Blue Review: Bombers Command League-Wide Respect Despite Loss to Stamps

Although many argue there are no moral victories in football, it’s hard to not come away with some sort of a positive feeling following the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 36-34 loss to Calgary Stampeders, which dropped them to 8-5 and ended their seven-game win streak.

The loss, of course, was still gut-wrenching. But looking at the greater picture, it’s clear the Bombers passed the test, proving they could go punch-for-punch with the CFL’s measuring-stick franchise in their own barn. It took a last second, game-winning field goal from the Stampeders to hold off the Bombers from completing a 24-point comeback. This Bombers team isn’t having a repeat first half if these two teams meet again in the playoffs – all bets are off.

11 other thoughts on the Bombers’ loss.

1. Stamps’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell had some strong words directed to the Bombers in his halftime interview that, while a juicy quote from the CFL’s most marketable player, says a lot about what most pundits thought about the Bombers’ legitimacy despite a seven-game winning streak. “[Winnipeg’s] finding out who they are right now, and we’re going to continue to show them,” Mitchell told TSN’s Farhan Lalji while his team lead 27-7 at the break. Despite ultimately falling short, the Bombers’ second-half proved to Mitchell and the league that this team’s for real.

2. After a terrible first half where he looked very uncomfortable in the pocket with noticeable happy-feet – that of which caused evident accuracy issues – Matt Nichols settled down nicely in the second half. Simply put, he stopped trying to force throws into nine-man coverage and began to play his game, simply settling for what the defense gave him and identifying it early. The Bombers had some momentum after a great throw and catch from Nichols to Clarence Denmark for a 10-yard touchdown connection in the middle of the third quarter, but the comeback officially felt legitimate after Ryan Smith went up and fought for a ridiculous 40-yard catch over Stamps’ corner Tommie Campbell. That catch may have been the turning-point.

3. The first half felt all too familiar for Bombers’ fans that have seen Calgary route the Blue & Gold twice already this season, obviously sparking Mitchell’s choice words at half-time. The Bombers’ defensive backs couldn’t cover air, and the pass-rush seemed non-existent as Mitchell dissected the defense. While all aspects of the defense tightened up in the second half, a large amount of the credit should go to the offense for grabbing the momentum from the Stamps and pressuring Dave Dickenson into some much more conservative play-calls on offense in the second half.

4. In his first full season as the Bombers’ special-teams coordinator, Mike O’Shea’s unit has played sound football for most of the season. While they began to shake and stutter in back-to-back games against Saskatchewan, the wheels that drove the Bombers’ special-teams completely fell off in Calgary. Stamps’ returner Roy Finch averaged 34.2 yards-per-return on kickoffs and 11.5 yards-per-return on punt returns, as the Stamps only ever had to drive half the field for the entire first half. The Bombers don’t need to score 27 points in the second half if their special-teams aren’t a garbage fire for the opening 40 minutes.

5. I don’t know if anyone loves playing Winnipeg more than Stamps’ pass-catcher Marquay McDaniel. The 32-year-old often-underappreciated veteran has 28 catches for 442 yards and two touchdowns in his last four games against the Bombers’ secondary, dating back to week 15 last season. While several point to Maurice Leggett’s struggles against McDaniel, I think no. 16 has victimized a fairly vast amount of Blue Bomber defensive backs nearly equally in the last four contests.

6. The Stamps’ offense has always been very confident in their match-ups against the Bombers. We’ve heard it in half-time interviews and more – both Mitchell and McDaniel have been quoted in the past for saying “they’re giving us man-coverage and they can’t cover us one-on-one” – and it’s true. I’d be extremely hard-pressed to find another defense that’s called nearly as much man-coverage as Blue Bombers’ defensive coordinator Richie Hall in the last five weeks or so, and the Stamps are the first team since the secondary broke out to really exploit this risky play-calling. In fact, Hall and Co. have typically always given Mitchell’s receivers man-coverage in previous games in hopes of pressuring the young passer with some exotic blitz packages. With McDaniel’s route-running and Mitchell’s anticipation, Hall is going to have to re-evaluate his approach to stopping the Stamps in future games.

7. Though I’d have disagreed, it was fair to question the Bombers’ legitimacy of being contenders prior to this game. That debate, however, is now over. A non-contending team doesn’t bounce back from being down 23 points in the third quarter to come within a 52-yard field goal from knocking off the Stampeders at home. Having taken care of the teams that they’re supposed to beat on a seven-game winning streak, the Bombers proved they could hang with Calgary. This team is for real.

8. This game featured two of the 2016 CFL draft’s shining stars in Stamps’ linebacker Alex Singleton and Bombers’ free safety Taylor Loffler, both of whom have emerged into solid starters in their rookie seasons. Though I’ve yet to do a comprehensive review of the Bombers’ defensive assignments in their secondary, it would certainly seem as though Singleton out-shone Loffler tonight.

9. For whatever reason – questions about his ability to have an impact on special-teams could’ve been one – second-year Canadian receiver Lemar Durant fell to the bottom of the second round during the 2015 draft despite being one of the most naturally gifted players available. Kyle Walters was one of eight general managers to foolishly pass on Durant, though he actually passed on Durant for another receiver in Addison Richards. As Richards’ young, injury-riddled career remains a disappointment, Durant continues to show Walters he made a huge mistake in the 2015 draft. The Simon Fraser product, who finished the match with four catches for 76 yards and a score, was the one who recorded the 22-yard reception in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter that set up Rene Parades’ game-winning kick. That hurt.

10. With Richards not even pushing for playing time despite Rory Kohlert proving he’s no longer a starting-caliber receiver, the Bombers will look to draft a receiver early in the 2017 draft. Meanwhile, Regina Rams’ receiver Mitchell Picton is lighting up the Canada West with seven touchdowns in four games. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder would be nice compensation for the Riders drafting Nic Demski in the 2015 draft as well.

11.  With the Eskimos knocking off the Lions last night in a crucial West Division match-up, the Bombers are now one game back of BC for second place in the West and four points up on Edmonton for third. Of course, the Bombers’ next three games are against Edmonton and a home-and-home with BC. The playoff picture is about to clear up real fast.

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Photo credit to Al Charest / Calgary Herald. I do not own this photo or claim to.

Blue Review: Bombers Finally Overcome Adversity in Win over Hamilton

Following consecutive blow-outs in weeks 1 and 2, the Bombers entered Tim Hortons Field in a must-win situation. Hamilton has dominated the Bombers in the Kent Austin regime, and another loss to open the season would result in a small, angry crowd at Investors Group Field for merely a week four contest.

