It's been two years since the BC Lions hoisted the Grey Cup and Wally Buono handed the head coaching reigns to Mike Benevides.
Since then the Lions have entered each season with one of the most talented rosters in the league before falling short of expectations.
Two years is a short time to be sure, and it's not like the Lions can't supply excuses for their shortcomings since 2011 – Travis Lulay's shoulder injury last year – but in the ultra-competitive and impatient world of professional sports, the pressure is on.
Bad teams feel pressure to be better; good teams feel pressure to be the best. And don't forget the added burden of a potential home field for the Grey Cup and the three-year streak of Grey Cup champs winning at home.
The Lions were smart in acquiring veteran leader and “quarterback 1A” Kevin Glenn from the Ottawa Redblacks during the CFL Draft for the fifth-overall draft pick. The price was a little steep for a player few figured would actually end up with Ottawa for the upcoming season, but with Lulay's shoulder still a talking point, Glenn provides quality insurance at the most important position.
BC has opted for younger projects at QB behind Lulay the past couple years but the Glenn acquisition makes sense for a team that can't get derailed for even a short period of time, should Lulay miss games – for whatever ailment – this season.
Especially with Thomas DeMarco's selection in the Expansion Draft, Glenn gives the Lions peace of mind at one of their most worrisome areas for 2014.
Another solid move, adding to a position of strength, was the free agent signing of Jamall Johnson. Johnson returns to BC after five seasons in Hamilton, his last a down year after being asked to play in the middle, and joins a frightening linebacking corps that already includes Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill.
BC's task in once again entering the year as one of the most talented teams on paper is replacing receiver Nick Moore and a number of large bodies on the offensive line.
Not to diminish Moore's impact, but the Lions' receiving corps still has enough burners, and more importantly, added Canadian content, that Lulay – or Glenn – shouldn't feel frustrated for lack of quality targets.
The line however, may have to rely on more youngsters than would be considered ideal. The good news is their young contingent on the offensive line is talented and the unit is still anchored by perhaps the best left tackle in the game in Jovan Olafioye.
While they've fallen short of the Grey Cup the past two years, the Lions still qualified for the postseason those years, and were just a win away from a return trip in 2012; so it feels strange to suggest the team enters the season under pressure to do more. That reality is part testament to how well the Lions' organization is run, but as is the case with all good teams, being good only counts for so long; greatness sticks.
Like the Argos and Riders before them, look for the Lions to go all out in 2014.
Parting Ways After a long tenure with the Lions as an offensive coach and coordinator, Jacques Chapdelaine left the Lions early in the off-season, the coach and team mutually agreeing to part ways. It was certainly a big shakeup on Benevides' staff, getting rid of the offensive mainstay of 10 of the past 11 years. Up and coming offensive mind Khari Jones replaced Chapdelaine as well as taking on the QB coach role.
Expansion Draft The Lions search for a backup quarterback began anew after the Ottawa Redblacks selected Thomas DeMarco, who gained solid experience filling in for an injured Travis Lulay In 2013, in the first round of the Expansion Draft. BC also lost guard Matt Albright and DT Andrew Marshall to the Redblacks.
Free Agency With the least amount of players to hit the free market, the Lions were one of the least active teams during the free agency period. They did lose promising receiver Nick Moore to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers however, but made a splash on the other side of the ball when they brought back linebacker Jamall Johnson, who last played for the Lions in 2008, from Hamilton.
Retirements The Lions offensive line took a number of big hits this off-season with the retirements of three big pieces. Veteran centre Angus Reid was the first to announce his retirement. The 13-year veteran was a three-time West Division All-Star and one-time league All-Star. Not long after tackle Ben Archibald retired. The two-time All-Canadian spent the past three seasons in BC. Then late in the off-season Patrick Kabongo joined the two in retirement. The nine-year vet was a one-time West Division All-Star.
CFL Draft The Lions traded out of the first round in order to solidify their backup quarterback situation by grabbing Kevin Glenn from the Redblacks for the fifth-overall pick. The team had two picks in the second round, grabbing OL Tchissakid Player from Northwestern State and FB Pascal Lochard from Laval. With their final five selections the Lions took LB Casey Chin from Simon Fraser in the third round, DL David Menard from Montreal in the fourth round, WR Alexander Fox from Bishop's in the fifth round, DL Dylan Roper from Simon Fraser in the sixth round, and RB Guillaume Bourassa from Laval in the seventh round.
Khalif Mitchell Returns One of the most enigmatic players in the league the past few seasons made his return to BC late in the off-season after a year with the Toronto Argonauts. Khalif Mitchell's talent and impact at his DT position are unquestionable, but his return to the Lions was surprising after Mitchell seemingly burned a lot of bridges on his way out of BC a year ago. Lions GM Wally Buono has said all the right things about Mitchell's return so far, noting the player has matured over the years.