Stock Market Report: Bombers vs. Stampeders

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.

Here’s mine.

BLUE-CHIP STOCKS

Quincy Mcduffie (14) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016.  (Photo: Johany Jutras)
Quincy Mcduffie (14) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

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.

SOLID INVESTMENTS

Calgary Stampeders' Rob Cote is tackled by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Bruce Johnson, bottom, and Julian Posey during first quarter CFL football action in Calgary, Friday, July 1, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary Stampeders’ Rob Cote is tackled by Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Bruce Johnson, bottom, and Julian Posey during first quarter CFL football action in Calgary, Friday, July 1, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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.

JUNK BONDS

Kevin Fogg (23) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Joe West (85) of the Calgary Stampeders during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016.  (Photo: Johany Jutras)
Kevin Fogg (23) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Joe West (85) of the Calgary Stampeders during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

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/SELL

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

 

Bombers Signing of NFL-vet Jerrel Jernigan Further Indicating Receiver Prototypes for Lapolice

Less than 24 hours after Baylor WR Tevin Reese notified the club of his intentions to retire before ever sporting a Blue & Gold jersey, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced the signing of a new hopeful in former New York Giants receiver Jerell Jernigan.

Jernigan, 26, comes to the Bombers after four years with the New York Giants, who selected him in the third-round of the 2012 NFL draft, and a Super Bowl ring. In 34 career games, the 26-year-old recorded 38 catches for 391 yards, 3 receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown before being released last August. He has experience as a return specialist, and ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL combine after an illustrious career at Troy University.

Jernigan starred in a three game stretch to close out the 2013 regular season as a starter for the injured Victor Cruz, recording 19 catches. In week 17 against the Redskins, the 5-foot-8, 189-pound speedster had the greatest game of his young career with 6 catches for 90 yards, a 29-yard TD catch and a 49-yard TD run.

Although we’ve seen several players with excellent NFL pedigrees flop in the CFL before, Jernigan should be viewed as the favorite to start at Julian Feoli-Gudino’s slot-back position – ahead of Ricky Collins and Justin Veltung – heading into mini-camp with the Bombers expected to start four international receivers in 2016. And, in this case, the Bombers would easily boast the smallest receiving corps in the CFL with three starting slot-backs listed around 5-foot-7 in Jernigan, Ryan Smith and Weston Dressler – all of whom have been acquired during the Paul Lapolice era.

The Bombers have signed seven receivers (including Tevin Reese) this off-season that stand under six-feet – six of which fail to exceed 5-foot-9 – and it’s become apparent that offensive coordinator Paul Lapolice doesn’t value size like Chris Jones and Stephen McAdoo do in Saskatchewan. Lapolice is evidently bringing in players that are fits in his scheme, and having only signed two receivers that stand over six feet (Jace Davis, 6’1″, 210-lbs; Ricky Collins, 6’0″, 198-lbs) and re-signed two others of similar, larger statures – Kevin Cone (6’2″, 215-lbs) and Jhomo Gordon (6’1″, 198-lbs) both made starts for the Bombers in 2015 – a trend has certainly developed.

Lapolice is looking for shifty, explosive receivers that supply great speed and yards-after-catch ability. Building an offence that accommodates franchise QB Drew Willy’s strengths – as well as keeps him off of his back – is paramount. As an excellent deep-ball thrower who’s not the greatest under pressure, Lapolice’s idea to bring in quicker receivers that can use their shiftiness to both take the top off of defenses, and also make big gains from innocent speed-outs, makes a lot of sense for a team looking to get the ball out of the quarterbacks hand fast while still capitalizing on his comforts and strengths in the medium and deep passing game.

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, has a different idea in mind, bringing in tall, possession receivers to form a clock-managing, ball-controlling offense similar to that of Jason Maas’ offense while in Ottawa. Instead of being a run-heavy team, Saskatchewan will use the passing game in a similar fashion to control the clock with short, high-percentage completions to big, reliable targets. Ideally, with bigger receivers, there will be fewer incomplete passes and interceptions as a result of the routes called and the receivers’ large frame that shields defensive backs from making a play on the ball, even when the quarterback is less accurate.