But the Bombers, against all odds, prevailed, beating the Tiger-Cats by a score of 28-24 and silencing Mike O’Shea’s critics. The game was a roller-coaster ride from start to finish, which made the Bombers’ victory all the more impressive – and surprising. Mike O’Shea’s ball club proved something tonight.

1. Adversity (ad-vur-si-tee), noun: An adverse or unfavorable event or fortune; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity or distress. The Bombers faced major adversity several times throughout this game, and overcome it they did – on the road and in Tim Hortons Field, no less. Whether it’s a slow start to the game or a big play against – i.e. missed field goal, pick-six, etc. – this team has consistently succumbed to pressure ever since the 2014 Banjo Bowl. This was emphasized in week 7 last season – in Hamilton, no less – which, as a result of the team folding following a Drew Willy pick-6, saw the Bombers on the wrong end of an insurmountable lead merely 8 minutes into the game. So when a 10-point swing occurred as a result of a missed field goal being returned 120 yards for a touchdown by Brandon Banks, this game was supposedly headed for another drubbing at the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But then the Bombers’ offense did something no one expected: they responded. Collectively, the offense remained level-headed, methodically driving the ball into the red-zone for three points. And then they did it again – responding to adversity – again and again and again. From the Ti-Cats cashing in with a touchdown after Quincy McDuffie fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, to Chad Owens’ huge touchdown catch that shouldn’t have counted, the Bombers continuously fought off momentum swings, never hanging their heads once in the process. For a team that has already been booed at home and been blown-out twice, that is tremendously impressive. Good for Mike O’Shea.

2. The Bombers battled another opponent in the game: the officials. The league introduced a supposedly revolutionary video review official in the off-season, which was suppose to quickly reverse evident mistakes made on the field. It’s for this reason that it’s absolutely absurd that not one Hamilton receiver was penalized for being off-side on Chad Owens’ 36-yard touchdown, as both Owens and Andy Fantuz were clearly off-side – especially Fantuz – and the replay official made no changes to the on-field call. Chad Owens had another grab late in the game that featured at least one infraction that should’ve been called either on the field or from the command center in Toronto. While I understand that Owens was behind the line of scrimmage when he caught the pass on a drag route, and the huge block on Maurice Leggett was legal because the play was deemed a screen, there was a clear clipping penalty during Owens’ run after the catch that, despite being initially flagged during the play, somehow wasn’t applied once everything was sorted out. Video review on scoring plays was a huge talking point last year, and the league’s ineptitude regarding video replay hasn’t improved at all this season.

3. Forcing six turnovers, the Bombers’ defense had a dominant performance against a struggling Jeremiah Masoli. The ‘Cats have one of the league’s best pass-blocking offensive lines in the CFL, but the Bombers’ front-four managed to make them look rather pedestrian. With the exception of one 26-yard rumble, Hamilton running back CJ Gable picked up four rushing yards on six carries against a front-seven that surrendered over 200 rushing yards to the Stampeders last week. Led by Jamaal Westerman and Euclid Cummings, Winnipeg’s pass-rush was fearsome after being limited in weeks 1 and 2 as a result of some porous pass-coverage from both the linebackers and defensive backs. Masoli was never comfortable in the pocket, and it costed his team with multiple interceptions and fumbles. Seeing as they only won by four points despite recording six turnovers and a take-away on special-teams, the Bombers defense clearly carried the team tonight. It was only fitting that the win was sealed by the defense, as rookie defensive end Adrian Hubbard bursted through the A-Gap for a monster, game-winning strip-sack in the final minute of the contest.

4. Adrian Hubbard’s game-sealing sack should’ve secured him a starting spot in the lineup next week against Edmonton. Miami product Shayon Green has been a huge liability for the defense as an edge-defender against the run, while his pass-rushing repertoire is limited to a speed-rush that usually sees him being washed out of the play. Coincidentally, run defense is the strong suit of Hubbard’s game, and if the University of Alabama product continues to make plays going forward similar to what we saw on Hamilton’s last snap of the game, Green could be given a plan ticket home rather soon.

5. Maurice Leggett played his best game in the Blue & Gold since 2014, intercepting two passes, recording five tackles and one sack. Fooling Masoli into thinking it was man-coverage, Leggett’s pick-6 in front of Chad Owens’ curl-route was a special play that gave the Bombers their first lead of the game (aside from a rouge on the opening kickoff, that is). Leggett was finally a menace in the run-game on the very few carries Gable received, as well, while his sack just happened to come on a 1st-and-goal from Winnipeg’s four yard-line. That’s a rare, huge play. The 3rd-year Bomber deserved every bit of the praise he received from Coach O’Shea in the post-game.

6. CFL teams don’t usually win games with mediocre quarterback play, but with Hamilton turning the ball over seven times, the Bombers managed to come away with a crucial victory despite Drew Willy playing a terrible game – albeit with no interceptions. He continues to miss throws down-field – his over-throw to Ryan Smith in the end-zone was unacceptable – and plays with absolutely no anticipation. I can’t emphasize enough how fortunate Willy was to be surrounded with a tremendous amount of talent in this game. He’s late delivering throws, shies away from making plays down-field to open receivers and continues to struggle throwing with pressure in his face. These are crucial flaws that have been more than pressing issues in three games this season. Willy is currently the ninth best starting quarterback in the CFL after showing so much promise in his first two years. He’s regressing, and it’s looking less likely every week that these current issues are reversible.

7. Paul Lapolice’s red-zone play-calling was rather poor in Hamilton, especially inside the five-yard line. The Ti-Cats gave many cover-0 press-coverage looks in the end-zone, and Lapo failed to take advantage. The play-action pass inside the five that resulted in an ugly fumble was one of the more head-scratching calls on the night.

8. You would’ve never been able to tell in a million years that Willy and Ryan Smith have struggled to develop a rapport by watching the incredible, no-look touchdown catch from Smith on a quick-slant in the second quarter. It was an unbelievably lucky catch that we might never see again aside from in Madden. But my question remains: why wasn’t Smith looking for the ball on the play? Hamilton was bringing a heavy blitz, and Smith needs to be looking for that ball immediately. On a night where we saw several receivers fear catching passes across the middle – watch Chad Owens on the play that he drew a pass interference call – this was likely another example.

