The Bombers final cuts have been made as the team prepares for their home-opener on Friday against the Montreal Alouettes. In year-three of the Kyle Walters, Mike O’Shea era, it appears as though Richie Hall’s defense should improve to a top-five unit in the new year, while O’Shea’s specialists could take the league by storm.
A or higher = great
B+ or A- = above-average
B = average
C+ or B- = below-average
C or lower: very poor
Additions: Keith Shologan, Euclid Cummings, Shayon Green, Trent Corney
Starters: Jamaal Westerman (DE), Euclid Cummings (3-T), Keith Shologan (NT), Shayon Green (DE)
Depth: Jake Thomas, Trent Corney, Sam Scott (1-game), Derrell Johnson (reserve)
Practice-roster: Adrian Hubbard, Louie Richardson, Padric Scott
It’s been largely the defensive line that has plagued this defense recently, and this is easily the best unit the Bombers’ have boasted since 2013. Keith Shologan and Euclid Cummings, both added in free agency, are two of the best players at their respective positions, bringing some much needed assistance to the league’s best defensive end, Jamaal Westerman. The club has good depth inside in fourth-year Canadian Jake Thomas, while 9th-overall pick Trent Corney should make an immediate impact as a rotational pass-rusher. Shayon Green brings down the group’s grade, as he was quite underwhelming in preseason action. The Miami product made this team with his athleticism and his motor, but he appears one-dimensional as a pass-rusher and struggles against the run. Look for Corney to really push Green for reps as the seasons wears on if Derrell Johnson doesn’t.
Additions: Shayne Gauthier, Kyle Knox
Starters: Khalil Bass (WIL), Ian Wild (MIKE), Maurice Leggett (SAM)
Depth: Tony Burnett, Sam Hurl, Jesse Briggs, Garrett Waggoner, Teague Sherman
Practice-roster: Shayne Gauthier
Ian Wild will resume his duties as the club’s middle linebacker after the Sam Hurl experiment mostly failed last season, and we know exactly what Wild offers. Meanwhile, the club will be looking for Khalil Bass to take the next steps in his development in year-two, which is his play in pass coverage. Maurice Leggett, who’s likely the league’s top safety, has made the full-time switch to strong-side linebacker, and while he’s a terrific threat as a run defender – he could probably play weak-side linebacker – some of his raw cover skills are not quite up to par. Tony Burnett, who had a tremendous preseason in his sophomore season, could soon move Leggett back to safety, but he’ll have to continue to make a name for himself on special-teams first. The Bombers’ Canadian depth is great, too, as Hurl is a good Canadian backup middle linebacker and an excellent special-teamer, while Garrett Waggonner has a ton of potential that needs to be fulfilled.
Additions: Macho Harris (FA), Kevin Fogg (INT rookie), Julian Posey (INT rookie), Taylor Loffler (CDN rookie), CJ Roberts (INT rookie)
Starters: Johnny Adams (CB), Kevin Fogg (HB), Macho Harris (FS), Bruce Johnson (HB), Chris Randle (CB)
Depth: Julian Posey, Taylor Loffler, Derek Jones, Brendan Morgan
This is easily the most top-heavy unit on the roster, as Johnny Adams, Chris Randle and Maurice Leggett are bona-fide stars, and Bruce Johnson is one of the top raw press half-backs in the league. Randle, one of the league’s premiere defenders, found himself competing for the field corner position after recovering from a torn ACL, as Leggett is set to stay at SAM linebacker, and Adams emerged as arguably the league’s best corner in 2015. Randle, who’d be playing short-side corner on most teams, easily displaced Matt Bucknor and his passport, giving the Bombers an elite cover-man at field corner. But there some large holes in the secondary at safety and at weak-side halfback, as both Kevin Fogg and Julian Posey left much to be desired in preseason action, while it’s hard to believe that Macho Harris is employed – let alone a starter. An unlikely, but smart scenario would be for Tony Burnett to emerge into a role a SAM, moving Leggett back to safety in place of Harris. And while that would be ideal, I’d be content if even Teague Sherman took over at safety in place of the four-year Rider.
Additions: Justin Medlock (FA)
Starter: Justin Medlock (K/P)
Depth: Sergio Castillo (1-game)
After witnessing Lirim Hajrallahu almost single-handedly cost the team wins, the Bombers went out and signed one of the greatest kickers in CFL history, Justin Medlock. The 32-year-old is easily the league’s top kicker, although his punting has been largely below-average throughout his career. Sergio Castillo had himself a great preseason, solidifying a backup plan should Medlock miss time with an injury.
Additions: Quincy McDuffie
Starter: Quincy McDuffie
Depth: Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith, Tony Burnett
One of the fastest players in the league, McDuffie is a somewhat proven returner in the CFL and won this position in Winnipeg quite handily. He’s a fearless, decisive returner with great vision, short-area quickness and deceptive force. McDuffie, who returned a punt for a touchdown against Winnipeg in 2014, will be an electrifying returner in 2016. Tony Burnett will likely return kickoffs along with the Central Florida product.