The tactics of both Lapolice and McAdoo are completely conflicting, and while both have their advantages and disadvantages, even in Lapolice’s scheme, the possibility of having three starting slot-backs that are around 5-foot-7 isn’t necessarily ideal – and I’m under the belief that size for CFL receivers is vastly overrated by fans and pundits.

Now, Ricky Collins or any of the other aforementioned pass-catchers that stand over 6-foot could still win the final starting job in the receiving corps over Jernigan all the while being equally good fits in the scheme – it’s about the traits of the receiver, not the actual size – but, difference is, the larger players offer traits that can’t be supplied by a 5-foot-7 player, such as a larger catch-radius to haul in less accurate passes, jump-ball abilities and different release techniques off of the line of scrimmage. Darvin Adams, who’ll start again at boundary wide receiver, makes up for some lack of size at 6-foot-2, but doesn’t necessarily play like a bigger receiver in all aspects. Adams can effectively use his big body to shield defenders while catching the football and while releasing off of the line, but isn’t as much of a threat as someone like Jeff Fuller, Terance Toliver or Tori Gurley on fade-routes against cover-0 blitzes, a route that gives defensive backs another threat to defend in heavy-blitz, man-on-man situations rather than just quick slants and speed-outs.

Even as someone who believes height is overrated for slot-backs in today’s CFL – they are rarely jammed at the line and can no longer push defensive backs off to gain separation without being flagged – the possibility of starting three ultra-short receivers at slot-back is still somewhat disconcerting. While there is a silver-lining in a sense that it is also advantageous, the Bombers still could be missing a piece in the offense without any bigger bodies, failing to reach their full potential as a receiving corps.

Nonetheless, Jernigan has tremendous upside and, going off what he demonstrated in the NFL, could give the offense another incredibly dangerous weapon. It would be up to Lapolice, himself, to compensate for the lack of size in the offense and take full advantage of having three dynamic, shifty receivers at the slot-back position.

Bombers’ receiving corps: tallest to shortest

1 .Addison Richards, Regina (6-foot-4, 212-lbs)

2. Kris Bastien, Concordia (6-foot-3, 210-lbs)

3. Kevin Cone, Georgia Tech (6-foot-2, 215 lbs)

4. Rory Kohlert, Saskatchewan (6-foot-2, 215-lbs)

5. Darvin Adams, Auburn (6-foot-2, 185-lbs)

6. Jace Davis, Northern Colorado (6-foot-one, 210-lbs)

7. Jhomo Gordon, Bethune-Cookman (6-foot-one, 198-lbs)

8. Julian Feoli-Gudino, Laval (6-foot, 211-lbs)

9. Ricky Collins, TAMC (6-foot, 198-lbs)

10. Evan Pszczonak, Windsor (6-foot, 185-lbs)

11. Justin Veltung, Idaho (5-foot-11, 185-lbs)

12. Quincy McDuffie, UCF (5-foot-10, 178-lbs)

13. Soloman Patton, Florida (5-foot-9, 177-lbs)

14. Jerell Jernigan, Troy (5-foot-8, 189-lbs)

15. Spencer Davis, Southeast Missouri State (5-foot-7, 197-lbs)

16. Weston Dressler, North Dakota (5-foot-7, 179-lbs)

17. Ryan Smith, NDSU (5-foot-7, 175-lbs)

jernigan
Photo via New York Giants (www.giants.com) I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO

New Bombers WR Tevin Reese Announces Retirement

It turns out we will never get to see former Baylor standout Tevin Reese in the Blue & Gold, as the 25-year-old receiver has informed the Winnipeg Football Club of his intention to retire.

A seventh-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, Reese, who was signed last month, was the favorite to take over Clarence Denmark’s vacated spot in the starting lineup heading into training camp. Reese had a formidable career at Baylor, catching 187 passes for 3,102 yards and 24 touchdowns as a four-year starter. He had an excellent rapport with QB Robert Griffin III, accumulating 979 yards-from-scrimmage and 7 touchdowns in 7 starts as a sophomore in 2011.