9. The Bombers’ special-teams were badly missing Canadians Sam Hurl and Teague Sherman on the cover teams. Hurl and Sherman are easily the club’s two best Canadian special-teamers, and it wasn’t surprising to see premiere returner Brandon Banks have a huge game, returning a missed field 120-yards for a touchdown, while also averaging 30.5 yards per return on kickoffs. Second-year Canadian linebacker Garrett Waggoner, fortunately, stepped up in their absence, notching a crucial tackle for an 8-yard loss on a late fourth quarter punt return.

10. The Bombers’ offensive line has improved tremendously this season, but they absolutely need to learn how to run-block against blitzes and, in particular, linebackers. While the feat of allowing only one legitimate sack against a fearsome, complex Hamilton pass-rush is a very, very impressive accomplishment, Bob Wylie’s group continued to catch blocks in the run game instead of delivering them. You can’t run block when you’re pass blocking. This offensive line has been one of the club’s best position groups this season, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

11. Former Toronto Argonauts defensive back Travis Hawkins made his debut in the Blue & Gold in replacement of the injured Bruce Johnson, and he had a rough debut. Signed before the Bombers’ week one contest against Montreal, Hawkins was the victim of an Andy Fantuz touchdown on a fade-route early in the third quarter – the coverage on the play was impressively bad, if that makes sense. It’ll be awhile before Hawkins is comfortable in Richie Hall’s defense, but based on his struggles with Toronto last year, he’s not an upgrade over Bruce Johnson, who finds himself on the six-game injured list.

12. Thursday’s win will silence Mike O’Shea’s critics for awhile – and good riddance. Fans have every right to doubt the third-year head coach, but it’s in no ones best interest for the club to fire their head coach mid-season – nothing good ever comes from that. The Bombers also have no possible interim coach on the roster, as Paul Lapolice is still brand new here, while Richie Hall had a poor stint as a head coach in the past. O’Shea should – and deserves to – receive every opportunity in the 18-game schedule of his third year before the club should event think about his future with the club.

13. The win in Hamilton was awesome and unexpected, but I won’t be sold on this team until Willy shows some life as a passer. I’m not sure if he can reverse his current regression, return to the player he was last season and continue his development from there. Without a legitimate quarterback, this team won’t go very far.

14. The West Division is still wide open, with the Bombers’ win and the Lions’ loss making things interesting. The Bombers are back in action next week at home against the Eskimos, who’ll likely visit Winnipeg with a 1-1 record after beating Saskatchewan.

harris vs tabbies
PHOTO CREDIT TO ADAM GAGNON OF CFL.CA

Blue Review: Preseason Holds True as Bombers Fall Flat in Hope-Opener

The Bombers needed this win. It’s only week one, but this was a crucial loss for a Blue Bomber team that has missed the playoffs for four straight seasons.

With an extremely tough schedule ahead, it would have be huge for the Blue & Gold to start the season off right with a win at home before travelling around the country to take on some of the league’s top teams.

Instead the Bombers fell flat on their faces in their home-opener to the tune of 22-14.

1. Legendary former Bomber Doug Brown said it best: Friday night could have been the first time in football history that the preseason was entirely accurate. The Bombers starters were badly outplayed in both preseason games, largely displaying the same inabilities in week one as in both preseason games. Preseason results are typically dismissed because of the usual, but completely valid excuse that the coordinators are rolling out extremely vanilla play-calls in hopes of not showing their cards for when the regular season kicks off. While it’s a legitimate excuse, it does not seemed to have mattered in the case of the Bombers. The Blue & Gold were once again dissected on defense against the pass, while Drew Willy looked uncomfortable in the pocket and Paul Lapolice’s play-calling was, at times, uninspiring.

2. The Montreal Alouettes are under no means as bad of a football team as many think, but they gave the Bombers every chance to stay in this game with costly penalties. But the Bombers really have nothing to show for it except a misleading final score.

2. Despite several huge additions to the team, there are several legitimate concerns to be had with this football club. But I must remind you that it is, indeed, only week one, and the CFL season is terribly long. It would be ridiculous to compare the Bombers to the 2015 Edmonton Eskimos, but Chris Jones’ former team also laid an egg in the first game of their quest to the Grey Cup. The Bombers experienced plenty of turnover in the off-season, and it’s a lengthy process for the coaching staff to assess what they have and manage the game accordingly. So while it’s undeniable that this team appears to have some underlying flaws, it’s not too late to uncover the issues and adjust accordingly.

3. With that being said, Drew Willy needs to rebound in a huge way from now three consecutive poor showings. The third-year passer seems to be regressing in his development as a starting quarterback despite being in the phase where he should be peaking. I almost didn’t even recognize the 29-year-old out there last night. For the first time in his career, I genuinely thought Drew Willy looked scared in the pocket – and I’d usually never say such a thing about a professional football player. He repeatedly stared down his first read and panicked when it wasn’t there. Willy hesitatingly double-clutched several throws, as alarms seemed to be going off in his head the moment he touched the ball. Struggling to throw against pressure is nothing knew to Willy, though. But it was entirely surprising to see him miss so many throws. Willy over-threw three Bomber receivers deep in this game, and all three likely would have went for touchdowns. His wide-open over-throw on Ryan Smith’s corner route late in the fourth quarter would’ve made it a one-score game. (Willy did, fortunately, hit Darvin Adams deep on the next play to cut the deficit to 8 points). Knowing of what Willy is capable of from previous performances, it’s crucial that he re-gains his confidence, a mental element that was evidently lacking in this game and surely affected his accuracy. There’s absolutely still hope for the 29-year-old passer, but it won’t get any easier against the upcoming stout defenses he’s set to face.

4. Both Kevin Glenn and Henry Burris picked apart the Bombers’ starting defense in the preseason. It was no different in the regular season, with Bruce Johnson, Julian Posey and all three of the Bombers’ linebackers suffering in pass coverage. Specifically, Ian Wild and Khalil Bass need to be much better than how they’ve covered in three games so far. Glenn once again attacked the underneath of Winnipeg’s coverage, with Bass and Wild consistently slow at reading and reacting. Bruce Johnson, meanwhile, continues to get beat across his face by Montreal’s receivers, struggling to make plays on the ball in the air. Johnson emerged as one of the league’s top halfbacks in 2015, but SJ Green has certainly had his number in 2016.

