|Lions' Korey Banks charges Argos QB Cleo Lemon during CFL action last season in Vancouver. (QMI Agency/Carmine Marinelli)
VANCOUVER - Korey Banks is “declaring war” on everyone, starting with the Toronto Argonauts.
The B.C. Lions defensive back repeated that message about five times in a two-minute span at Tuesday’s practice, as his team prepares to hit Hogtown Friday.
For the always-animated Banks, however, that’s not an unusual proclamation. He’s been sounding the battle cries against opponents all season long. The difference this time around is, well, the Lions have finally revealed their killer instinct after a strong showing prior to the bye week.
“Some soldiers failed, some soldiers patched their wounds up,” Banks said of the Lions’ early season struggles. “We got our artillery back up and we’re ready to have a shootout. Either you’re with us or you’re against us.”
It's no Braveheart speech but the outspoken veteran’s talk is reflective of the enthusiasm in the Lions camp this week, especially when it comes to the defence. The unit has underachieved this year, with missed tackles and timely
errors being glaring issues. At one point, when they were 0-5, they sat dead last in the league with the most rushing and passing yards, touchdowns, and points against. But after holding the Eskimos to just a single point in Week 8, their lively attitude is back.
“Everybody else put us six feet under the grave already. That’s the way we like it. We will wake up,” Banks said about the rejuvenated group, winners in two of their last three games. “We got to have an encore. We got to try to hold (Toronto) to a zero, or just go out there and play great football and get a win no matter what the score is.”
Fellow DB Ryan Phillips echoed the importance of building off that performance in Edmonton, heading into two crucial matchups against the Argonauts.
“It shows what we can be,” Phillips said. “We’re on the right path. Getting a win always jump starts that and I feel like we're making progress. At the end of the day, our whole focus is about finishing and we proved we can do that and get big results. We can definitely take that momentum into Friday’s game.”
The Lions will also be taking a new safety into Toronto as Cauchy Muamba is expected to get his first start in that position Friday, replacing J.R. LaRose, out with a sprained ankle. The revolving door in the secondary has been a theme for B.C., The revolving door in the secondary has been a theme for B.C. -- from injuries to Stanley Franks and Davis Sanchez, to releasing David Hyland, to adding Tad Kornegay and Jerome Dennis -- but some consistency will hopefully translate to another successful display, Phillips said.
“You definitely got to develop some kind of continuity and have everybody on the same page.” At the same time, he adds, with the number of veteran defenders it will only be a matter of time before the Leos put together a strong stretch of games.
“For us to get our backs against the wall, it took some veteran leadership to get us out of that hole,” Phillips said. “They started stepping up and making more plays. It’s time for us to go ahead and put the pedal to the metal.”
They’ll have an opportunity to drive ahead with back-to-back games against the Argos, who are also 2-6. But it won’t be easy, even if they are facing a Toronto offence that is last in the CFL with a 331.1 average offensive yards per game.
“We expect a team that controls the ball and gets it to their playmakers, simplify it for (Argos quarterback Cleo) Lemon, and try to keep our fast defence on our toes,” Banks said. “But we’re going to fly around and swarm the ball. We do that, we’ll win.”