The departure of Reese leaves the Bombers with American receivers Justin Veltung, Quincy McDuffie, Jhomo Gordon, Kevin Cone, Ricky Collins, Jace Davis, Spencer Davis and Soloman Patton to battle in training camp for the final starting spot in the Blue Bombers’ receiving corps.

While the loss of Reese is certainly disappointing, unlike last season, when none of the international scouting department’s receiver signings really stood out to me around this time, there are other first-year import receivers that I’m excited to see.

The no. 1 guy on that list is Ricky Collins, 6-foot, 198-lbs, out of Texas A&M Commerce. After making many sacrifices in a matter of years, Collins finally got on the field for the Lions in his senior season and recorded 71 catches for 1,187 receiving-yards and a school-record 14 touchdown receptions, booking Collins a ticket to the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 training camp.

Justin Veltung, meanwhile, can’t be written off in this upcoming training camp competition, as he looked great as a returner last season in Winnipeg and could breakout in year two. And then there’s 22-year-old Jhomo Gordon, who did enough on the practice roster throughout 2015 to earn another invite to training camp this season.

It’s too late to keep Clarence Denmark, and with Tevin Reese unfortunately out of the picture, Bombers fans might want to pay extra attention to the open training camp battle at the Y-receiver position – and put their money on Ricky Collins – this coming June.

After scoring a touchdown against SMU, No. 16 receiver Tevin Reese celebrates in the end zone at Floyd Casey Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. The Bears beat the Mustangs 59-24. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor
After scoring a touchdown against SMU, No. 16 receiver Tevin Reese celebrates in the end zone at Floyd Casey Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. The Bears beat the Mustangs 59-24.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

Bombers Cut Ties With Denmark, Turner Jr.

The longest serving Blue Bombers will be wearing new colors in 2016, as the team announced today that DT Bryant Turner Jr. and SB Clarence Denmark, who were both signed in 2011, had been released.

Turner Jr., who appeared in 53 games over five seasons, recorded 89 tackles and 26 sacks during his time in Winnipeg. Once known as one of best players at his position, the UAB product battled several injuries over the years and played on several bad defenses that prevented him from living up to his contract. Once the initial wave of free agency passed and the Bombers walked away with former Argos DT Euclid Cummings, 24, under contract, it was clear that Turner Jr.’s days as a Bomber were numbered.

Denmark, similarly to Turner Jr., was a salary cap casualty. With the additions of Ryan Smith and Weston Dressler from Saskatchewan, the Bombers simply could not afford to employ three American pass-catchers earning between $150k to $190k. The obvious odd man out of the trio was Denmark, 30, who recorded only 718 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2015.

Denmark caught 306 passes for 4,165 yards and 16 touchdowns with the Bombers, only ever missing three games in five seasons. He was durable, reliable and, at times, spectacular, surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in one season for the first time in 2014 – his first season as the go-to with relatively stable quarterbacking.

Ideally, the Bombers likely would’ve preferred to keep Denmark. As was the case throughout most of his time in Winnipeg, Denmark played with five different quarterbacks in 2015, and was also stuck in Marcel Bellefeuille’s system.

But unlike last year and several before, the Bombers may have found one or more American, rookie pass-catchers that may have a bright future in the league. Although it will be a completely open competition to replace Denmark, who I fully expect to sign with Calgary, don’t be surprised if a former Baylor stud, Tevin Reese, 5-foot-10, 170-lbs, wins the job out of training camp. But there are also a few other intriguing names that have a good chance to replace Denmark as well.

Denmark and Turner Jr. were two players that deserved better over their careers in Winnipeg. Unfortunately, together they were stuck on terrible Bombers teams for four straight seasons. And neither complained.

Both will surely receive several teams calling for their services, and have many effective seasons still in the tank. A change of scenery could do wonders.