5. The Bombers’ secondary was unacceptably burnt twice on blown coverages, first allowing SJ Green wide open behind the coverage for a 39-yard gain, and then allowing Duron Carter to walk into the end-zone in the second half. Although the latter of which was called back due to a holding penalty, this secondary needs to figure it out fast. Thankfully, Johnny Adams presence could seriously impact this defensive backfield once he returns from a lower-body injury.

6. Perhaps the lone bright spot on the Bombers’ defense was, once again, corner-back Chris Randle. I’ve been raving about Randle’s play all through the preseason, and he warranted even more praise with his week one performance. Randle recorded at least three knockdowns on the short-side corner position, also recording a huge interception on a Kevin Glenn pass at the goal line in the first quarter. Randle might be the only defensive back in the league that has Duron Carter’s number, winning both match-ups against the stout pass-catcher in 2016.

7. Rookie defensive end Shayon Green, who controversy won the opening job at defensive end in training camp, was completely exposed as a run defender by Montreal. The Alouettes managed 15.6 yards on three sweep plays to Duron Carter, challenging Green on each one. Green struggled mightily at setting the edge, an absolutely crucial job for defensive ends in the CFL against zone run-clocking schemes. Currently on the practice roster, Adrian Hubbard, meanwhile, it’s best known for his run defense, and it could already be time for the Bombers to make the switch and see what the Alabama product can do.

8. All things considered, the Blue Bombers’ rough offensive line does not deserve much of the criticism that they will receive in the loss. Although the Bombers surrendered five sacks, really only Gabriel Knapton’s third quarter sack was at the fault of the offensive line. The remaining four can be attributed to Willy holding onto the ball for far too long, failing to recognize a halfback blitz from Jovon Johnson, and the fumbled snap late in the fourth quarter – the ultimate salt in the wound.

9. The offensive line also managed to open up some decent holes for Andrew Harris to run through. The Bombers’ outside-zone play was really effective for stretches of the game, and Harris was the Bombers best skill-position play all game long. Despite registering 13 carries and 6 receptions for 120 total yards, he needs to see the ball more going forward. The Bombers running attack registered 6.2 yards-per-carry against an elite Montreal front-7; Harris needs more than two 1st-half carries going forward.

10. Although Paul Lapolice needs to do a better job of balancing Harris’ workload, his play-calling really was a breath of fresh air in many ways. The Bombers’ rushing offense featured a slew of counters, tosses and otherwise well-executed misdirection. They tried to get the sweep play going to Ryan Smith, and also gave Willy a couple of easy completions in the 1st quarter on back-to-back hitch screens to Smith and Weston Dressler – both of which picked up respectable yardage. With that being said, the Bombers failed to take advantage of a patchy Alouettes secondary that featured two rookies and Jovon Johnson at halfback. While Lapolice breathed some life into this unit, it’s undeniable that he left a lot to be desired.

11. With Dressler possibly out for an extending period of time after absorbing a scary head-shot early in the 1st quarter, expect rookie Jace Davis’ work-load to increase tremendously. While Ryan Smith is struggling to find his groove, Davis came as advertised after failing to register a reception in the lone preseason game he played in. Registering five catches on six targets for 82 yards, Davis tracked the ball well in the air and looked smooth in his route-running.

12. With Darvin Adams, Ryan Smith and Jace Davis in the receiving corps, the absence of Weston Dressler cannot be an excuse for Willy in the coming weeks should the Bombers struggle. Although no. 7 is easily the club’s top receiver, the aforementioned international receivers – plus the addition of Thomas Mayo into the starting lineup – is more than a serviceable corps of pass-catchers.

13. Bruce Johnson, who I’ve said a lot of great things about in the off-season, has had an inexcusable start to the 2016 season, both in the preseason and in last night’s game. Whereas Julian Posey and Kevin Fogg were relatively sound in coverage, Kevin Glenn went to work on the third-year field-side halfback. And with Travis Hawkins signed to the practice squad earlier in the week, Johnson needs to feel the pressure to improve.

14. With Chris Randle continuing to impress mightily at boundary corner, could Mike O’Shea and Richie Hall consider moving Johnny Adams to strong-side linebacker once he returns from the 1-game injured list? We’ve yet to seen how Adams performs when his receiver is running full-speed before even crossing the line of scrimmage, but this move would allow Randle to remain relevant at short-side corner and Maurice Leggett to move back to safety, taking Macho Harris out of the picture. This scenario is likely a stretch, but with Travis Hawkins taking over at boundary half-back, the Bombers’ lone rookie in the secondary would be at wide-side corner.

15. It was good to see Darvin Adams pick up right where he left off last season. Although he had a brutal drop late in the third quarter on a second-down play, he once again continued to play noticeable aggressively, fighting off defensive backs in both his route-running and while tracking the ball in the air. His 63-yard touchdown reception just after the three-minute warning was one play that perfectly exemplified the receiver Adams is, something we first truly say last season in week 19 against Ottawa.

16. Mike O’Shea’s special-teams were the best unit today. Quincy McDuffie was undeniably effective as a returner, while the cover-teams did an excellent job at containing one of the best returners in the league, Stefan Logan. Justin Medlock wasn’t great – he missed a 47-yard field goal, had a kickoff go out of bounds, and his punting was not great – but his 58-yarder was something special.

17. Where was Jamaal Westerman tonight? The league’s best Canadian player had an incredibly favorable match-up against second-year left tackle Jacob Ruby, who’s lunch he ate in the preseason, but Westerman was completely invisible. I’d be interesting to see how the Bombers deployed their defensive ends in their game-plan, as the pass-rush  off the edge was non-existent.

18. The Bombers play their next six games against Calgary, Hamilton and Edmonton. This team needs to figure themselves out fast, or the season will be lost before we know it. If the Bombers can reach the Toronto game at 3-4, they’re in good shape for the rest of the season. But that’s a tough task.

Blue Review: Bombers Dust Als in Preseason Opener with Dominant Second Half

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers scored 33 unanswered points on route to a convincing 36-11 victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the 2016 CFL season’s inaugural preseason game.

This game isn’t all that indicative of either team, as the Bombers pulled away in the second half when the majority of the players on the field will be out of work in a few weeks. But regardless, this was a big win for a Winnipeg football club that needs as much momentum from the city behind them as possible heading into the regular season.

Here are my initial thoughts on the Bombers first victory of 2016. I’ll have a more detailed and conclusive piece out tomorrow after I’ve re-watched the game.

