The Bombers couldn’t possibly repeat the same recipe for disaster they displayed in week one against the Alouettes, with the defense continuously surrounding long drives and with QB Drew Willy looking out of place and uncomfortable in Paul Lapolice’s system until the fourth quarter, when the offense couldn’t be stopped, right?
But they did. And that’s exactly what happened in week two against Calgary, as the Bombers fell at the hands of the Stampeders 36-22.
Seeing as it was another huge loss, I put together some detailed game notes that can be found here for you to come away with your own conclusions on another Blue Bomber drubbing at the hands of a West Division opponent.
1. NT Jake Thomas: I don’t have his official snap count, but Thomas produced with impressive efficiency when he got on the field. I only graded Thomas negative on one play – an inside split zone hand-off to Tory Harrison – where, despite arguably taking away the ball-carriers first read, it was almost by default as LG Shane Bergman sealed him outside with a strong punch. It was only up from there for the fifth-year Canadian, as he beat Bergman with a clean rip move to penetrate into the backfield on the very next play. But it was primarily in run defense where Thomas made his impact, though. He continuously did a great job getting inside leverage on his blocker to scrape his way towards the ball-carrier. On the field for all five plays, Thomas was the difference-maker for the Bombers on Calgary’s final drive of the third quarter. He took advantage of RT Dan Federkeil’s down-block on a 2nd-&-1 play to make the stop, and then worked off two blocks to force Harrison to cut back on the 1st-&-10 play following Calgary’s 3rd-down conversion. The Bombers began to rotate Thomas in more and more as the Stampeders chewed up more and yards on the ground as the game wore on, and the 25-year-old proved to be an effective substitution.
2. LT Stanley Bryant: While the entire offensive line had a solid game, Bryant Jr. managed to play mistake-free with the exception of one miscommunication with LG Jamarcus Hardrick near the end of the third quarter – a mistake that had no impact on the play. Bryant won his match-ups on the edge all game – Willy was not pressured once all game from Bryant’s man – but it was most impressive to see his gap discipline and ability to pick up stunts and blitzes from the Calgary defense. Whereas Pat Neufeld was beat twice on speed-rushes – one of which resulted in a sack – Bryant’s smooth feet were on display against two speed-rushers in Frank Beltre and Charleston Hughes.
1. HB Julian Posey: After a rough preseason and a mediocre performance in week one, the second-year defensive back rebounded in a big way against a potent Calgary offense. Posey gave up merely two catches for 26 yards – second best behind Chris Randle’s two for 15 yards – with only one of the those receptions being for first-down yardage. 19 of those yards came in cover-1 defense on a post-corner to Marquay McDaniel, with Posey in man-coverage against the veteran receiver. After two catches allowed in the first quarter, the Ohio University product pitched a shut-out, while also recording a beautiful knock-down on a 2-point covert against McDaniel, who ran a nice juke-route with no linebacker help across the middle, in the second quarter. Posey also only missed one tackle, providing decent run support for most of the game. (Although not one Blue & Gold defensive back to the field-side was effective at coming up and stopping Calgary’s off-tackle toss plays).
2. FS Macho Harris: Rather unexpectedly, the first-year Bomber offered a much-needed spark to his team on two occasions in the ball game. Had it not been for Harris’ exceptional blocked field goal – the leap over the long snapper was a live highlight-reel – that was returned all the way inside Calgary’s five-yard line, this game’s ugliness could have been unimaginably worse. Harris also came from depth to deliver a huge hit on Marquay McDaniel in the third-quarter after a reception in the flats – a big play that should’ve woken up the defense. While Harris was great as the center-fielder in pass coverage with the exception of the one big play – he got caught up in field-side SB Kamar Jorden’s seam route and didn’t see McDaniel head to the boundary on a post-route in front of him, picking up 41 yards – he wasn’t much of a presence as a run defender. On a night where the Bombers, who surrendered 207 rushing yards, could’ve used some big-time safety play, Harris was indifferent. Whether he was instructed from defensive coordinator Richie Hall to play very conservatively against the run or not, it’d have been nice to see Harris make a few more plays in the box.
