams was part of an ex­plo­sive re­ceiver group with Ot­tawa, which won the Grey Cup in Novem­ber, and sees sim­i­lar po­ten­tial with the Lions, who also have for­mer 1,100-yard slot­back Nick Moore back healthy af­ter he tore his knee in July.

“It’s got all the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to be what­ever it wants to be,” said Wil­liams. “It’s go- ing to come down to how hard we work and then you’ve got to have luck.

“You’ve got to stay healthy.”

His arm tal­ent is elite, it re­ally is. you can see it. chris wil­liams on Jonathon Jen­nings

Dar­ryl Dyck/The cana­Dian Press

Jonathon Jen­nings’ re­ceiv­ing op­tions will make for tough cov­ers for Lions op­po­nents this sea­son.

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