1. QB battle heats upDominique Davis and Brian Bennett, two pivots battling to win the third-string quarterback job, both delivered solid, if unspectacular performances. As a result of the Bombers switching between Davis and Bennett each drive, neither performed against a stronger or weaker defensive unit than the other – and frankly, their performances against Montreal’s third defensive unit should be taken with a grain of salt. But they each showed some positive signs, as Davis maintained poise in the pocket and threw into tight windows – something he has shied away from in practice, but shouldn’t given his rocket-like arm. He also showed some touch on a tear-drop corner route to Quincy Mcduffie in the third quarter. Bennett, meanwhile, was slightly slower in his decision-making, but showed off his athleticism on several scrambles before throwing a beautiful, 28-yard back-shoulder TD toss to Fred Williams in the fourth quarter. While both quarterbacks shone at times – neither were necessarily great – I think Davis still has the upper-hand over Bennett.

2. Bombers dominate the trenches: Not enough can be said about the Bombers’ offensive line play in the run game, as both Tim Flanders and Carlos Anderson had huge days on the ground. Travis Bond, in particular, seemed discipline and quick – especially for a 230-pounder – while displacing bodies in the run game. But give credit to Flanders and Anderson, as both hit the hole hard and made tacklers miss in the open field. I don’t believe Pascal Lochard’s passport has his backup duties secure, as the Bombers will have a hard time keeping a backup American running back off of the roster if Anderson and Flanders continue to impress. Which runner, however, will have to be decided on Monday against Ottawa.

3. Receivers struggling to get separation: I was disappointed overall in the play of Winnipeg’s receivers, particularly within the first team. With Drew Willy at quarterback, the Blue receivers got little-to-no seperation from Montreal’s defensive backs, who were mostly in press cover-1 or vanilla man-zone concepts. The Alouettes have a talented secondary, but that shouldn’t overshadow the struggles of Darvin Adams and Ryan Smith. It went far beyond two of Winnipeg’s top pass-catchers, however, as even later in the game, with Bennett and Davis in the game, the balls had to be thrown into very tight coverage. I’m not at all worried about Smith and Adams, but it was still disappointing to not see them come out firing in week one of the preseason.

4. Not all doom & gloom: Although the level of competition that they faced must be taken into account, there are three exceptions in particular to that last thought: Addison Richards, Quincy McDuffie and Thomas Mayo. McDuffie, who was also Winnipeg’s best returner, would have assembled a blue-chip performance had he not dropped a sure touchdown on a 15-yard dig across the middle. He made a few plays downfield, which was a nice surprise, but made his money when given the ball on designed plays in space – as he should. Winnipeg’s second round pick in 2015, Addison Richards must’ve got the monkey off of his back with a couple of catches in the second half. An injury-plagued rookie season saw the game seemingly go 1,000-mph too fast for the Regina product to handle, but it’s slowing down in year two. Richards played really, really fast and made some tough grabs, although it’s clear his route-running needs work before he’s ready to be a key contributor. Regardless, Wednesday night showed that Richards isn’t a player who shrivels when the lights are on.

5. Willy no need to worry: The Bombers pass-attack was no threat when Drew Willy was at quarterback, but that’s nothing to worry about from the standpoint of the franchise’s signal-caller. Sure, his accuracy was off on two deep tosses, and he also forced a near-interception in the direction of Ryan Smith, but Willy received no help from his receivers, with nowhere to throw on most of his drop-backs. Montreal’s first-team defense also looked very good in coverage, while the Bombers’ offense was still quite vanilla being not even two weeks into training camp.

6. Hubbard makes money: Rookie defensive end Adrian Hubbard, along with competitor Shayon Green, received significant playing time against Montreal’s starting offense, and the Alabama star made the most of it. Hubbard made two significant plays in the opening couple drives, setting the edge on a sweep play for Maurice Leggett to make the tackle, and recording a sack on a nice speed-rush on Kevin Glenn’s third drive. That sack, however, was aided by Bruce Johnson’s nice hip-turn to stay in SJ Green’s hip-pocket on a shallow post, taking away Glenn’s read. He was a SEC sack-machine with Alabama, but it was mostly Hubbard’s run defense throughout the night really made him some money in the battle for the opening defensive end spot opposite Jamaal Westerman.

7. Castillo comes through: Sergio Castillo, who has virtually no chance of making this team as long as Justin Medlock is here, booted in four field goals and added two extra point converts. After he is inevitably cut by the Bombers, Castillo now has a good sample of his play assembled that he can show other teams who’ll be needing kickers in the next month or so. Good for him.

8. Randle’s spot is locked in: Chris Randle is one of this team’s top defenders, and there’s no doubt that the club will find a way to start six Americans in the secondary in order for the Utah product to have a spot. It’s quite remarkable how different of a player is Randle, who played boundary corner in Johnny Adams’ absence, when he doesn’t have a receiver running full-blast towards him before the ball is even snapped. Randle seemed comfortable at corner, and with defensive coordinator Richie Hall calling straight man-coverage for the first three plays, he won his match-up against perennial All-Star pass-catcher Duron Carter.

9. Fogg nowhere to be seen: Rookie defensive back Kevin Fogg has had an excellent training camp, but he seemed to struggle in the opening preseason game. A victim of a handful of completions, I haven’t yet seen the Liberty product cover well in zone duties. Whether that’s an issue with his ability to pick up receivers with his peripheral vision while watching the quarterback, or a struggle with zone hip turns – I couldn’t tell you. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounced back in a big way against Ottawa; otherwise it will be Julian Posey starting for the Bombers at weak-side halfback in week one.

10. Blue draft class shows well: The Bombers had arguably the best Canadian draft of any team in 2016, and the youngsters played surprisingly well in their first taste of professional football. Trent Corney’s first game was a roller-coaster – recorded a coverage-sack, a tackle for loss, and a couple of decent pass-rushes, but he also made some mistakes. The athletic freak was washed out on a handful of pass-rushes and ran himself out of the play on a couple of snaps in run defense. It was the Virginia product who allowed the Alouettes to get out of their end-zone in one rush in the fourth quarter, getting sealed with a down-block. Michael Couture, albeit against some weak competition, was the most surprising contributor in this win. Winnipeg’s 10th overall selection, Couture was exceptionally consistent in the third and fourth quarter while at centre – his raw-strength was not at question. Taylor Loffler, meanwhile, showed better range than he has in practice, making an exceptional break on the football on Vernon Adams’ final pass of the game. Frank Renaud made a couple huge tackles on special-teams, while Zach Intzandt, who’s still new to the offensive side of the football, did not have a disastrous performance by any means. Nose guard Rupert Butcher deflected an Adams Jr. pass attempt for an interception by Garrett Waggoner. Although Shayne Gauthier and Alex Vitt were nursing injuries and did not play, it was a very good night for Winnipeg’s 2016 draft picks by the standards of it being their first live action in the CFL.