1. LB Ian Wild: After a rough game in pass coverage against the Alouettes, Wild played perhaps the worst game I’ve seen him play against the Stamps. He had trouble shedding off blocks from a very mediocre center, Cam Thorn, and was otherwise bullied by Jerome Messam, a 263-pound bruiser. Wild led all Bombers with four missed tackles – excluding a play on punt-coverage where Roy Finch shook him out of his shoes – with most coming in one-on-one tackling situations in the hole with Messam. Often positioning his head on the wrong side of the ball-carrier, Wild tried too many times to arm-tackle the biggest running back he’s encountered in his career. An issue that was also present with Khalil Bass, Wild took bad angles to the ball-carrier, particularly when the Stamps ran toss plays with Messam – which were extremely effective – or sweep plays with Tory Harrison. He, simply put, didn’t make the plays that Bass made last year in the weak-side linebacker role.
2. CB Kevin Fogg: The Stamps evidently went into this game with the intention of testing the rookie field-side corner, and it payed off in dividends for Dave Dickenson. Fogg gave up a whopping five catches for 67 yards, including a 37-yard catch from Joe West against press cover-1 man-coverage. He could’ve also been the victim on another near touchdown to Simon Charbonneau-Campeau in the 1st-quarter had it not been for an over-throw, as the Liberty product had deep zone responsibilities and was late reacting to the out-n-up move. Several of the completions that Fogg gave up were in man-coverage, and with field corners typically in solo coverage in cover-7 or cover-3 defenses, that is quite concerning.
4. Maurice Leggett: Leggett’s run support was non-existent, as he terribly missed two tackles, and was also beat on a 27-yard touchdown to Simon Charbonneau-Campeau’s corner-route. While Leggett maintained tight coverage in a cover-1 situation, he absolutely needs to make a play on that ball in the air. Calgary ran toss plays to the wide-side of the field several times, sacrificing a receiver to crack block the defensive end, and Leggett was unable to come up and limit the damage.
5. QB Drew Willy: Willy’s struggles both with completing passes downfield and with accuracy were once again on display against the Stampeders. His longest completion in the first three quarters was a quickly thrown dig-route to a well-covered Darvin Adams, which picked up 12 yards. Willy missed on quite a few first half throws, too, including an open, quick-slant to Adams, a seam route to Ryan Smith and a deep curl to Adams once again. He also hesitated before completing to Smith on a 10-yard out, which prevented the diminutive pass-catcher from being able to turn up field and get the first-down before his momentum took him out of bounds. The Stamps’ defensive play-calls were significantly less aggressive in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand, and that’s when Willy padded his stats. While he made some nice throws, such as a 15-yard dig-route to Davis; a well-placed quick-slant to Adams for a touchdown; a 10-yard dig-route to Davis for a touchdown; a seam-route on a rope between quarters defense to Thomas Mayo; and a 15-yard dig to Ryan Smith, a big chunk of his yardage still came from hitch screens (2 for 22 yards), RB screens (2 for 31 yards) and dump-offs (6 for 46 yards). Otherwise, Willy was forced to hit his underneath receivers with Calgary playing a soft cover-4 defense. It really wasn’t all that impressive. Willy needs to start trusting his pre-snap reads in the next few games to start seeing some results in Paul Lapolice’s West Coast offense.
Buy: Richie Hall’s system is an issue. It’s a huge issue. Hall’s belief in using the Cowboy front – where the middle-linebacker aligns in a gap and eats blocks to free up the weak-side linebacker – is a huge reason why Jerome Messam rumbled for 137 yards on the ground. It’s easily exploited by offensive coordinators, and it restricts a tremendous play-maker in Khalil Bass to one gap instead of granting him the freedom to flow to the ball-carrier and make plays. Hall also continues to put his secondary in disadvantageous positions by blitzing his linebackers from depth in cover-1 situations. Having Wild and Bass vacate the middle to rush the passer – and get no where near the quarterback since their coming from depth – is a large reason for opposing offense’s success with underneath passes against the Blue & Gold. The Bombers have a plethora of talent on the defensive side of the football, but the scheme they’re restricted to is evidently holding them back.
Sell: Willy needs more time in the pocket. The offensive line has been the Bombers’ best unit so far in the 2016 season. While Lapolice’s offense reduces the pressure to maintain blocks, it’s clear that the Bombers are communicating stunts, twists and blitzes better than they have in awhile. Stanley Bryant Jr. is playing at an All-Star level, while Jamarcus Hardrick is proving to be the real deal at left guard. The game is also appearing to be slowing down for young Canadians Mathias Goossen and Sukh Chungh, as they’re mental mistakes are noticeably being reduced in their third and second seasons, respectively.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: LT Stanley Bryant Jr.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: HB Julian Posey