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THE MOJ: Sayles the surprise cut as the Lions get physical in the secondary

Coaches still mixing and matching as the lineup prepares for the opener versus Toronto
Ryan Phillips at the 2024 BC Lions Training Camp on Monday, May 13. Steven Chang/BC Lions

There’s always a surprise cut with every CFL team.

Whether it be performance-related or salary cap implications, there will always that one player who is released that most observers didn’t see coming.

For the B.C. Lions, it was halfback Marcus Sayles.

The 29-year-old was released last weekend as the Lions trimmed down their roster in anticipation of their season-opener versus the Argonauts in Toronto this Sunday.

If you dig deeper, however, you could see it coming.

Sayles missed a few practices early with a hamstring issue and it opened the door for some players to get extra reps. The injury also allowed defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips to experiment with secondary combinations.

Most of us had assumed that the only spot up for grabs in the secondary was the boundary half due to T.J. Lee’s absence. Lee is coming off an Achilles injury and is hoping to return after serving his time on the six-game injured list.

Sayles’ short absence allowed Phillips to get creative in the secondary with Adrian Greene (pegged to be the starting safety) getting a look at wide-side corner and with veteran free agent signing Ciante Evans bumping to half with either sophomore Patrice Rene or third-round draft pick Cristophe Beaulieu getting reps at safety.

Then there were newcomers Jordan Perryman and Ronald Kent, who got extended looks at corner and half respectively.

Both impressed to the point where the Lions had to find a way to keep them on the roster – particularly Perryman.

“He has size, speed and the willingness to tackle. The way he closed on people, especially in an open field, was definitely impressive for me. When I looked at the last game, there were guys catching five-yard outs and he was flying downhill from 12-13 yards and making tackles. Not just tackles but good form tackles. If we have to put him in the box and do some things, we have the capability of doing that with him. At 6-2, 208 pounds, he’s physical but he has the ability to cover and still make plays. I think that’s what makes him a little different from everyone else,” said Phillips of the former University of Washington Husky.

As for Greene and Rene, Phillips is expecting big things from the pair of Canadians.

“Patrice definitely came in with a different mindset in training camp and it really showed. He was out there making plays, flying around, being aggressive and showed cover ability. It put us in a different trust factor with him. And Adrian Greene has taken the biggest step in two years than any player I have coached. I think the sky is the limit for him. I’d be surprised if he’s not an all-star and you can quote me on that,” gushed Phillips.

The result of all this is a reconfigured secondary that not only can cover but is part of a bigger commitment to stopping the run according to Phillips. And that commitment is necessary when facing the likes of Brady Oliveira and A.J. Ouellette five times in the upcoming season.

“We’re bigger. We’re a lot more active in the sense of being able to be aggressive. We’ve got bigger bodies that are willing to tackle. That’s definitely something that we want to be able to do. When you look at the west and how teams are shaped, you have these bigger backs with teams that probably want to be run-first, so you want to be able to match that in terms of our aggressiveness and mindset while still being able to cover,” explained Phillips.

With so many moving pieces, the secondary continues to be a work in progress and at practice early this week, the unit had Garry Peters playing boundary corner in tandem with Manny Rugamba at half. Greene was at safety with Evans playing the wide half and Perryman at wideside corner. As for Rene, he was lined up in Rugamba’s old nickel spot.

When asked if that would be the being the starting group against the Argo this Sunday (4 p.m., CKNW 980 and TSN), Phillips didn’t want to commit.

“We’re still mixing and matching. We have to see how it plays itself out. You’re trying combination to see if they jell. You’re obviously hoping to find some continuity and get to the point where you trust the guy that you’re playing next and that takes reps. So, we’ll see what looks like throughout practice. I do like where we are at and I do like where we are going,” said Phillips.


* Sayles, a 2022 CFL All-Star, was quickly snapped up by Saskatchewan. He’s a good football player but an even better person who spent most of his off-season in Vancouver helping promote the Lions with community appearances.

* Also released were the following Americans - Percy Agyei-Obese (RB), Sam Burton (DL), Chris Cooper (DB), Jeff Cotton (WR), Jean Delance (OL), Ed Lee (WR), Forrest Rhyne (LB), Jalen Sample (WR), Demetrius Taylor (DL), Maea Teuhema (OL), and National Siriman Bagayogo (DB).

* The following players were signed to the practice roster - Americans Stanley Berryhill (WR), Juliano Falaniko (DL), Devin Ravenel (WR), Jonah Tavai (DL), Jordan Terrell (RB) and Kory Woodruff (OL). Nationals Terrence Ganyi (LB), Kieran Poissant (WR) and Charlie Ringland (DB) also signed practice roster deals as well as Global Carl Meyer (K/P).

* The 2024 Grey Cup Festival Committee announced that the Jonas Brothers will be this year’s half-time show. The 111th Grey Cup will be played at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on Sunday, November 17 with kickoff slated for 3 p.m.

* The Lions home opener, featuring the ‘Concert Kickoff’ by 50 Cent, has sold over 50,000 tickets with a sellout expected to be announced prior to the June 15 game against the Calgary Stampeders.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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