11. Keeping’s importance: I’m happy to hear that Jeff Keeping’s injury might not be as serious as first thought. He’s the most important depth player on this team aside from Matt Nichols, and the Bombers would have to toy with the ratio to make room for another American starter on the offensive line if one of Mathias Goossen, Sukh Chungh or Pat Neufeld are hurt. Although Michael Couture impressed me today, the SFU product still needs a year of seasoning before he is ready to be the sixth man.

12. Harris hits home: Andrew Harris did exactly what we all wanted him to do in his debut in the Blue & Gold: deliver a highlight-reel catch-and-run on one of his first few touches of the game. Harris’ 39-yard touchdown scamper on a screen pass was called back on an illegal block, but it gave Bomber fans a glimpse of what the former Oak Park Raider brings to this offense.

13. Sherman shows off his versatility: Teague Sherman is the Bombers most valuable depth defensive player, and he did it all on Wednesday night (including, for the first time, handling holding duties on the field goal unit). A proven stud on special-teams, Sherman was all over the field on defense from the strong-side linebacker position.

14. Bombers made the right call with Tajh BoydWe saw on Wednesday night why the Bombers, who had Boyd’s rights for a few weeks in 2015, never offered the former Clemson star a contract. In an almost laughable situation, the Alouettes chose to give multiple series’ to two CIS quarterbacks – one of whom has been Andrew Buckley’s backup at Calgary – instead of seeing what Boyd could do. Seeing as even the best CIS quarterbacks in generations usually can’t crack CFL rosters, Drew Burko and Jimmy Underdahl, as expected, struggled – and struggled mightily. On a side-note, Vernon Adams Jr. likely got a wake-up call in his first CFL game. He wasn’t helped out by any of his offensive mates, but the Oregon star still had a very rough outing.

15. Questions about Leggett island: Maurice Leggett could be the Bombers’ weak-link in man-coverage this year – every secondary has one. Leggett, who’s an elite safety, is a really good player, but it’s clear that he does not match up well against the better receivers in one-on-one coverage. Leggett was beat on a couple Kevin Glenn completions, including his touchdown pass to Nik Lewis on the 245-pounder’s infamous out-route. He’s such an excellent player to have in the box, but I’m still hoping that the Bombers find a suitable rookie to play SAM linebacker, and thus move Leggett back to safety. It’s not likely, however, and while Leggett will get beat in one-on-one coverage against better receivers, he also brings some great abilities to the table while at linebacker – including in pass-defense.

16. Officials win this game: I have absolutely no complaints about the officiating from the contest, and even completely forgot about the new “eye in the sky” replay official until after the game. The penalties were limited and justified, and it really seemed like the defensive backs were granted more freedom in coverage. Last year, defensive backs were penalized for breathing on receivers. This year, not so much.

17. Slick new duds… for one team: Adidas’ new royal blue uniforms were eye-candy for spectators and Bomber fans. But they dropped on the ball on Montreal’s duds, making zero changes to Angry Birds’ uniforms – except one, and it’s terrible. The names on the back of the jersey’s are so small that they’re nearly impossible to read. Not a fan, Adidas.

The Bombers save most of their cuts until after Monday’s contest in Ottawa, when they’re due. That game will also be televised on TSN.

PHIL HOSSACK - Winnipeg Blue Bomber starting quarterback Drew Willy scrambles Wednesday evening at Investor's Field. June 8, 2016
PHIL HOSSACK – Winnipeg Blue Bomber starting quarterback Drew Willy scrambles Wednesday evening at Investor’s Field. June 8, 2016 (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)

An In-Depth Look at the Bombers’ Impressive Haul of Draft Picks

Kyle Walters just sat back – probably didn’t relax – and let the chips fall where they may in the 2016 CFL draft. In the end, he came away with an outright ridiculous haul of players.

The first round of the CFL Draft was nothing short of crazy, and for Walters and Mike O’Shea, who remained quiet across the league back in Winnipeg, the outcome was nothing short of ideal. An early-run on offensive lineman – aided by the Eskimos foolishly selecting Tevaun Smith at eighth overall – meant Virginia pass-rusher Trent Corney slipped through the cracks in the opening round and into the hands of a thrilled Kyle Walters. A shake-up regarding the elite tier of offensive lineman saw Michael Couture also still on the board when Winnipeg was on the clock, and the war-room likely had no objections before calling in the pick.

Those two picks were already quite satisfying, but no one – not even the Bombers, but perhaps Justin Dunk – knew how graciously the draft would continue to unfold for the Bombers as the rounds passed by.

It’s all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Garrett Waggoner, a blue-chip, tremendous prospect, was technically selected with a 2016 draft pick. This class has the potential to be the defining moment of Kyle Walter’s career in Winnipeg, and it’s amazing what can unfold when a team is able to have freedom with their draft choices as a result of a solid corps of Canadians under-contract. Walters has brought the Bombers’ Canadian content a long way since he took over the skeleton-like depth chart from the Joe Mack era, and he took another large step forward with the first three players drafted by the Blue & Gold this year.

Round 2, pick 9 – DE Trent Corney, Virginia

This selection was more than ideal for the Bombers; not only does Corney fill a positional need, but he was easily the best player available as well. An ultra-athletic player, Corney was one of the most athletic defensive lineman available in the NFL draft, and many people were stunned when he not only went undrafted, but wasn’t even offered a priority free agent contract.

Corney had an excellent senior season – his first season as a starter. His first career start came against UCLA, where Corney battled a 1st-round (and 2016 top-10 pick) NFL offensive tackle, Ronnie Stanley. Notching six tackles and a tackle-for-loss, Corney ended up being Stanley’s toughest match-up of the season.

Although he has a very good chance of developing into a starter, he’ll start his career as Jamaal Westerman’s backup. With his ridiculous athleticism – the 6-foot-3, 251-pounder clocked a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot broad jump – and hard-nosed style, he’ll make an immediate impact on special-teams.

