The BC Lions have reached an agreement to sign free-agent running back William Stanback on Tuesday. Stanback was released from Montreal last Tuesday following his request as the two parties were unable to come together on an extension to keep Stanback in Montreal. Thus Stanback was able to become a free agent before the CFL free agency window opened on February 13.
RB William Stanback – Virginia Union (29 y/o, 6’0, 233 lbs)
Stanback joined the CFL in 2018 with the Montreal Alouettes and was a CFL All-Star in 2019 and 2021. He was also the East Division nominee for Most Oustanding Player in 2021. He has played in 61 regular season games with Montreal accumulating 3,718 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns and averaging 5.94 yards per carry. He also has 106 receptions for 1,042 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns.
Stanback was a key part of the Alouettes’ Grey Cup run this past postseason as he rushed 36 times for 178 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and tore off a 32-yard touchdown run in the Grey Cup. He also caught 5 passes for 64 yards over the playoffs.
Stanback has had some injury problems the last couple of seasons missing 13 games in 2022 and 4 games in 2023. He has still played at a high level when healthy over that time. Stanback spoke of his belief that he still has much more left in the tank a week ago following his release from Montreal.
“I have a whole lot left, I just wasn’t able to showcase that, and not because of my abilities,” Stanback told TSN. “It was just because of what was wanted, decisions were made that were not in my favor and didn’t allow me to be as dominant. I’m fortunate Montreal gave me my release and I have nothing but respect for the organization. Being able to have a head start on free agency is something all players want to have. I’ll get to talk to teams earlier, they can hear me out and I get to listen to them.”
Both BC and Montreal Need to Commit More to the Run in 2024
Last season Montreal at times had a tendency to move away from the run game particularly early in the season. This often led to less consistent pass protection, such as in Montreal’s Week 6 loss to Toronto when they gave up 4 sacks and at that time totaled 26 sacks allowed total in just 5 games. In the week 6 loss, Montreal did not give up a sack until close to halftime after they ran 6 passing plays in a row. Montreal gave up 3 sacks in the 2nd half of that game while only running 6 run plays in the 2nd half.
Stanback is moving to another team that had playcall tendencies of abandoning the run last season in the BC Lions. I would argue that BC’s decision to abandon the run was the primary reason they lost to Winnipeg in the Western Final last season. Taquan Mizzell rushed 5 times for 37 yards in the Western Final (7.4 average). His average was inflated by a 22-yard run but regardless he was only held to under 4 yards on a carry twice.
After Mizzell was held to 1 yard on a carry late in the 2nd quarter, the Lions did not run a single run play for the rest of the game and proceeded to give up 5 sacks from that point on. It was a game that was within reach as the Lions trailed 10-18 at halftime but lost 13-24 as the predictability of a one-dimensional offense was all too easy for the Winnipeg defense to shut down.
A Note on Taquan Mizzell
Many BC Lions’ fans stated online throughout the season last year that they felt they needed a better running back in place of Taquan Mizzell. However, Mizzell did have quite a few strong games throughout the season and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Mizzell averaged under 4 yards per carry in 6 games. Mizzell was given 7 or fewer carries in 4 out of those 6 games. In many of those games BC was quick to abandon the run prematurely rather than give Mizzell more carries to try to get the rushing offense going.
On the flip side in games in which Mizzell was getting consistent touches, he had solid production. Mizzell had 9 games with 10 carries or more. Across those games, he had 124 rushes for 651 yards averaging 5.25 yards per carry.
According to Pro Football Focus, the BC Lions had the 6th-ranked offensive line in the CFL last season. PFF also highlighted all 3 pieces of the interior of the offensive line as weak spots on the BC offensive line. While BC did not have the worst run-blocking offensive line, it may well have been set up to be the most likely team to fail as a runningback as BC also had the fewest rushing attempts over the 2023 CFL season at 297, far behind the 2nd fewest rushing team being Saskatchewan at 342 rushing attempts.
Whether the Lions decide to go with a one-two punch with Stanback and Mizzell or go primarily with Stanback getting the majority of the carries, they will have the potential to be a very dangerous offense. If the Lions change some of their tendencies to run the football more consistently and commit to providing Vernon Adams Jr. with run support, then in my opinion they are most likely to be the team to have the most dangerous offense this upcoming season.
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