Joseph in for Rough ride

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

The 52nd edition of the B.C. Lions debuts tonight at B.C. Place Stadium.

Head coach Wally Buono and QB Dave Dickenson are entering their fourth seasons in the orange and black. Buono is hoping to win a fourth Grey Cup, Dickenson his first.

They'll embark on an 18-game journey to what they hope is a third consecutive playoff berth and trip to the Grey Cup in Winnipeg. They'll do it without the quarterback controversy that dogged the team in 2004 and 2005.

Three of the Lions' first five games are against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, so it's essential the team duplicate its quick 2005 start.

Instead of the Nealon Greene/Marcus Crandell tag team at quarterback, Saskatchewan has its long sought-after franchise pivot Kerry Joseph.

"Now they've got a big time quarterback that will give them a lot different approaches to games," Buono said.

The third player in league history to pass for more than 4,000 yards and rush more than 1,000 yards in a single season threw for 25 touchdowns and ran for another nine last season as an Ottawa Renegade.

To get Joseph, Roughriders gave up running back/kick returner Corey Holmes and safety Scott Gordon to get the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' first pick in the Ottawa dispersal draft. A big price to pay.

Kenton Keith, whose 2005 season was plagued with injury, will be the ball carrier, but Saskatchewan will have a depleted secondary because of Gordon's absence.

"He was a good leader back there," said Lions' quarterback Dave Dickenson. "That was the key to their secondary. They had great communication."

With their second pick - third overall - Saskatchewan chose Joseph's favourite target Jason Armstead. The Joseph-Armstead pipeline will be the first big test for the Lions' ever-improving secondary, with former Renegade Korey Banks added to the mix.

If it comes down to a field goal - as it often does against Saskatchewan - Lions have the edge with ex-Saskatchewan veteran Paul McCallum. Roughriders have rookie Luca Congi from Simon Fraser University.

"Everytime you play Saskatchewan, it's going to be a grudge match up front, that's what I'm expecting and I guarantee that's what it'll be," said Lions' defensive end Brent Johnson.


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