Round 2, pick 2 – C Michael Couture, Simon Fraser

Another athletic player, Couture was a slam-dunk pick for Bombers at 10th overall in terms of value. With Charles Vaillancourt tumbling into the hands of the BC Lions at fifth overall, all plans drafting the local product went out the door in BC, so Couture fell into the hands of the Bombers. It was no secret the Bombers were going to draft an offensive lineman at any costs with back-to-back picks to open the second round, as the club only had four Canadian offensive linemen under contract until the draft.

The sky is the limit for Couture, as he played all of left guard, centre and right tackle with the Clan, while lining up at all five offensive line positions at the combine – and dominating. Couture has quick, nimble feet and excellent, refined technique – don’t rule out the ability of him developing into a starting right tackle down the road. In the meantime, he brings some much needed depth and versatility to the Bombers’ unit. He needs time to develop, but Couture has a bright future.

Round 3, pick 2 – S Taylor Loffler, UBC

Four surgeries in five years was enough to scare away enough clubs from Loffler until Walters pulled the trigger in the third round on the consensus top safety in the draft. While not directly a positional need with Garrett Waggoner young and on the roster, the former Boise State recruit was simply too good of a player for the Bombers to pass. Loffler is a a top-15 talent, and a clean bill of health during his first and only season with the UBC Thunderbirds could mean his health issues are in the past.

Loffler, similarly to Corney, is one of the more pro-ready players in the draft. He’ll contribute on special-teams and as a depth safety this year, but in perhaps one-to-two seasons, the Bombers could be starting Loffler at strong-side linebacker and Garrett Waggoner at weak-side linebacker – both of whom were technically acquired with 2016 draft picks.

Round 4, pick 28 – LB Shayne Gauthier, Laval

The Bombers were wise to invest in a player who projects purely as a special-teams anchor this early in the draft. Albeit only 5’10” and 220-pounds, Gauthier is a tough, throwback linebacker who plays off physicality and natural instincts. With deceptive downhill speed – he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash – the Laval product should be able to make an immediate impact on special-teams.

Round 5, pick 2 – RG Zach Intzandt, McMaster

The Bombers needed to add at least two offensive linemen in the draft, and Intzandt happens to be one of the best developmental prospects eligible. He looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 304-pounds, but 2015 was Intzandt’s first year starting along the offensive line after converting from the defensive side in 2013. Nonetheless, his tape at McMaster was solid, however a rough Combine performance may have showed scouts that the London, ON. native was more of a project than perhaps originally thought. It’s slightly worrisome that this technique is already decently refined – you can teach technique, but you can’t teach physical abilities – but I don’t doubt the coaching abilities of Bob Wylie.

Round 6, pick 2 – NT Rupert Butcher, Western

Displaying one of the best Combine one-on-one performances in history, Butcher could be one of the steals of the draft. But it wasn’t completely surprisingly to see the Western product fall into the six-round. Butcher was never a consistently dominant player with the Mustangs – Walters pointed to his lack of motor – and only showed flashes. His motor was sure running at the combine, of course, as Butcher dominated every offensive lineman that crossed his face in a number of different ways, displaying shiftiness, good hands, pad-level and a fearsome bull-rush. Butcher must lose some weight – he’s a behemoth at 6-foot-5, 327-lbs – and will fit in behind Keith Shologan and Jake Thomas at the nose tackle position, likely making the practice roster this season.

Round 7, pick 2 – SB Alex Vitt, Manitoba

The Bombers passed on a handful of local products before picking up Vitt with the 55th pick the draft. While not flashy, Vitt is a physical, blue-collar pass-catcher who was a consistent contributor with the Bisons, notching 728 yards and 4 TDs in 2015. A player who won’t catch anyone’s attention with his testing numbers, Vitt didn’t have his best day running routes at the Edmonton Regional Combine and found his name uncalled when the list of participants moving on to the National event were named. A 6-foot-2 receiver with good hands and a willingness to block, Vitt will be an interesting name to watch in training camp.

Round 8, pick 2 – LB Frank Renuad, Windsor

It was disappointing to see the club pass on another local product who plays the same position, DJ Lalama, but I can’t say anything bad about Renaud. He didn’t have the opportunity of a fourth-season to improve his draft-stock, tearing his ACL at the East-West Bowl. The Bombers’ Canadian talent evaluates obviously liked what they saw at the event, but we’ll have to wait and see if the Bombers get any value out of a player who wouldn’t have been drafted without the new, additional eighth round.

Blue Review: Day Two of Mini-Camp

A sunny afternoon session at Investors Group Field concluded day two of the Blue Bombers’ offensive mini-camp. Here are some thoughts from section 129.

1. It was another efficient morning for the Lapolice Academy. As per usual with Lapolice, the Bombers started with some light work, getting the footwork of the quarterbacks and timing of the receivers’ motion down with their reverse/ghost motion inside zone runs. Although they’re only barely scratching the surface of the offensive playbook, it seems as though Lapolice’s offense will be very, very full of misdirection.

2. Jeff Keeping – yes, that Jeff Keeping – was on the receiving end of two passes in the flats today. The Bombers began installing their short-yardage set, which already has a play-action pass to a lineman built in.

3. Receiver groupings were the same on day two. Former Baylor pass-catcher Ernest Smith, who brings great size to the receiving corps at 6’5″, 210-lbs, remained at the Y-position with the “starters”. The second-team remained the same, with Spencer Davis on the boundary, Quincy McDuffie, Ricky Collins and Julian Talley in the slot, and Kris Bastien at field-side wide receiver. And although non of these groupings really mean anything, there were no changes on the third team, with Larry Pinkard (boundary) and Justin Veltung (field) at wide receiver, and Soloman Patton, Julian Feoli-Gudino and Jhomo Gordon in the slot. Former UTEP pass-catcher Kris Adams, meanwhile, rotated in where ever he could. Take all this with a grain of salt, however, as groupings in mini-camp really mean nothing heading into main camp. Everyone has an equal opportunity to crack the lineup.

4. Big Travis Bond (6’6″, 329-lbs), who took the second-team reps at left tackle yesterday, worked with the starters today at left guard. Lawrence Martin, who took took the starting reps at left guard yesterday, was on the second-team, while Manase Foketi replaced Bond at left tackle on group two. Expect Jamarcus Hardrick, currently playing right guard on group-two, to get the starting reps at left guard tomorrow as the Bombers look to get all the candidates some reps with the starters to develop some chemistry ahead of training camp.

