There is certainly no arguing that the B.C. Lions have a solid backup plan at the pivotal position this season.
But some observers are still wondering whether they have a legitimate starter now that veteran quarterback Dave Dickenson was allowed to join Calgary -- as a backup.
With Dickenson on the shelf most of last season, Jarious Jackson -- who started the year as the third-stringer -- led the Leos to a CFL-best 14-3-1 record. Of course, he did have help from both Dickenson and Buck Pierce, who battled some injury woes of his own. But Jackson and Pierce obviously showed enough for head coach/GM Wally Buono to deem the highly-paid Dickenson expendable.
"Both Jarious and Buck have been winners for us when Dave Dickenson was here as the No. 1 guy," Buono said during yesterday's state-of-the-franchise teleconference. "Now, we need one of those guys to step up and be No. 1.
"Training camp is going to be a tremendous competition for them but, at the end of the day, I'm hoping one guy establishes himself and both of them will lead us to a lot of victories."
Jackson, who was offered as trade bait to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers early last season, won the Damon Allen quarterback challenge for charity in Toronto on the weekend.
The only other major losses were safety Sebastian Clovis, who was dealt to Winnipeg, defensive back Markeith Knowlton (traded to Hamilton) and DB Mark Washington (retired to become an assistant coach).
Buono signed no noted free agents from other teams to upgrade an already-impressive lineup, preferring to concentrate on his own. He re-signed Jackson and guard Kelly Bates, and extended contracts to several others, including defensive backs Korey Banks and Dante Marsh, running back Joe Smith and defensive lineman Aaron Hunt.
"We haven't changed a lot as far as our personnel because I do believe we have a tremendous group of veterans and a lot of very good young players who established themselves last year," Buono said.
The Lions boast the CFL's leading rusher last season (Smith), the sack leader (defensive end Cameron Wake, who was both the top defensive and rookie player), the leading receiver (slotback Geroy Simon), the top special teams player (Ian Smart), the top offensive lineman (Rob Murphy) and the top Canadian (slotback Jason Clermont).
And they still have the likes of defensive end Brent Johnson, a former top defender, defensive back Korey Banks and blossoming Canuck receiver Paris Jackson.
The Leos, however, did lose defensive co-ordinator and former Bomber head man Dave Ritchie, who retired. He will be replaced by Mike Benevides. And ex-Roughriders GM Roy Shivers has re-surfaced as the club's director of player personnel.
QB Dave Dickenson (released), DB Mark Washington (retired), S Sebastian Clovis (traded to Winnipeg), DB Markeith Knowlton (traded to Hamilton), defensive co-ordinator Dave Ritchie (retired)
Director of player personnel Roy Shivers, RB Rolly Lumbala (draft pick), DL Justin Shaw (draft)
QB Jarious Jackson, QB Buck Pierce, RB Joe Smith, SB Geroy Simon, SB Jason Clermont, OL Rob Murphy, RB/KR Ian Smart, DE Cameron Wake, DE Brent Johnson, DL Tyrone Williams, LB Javier Glatt, DB Korey Banks, DB Ryan Phillips, WR Paris Jackson