Lions mid-term report card

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

B.C. Lions' first bye week comes one game after the team reached the midseason mark. Last year at this time, the Leos were 10-0 and whispers of a perfect season were getting louder. Fans found out soon that the club was far from perfect.

After losing three of their first five 2006 games, Lions are on a five-game winning streak and could enjoy a favourable schedule that sees them play lowly Hamilton Tiger-Cats twice and Winnipeg Blue Bombers once during their final eight games.

OFFENCE

Line: Until allowing a spate of sacks in the last two games, the offensive line has shown great improvement with new tackles Rob Murphy and Jason Jimenez. Bobby Singh's shoulder muscle problems could affect second half performance. Grade: B-

Quarterbacks: Dave Dickenson takes a licking, but keeps on ticking. Buck Pierce is slowly helping fans come to terms with Casey Printers' departure. Jarious Jackson hasn't shown he's backup-worthy. Grade: A-

Receiving: Thanks to Paris Jackson, Lions were able to survive Tony Simmons' second season-ending leg injury. Jason Clermont's early return from injury shows what kind of workhorse he is. But Geroy Simon is the true star. Do pro athletes get lazy after signing big contracts? Simon says "no" - in a big way. Grade: A+

Running: We may never know what went on behind closed doors between Wally Buono and Antonio Warren. The Lions' running back was cut in favour of the humbly named Joe Smith. Smith's performances have been anything but humble. Grade: B

DEFENCE

Line: Brent Johnson was 2005's most outstanding Canadian. Now he wants to be the most outstanding defensive player. He has 11 sacks and an offensive touchdown. Aaron Hunt has ably replaced Frank Ferrara, the most notable training camp cut. Grade: A

Linebackers: Barrin Simpson's departure to Winnipeg meant more work for the maturing Javier Glatt, who lines up between Carl Kidd and Otis Floyd. Together, they're a painful combination for opposing offences. Grade: A

Secondary: The acquisition of defensive back Korey Banks in the Ottawa Renegades' dispersal draft was shrewd. Barron Miles has established himself as the league's best safety. Grade: A

SPECIAL TEAMS

Returning: Aaron Lockett is returning punts with great gusto, but his kickoff return position needs improvement. Grade: B-

Kicking: The Duncan O'Mahony misadventure was fixed when B.C. acquired free agent Paul McCallum who has been reliable after an early season groin injury. Grade: B+


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