5. It’s hard – and rather pointless – to try and evaluate the talent of the players at this mini-camp without pads or a defense, but Andrew Harris is looking very explosive. I know, that’s a fairly pointless statement since everyone looks good/explosive with no defense, but Harris is demonstrating deceptive speed and smooth, natural looking cuts – it’s a sight to behold. Harris has been very vocal so far, demonstrating his experience while communicating with the offensive line at the line of scrimmage. Unlike several CFL teams, the Bombers are going to heavily include their running backs as much as possible, and I really do believe that Andrew Harris has a big season ahead of him – if he can stay healthy, that is.

6. Another player that could be in for a big season is Rory Kohlert. The CFL’s best offenses in the East Division include their field-side wide receivers in the offense, and seeing as how Paul Lapolice seems to be taking a lot of pages out Marcus Brady’s play-book out in Toronto, an individual season like 2014 could be ahead for the University of Saskatchewan alum. Bomber quarterbacks were reading the wide-side first on multiple route combinations, where the coverage responsibilities of one defender could mean Kohlert is getting a target.

7. It’s hard – and rather pointless – to try and diversify the players at mini-camp with no defense out there, so you can expect all the players at mini-camp to be at training camp. Although every rep will be evaluated, don’t expect the coaches to put much stock – if any – into anything seen at this mini-camp except attitude and the ability to learn the system. There really aren’t any players standing out simply because everyone looks good, for the most part, against air. The real evaluating will be done when main camp opens in June.

Blue Review: Day One of Mini-Camp

Football is back, baby!

The Bombers hit the field for the first time in 2016 for their offensive mini-camp. Here are some observations after our first look at the new-and-improved 2016 Blue Bombers.

1. The first thing that stuck out to me was just how animated newly-hired offensive coordinator Paul Lapolice was. Everyone in the stadium could hear him coaching loud and clear, as Lapolice, who’s clearly excited to be back coaching after three seasons, was vocal, animated and full of enthusiasm. Lapolice, still young at 45-years-old, was even demonstrating drills himself – he doubles as receivers coach – and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up losing his voice after two hour-long practices today. The Bombers were up-tempo all practice, maximizing the short amount of practice time.

2. The Bombers had installed a handful of basic plays – no more than seven – which they ran through today as a unit after some quick individual work. It was all three-step, short route combinations, for the most part, as well as some reverse and ghost-motion misdirection runs, and basic zone runs. The quarterbacks and receivers worked a lot on bubble screens in individual time as well as in team, which Lapolice could be rely on this season, similarly to the Eskimos in 2015. The quarterbacks were getting the ball out their hands early today with a lot of quick throws being called.

3. Back under center after recovering from a season-ending knee injury, Drew Willy didn’t have his best day throwing the football, at least in the second session. His accuracy was relatively erratic at some points, and the ball hung in the air on a couple deep throws – there was a breeze, though. Of course, this is nothing to be worried about. Willy’s knee is 100% healed up, and it’s exciting to see no. 5 back at the controls.

4. Even though arm strength/accuracy is only one piece of the puzzle, it’s always interesting – but totally pointless – to compare the quarterback’s arms to each other. Last training camp, it was Robert Marve clearly dominated this power ranking, followed by Jordan Yantz, Josh Portis, Willy and then Brian Brohm. Who throws the best ball out of this year’s signal-callers? To me, it’s unquestionably Dominique Davis, followed by a close tie between Brian Bennett and Drew Willy, and then Matt Nichols.

5. Former Baylor receiver Ernest Smith, who was signed last week, worked with the “starters” today at the Y-position, formerly occupied by Julian Feoli-Gudino. Smith has been out of football for a long time, but at six-foot-five and 210-lbs, he brings some much-needed size to the Bombers’ aerial attack.

6. It’s quite possible that Smith was moved into a role with group one as a result of Jerrell Jernigan being a no-show. According to Ed Tait, Jernigan (5’9″, 189-lbs) did touch down in Winnipeg but had to return home for family reasons. Here’s to hoping the Troy alum, who spent four seasons with the New York Giants after being drafted in the third round, shows up to main camp, as he’s certainly is a promising player. In 2013, Jernigan recorded 19 catches in 3 games while Victor Cruz sat out with an injury.

7. Weston Dressler received the majority of his snaps at boundary wide-receiver, as Darvin Adams moved into Clarence Denmark’s vacated slot-back position. Ryan Smith was in Nick Moore’s boundary slot-back position – looking explosive there, too – and Rory Kohlert was at his regular position at field-side wide receiver. Second-year player Spencer Davis lined up at boundary slot-back on the second-team, with Quincy McDuffie, Ricky Collins and Julian Talley in the slot, and Kris Bastien out wide. On the third team, Larry Pinkard manned the boundary at wideout, while Julian Feoli-Gudino, Jhomo Gordon and Soloman Patton worked the slot, with Justin Veltung out a field-side wide receiver. Take all this with a grain of salt, as it’s only the first day of mini-camp, and there’ll be many changes to the groupings by as early as tomorrow.

8. The club seems serious about starting Patrick Neufeld at right tackle this season. And while I feel as though the club should exhaust all their options with American rookies at right tackle, I am not against the idea of Neufeld playing there. Although he’s about a middle-tier right tackle at his best – and a below-average player at guard – that is a significant upgrade over Jace Daniels and Selvish Capers. Daniels, who is still recovering from off-season ankle surgery, will compete at left guard should Neufeld remain a book-end. Lawrence Martin took the first-team reps at left guard today, while Manase Foketi worked with the two’s.

9. The favorite to win that job at left guard in training camp might just be Jamarcus Hardrick, however. Hardrick, who spent 2015 with Saskatchewan, is a natural right tackle, but he’s a mauler in the run-game. A powerful technician, I always thought his footwork was too questionable to play tackle, and unsurprisingly, the Bombers had him taking second-team reps at right guard behind Sukh Chungh today. It could only be a matter of time before he sees reps at the vacated left guard position.

10. The updated helmets with the royal blue face-masks are still as sharp as ever, and are now full-time. The team still practiced with the old Reebok practice jerseys, but we can expect that to change in time for training camp when the club’s new digs are unveiled.

11. It was simply mind-blowing to see Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith and Andrew Harris in the Blue & Gold, which, let me add, looks much better on them than any other color combination.

12. Practice tomorrow is once again scheduled for 10:30am and 12:30pm at Investors Group Field.

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