September 30, 2016 - 5:26 PM
VANCOUVER - Jonathon Jennings's statistics over his first 18 career Canadian Football League games compare favourably with some of the best quarterbacks in the league.
The B.C. quarterback will continue to chase the elite 5,000 throwing-yard plateau on Saturday when his Lions host the Ottawa Redblacks.
Over the course of the last two years — 18 starts or a full CFL schedule — the 24-year-old has thrown for 5,060 yards and completed 65.8 per cent of his attempts, with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Jennings says that his combined numbers over the last two seasons represent an accurate measuring stick on his development. In 12 games this season, he's thrown for 3,308 yards with six games remaining in his attempt for the 5,000-yard mark.
"I'm progressing," said Jennings. "It's nice to know I have a base in what I've done and that I can play this game. It's pretty cool."
Travis Lulay, who was relegated to be the backup quarterback behind Jennings, has not yet thrown for 5,000 yards in his Lions career. It took Khari Jones, the Lions' offensive coordinator, five seasons before he achieved the mark while playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly of Edmonton have yet to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, though both quarterbacks are on pace to do so this year. Toronto's Ricky Ray took three seasons to hit the 5,000 mark when he played in Edmonton. Ottawa backup Henry Burris took nine seasons.
Jones, who played 11 years in the CFL, has been careful not to force-feed his quarterback protege and over-complicating the Lions offence. Jones said Jennings benefited early by watching Lulay from the sidelines before the Lions made the quarterbacking switch.
"(Mitchell) sat behind somebody for awhile. People don't realize he was a backup where he could have started," said Jones. "It's going to be the same with Jon. I'm glad it worked out like this. My thing is making sure he doesn't go off script too often."
If Jennings does reach the 5,000-yard mark this season, he would become only the fourth B.C. quarterback in franchise history to reach that plateau, joining Doug Flutie, Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers.
Jennings artfully threw two touchdown passes to Emmanuel Arceneaux last week in a 27-23 loss to the Eskimos but also tossed a crucial late interception. Coach/GM Wally Buono wants Jennings to run more but is mostly past the point where he will consider pulling the Columbus native for making a mistake.
"Jon has earned that right to be able to work through a bad quarter or bad half as long as he's cognizant of what he's doing," said Buono. "Sometimes you have to allow the athlete to experience adversity in order to grow. I hope we grow this week."
The Lions (8-4) are trying to avoid losing two straight for the first time this year when they take on the Redblacks (6-5-1).
B.C. beat Ottawa 29-23 on Aug. 25 in Ottawa but needed a fourth-quarter drive by Jennings and a last-minute defensive stand to secure the win. The Lions prevailed despite the fact Jennings was sacked six times and the defence allowed five passing plays in excess of 30 yards.
"We can't have coverage breakdowns. We have no bones about what we are and what we have to improve upon," said Buono. "That is an area where a lot of teams will went to exploit if you don't take it away."
B.C. will make no defensive changes but have released receiver Geraldo Boldewijn, who became expendable when the team signed Terrell Sinkfield last week.
Ottawa will have three players on the offensive line in positions different from last week due to the season-ending ankle injury to all-star left tackle SirVincent Rogers. The Redblacks have seven changes in all from the lineup which beat Toronto 29-12 last week.
"We know when we play good football we can play with anybody," said Ottawa coach Rick Campbell. "We also know B.C. has had a great year. We'll have to be on top of our game to beat these guys."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016