Although, as a fan, it isn’t pleasant to see Denmark and Turner Jr. go, it’s difficult to argue against the thinking of the Bombers’ brass in this situation.

denny
Kevin King: Winnipeg Sun

Randle Renews Deal With Bombers

Bomber fans will get to see at least two more seasons of Chris Randle’s play-making in the Blue & Gold.

The 27-year-old agreed to terms with the Bombers on a two-year extension, keeping him in Winnipeg through the 2017 season.

Randle, who started at boundary cornerback for the Bombers in 2014, really came into form as a linebacker after a rough start, largely due to the position change. The Utah State alum recorded 37 tackles, a sack and an interception in nine games before suffering a season-ending injury in the Labour Day Classic. He’s one of the most underrated defensive backs in the league and a key piece to this defense.

Extending Randle’s contract a year before it was originally set to expire is great for GM Kyle Walters, who’s one of the best in the CFL at managing contracts and renewing them midseason or ahead of time, creating a much less stressful December and January.

Randle
Brian Ronogh: Winnipeg Sun

Avon Cobourne Named Running Backs Coach

All is right again in the Bombers’ backfield from a coaching perspective.

Buck Pierce will return to the QB meeting room as the team’s quarterbacks coach, and, as originally reported by TSN’s Gary Lawless, the team has officially named Avon Cobourne running backs coach. Cobourne, of course, is a former All-Star running back in the CFL, spending five years with the Alouettes, winning two Grey Cups, and another two years with the Tiger-Cats. His finest season, in 2009, saw him rush for 1,214 yards and 13 TDs – both career highs – on route to a 15-3 record and Grey Cup championship.

The 38-year-old spent the last two years as the same positional coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Under Cobourne, the Riders had the league’s most lethal rushing attack in both seasons – although Cornish rushing for 1,000 yards in nine games in 2014 may beg to differ – with several different rushers. Jerome Messam had his best season as a professional in 2015 under Cobourne – his 2011 numbers would’ve been squashed last season had he received more carries – and Anthony Allen earned himself a contract with the BC Lions.

It’ll be exciting to watch Cobourne work with Andrew Harris, as the two have some things in common. Cobourne, like Harris, was an emotional player and also a threat as a receiver. They’re both extremely smart rushers and are known for their football IQ.

Cobourne’s biggest task is to groom a couple of young, Canadian running backs into legitimate backups with the Bombers going national at the positions. The Bombers already have 2014 second-round draft pick Pascal Lochard, who they recently signed in free agency from British-Columbia, and will likely add another in the draft.

Seeing how successful Avon Cobourne was as a player and as a coach with the Roughriders, there’s no reason not to believe that he’s the right guy for the job.

Jeff McIntosh: THE CANADIAN PRESS
Jeff McIntosh: THE CANADIAN PRESS

Bombers ink deal with ex-Lion DB

As first reported by Darrin Bauming last week, the Winnipeg Football Club have now officially added two more internationals to their training camp roster in DB Jonte Green and OT Lawrence Martin.

Green is a former sixth-round pick of the Detroit Lions, spending two seasons in the Motor City before being cut in early 2014. In 2015 he participated in off-season workouts in April with the Buffalo Bills and a month in training camp with the Arizona Cardinals.

Green, a three year starter at New Mexico State, started five games in his rookie season back in 2012. While several pundits saw potential in Green seeing as he was a sixth-round pick starting in his rookie season, I always thought he was a train-wreck at cornerback.

SI.com:

Positives: Athletic cornerback who’s displayed a variety of skill in his game. Plays with an aggressive nature, works hard to defend the run and makes a lot of tackles up the field. Keeps the action in front of him, gets a nice jump on the throw and displays a good move to the pass. Can burst to the ball out of his plant and works to make plays. Solid return specialist who sets up blocks, finds the running lanes and quickly gets through them.

Negatives: Does not consistently play to his 40 time or show a burst. Loses opponents, blows assignments and does a lot of trailing down the field. Struggles staying with receivers out of breaks.

Sports Illustrated’s scouting report of Green coming out of college seemed to be spot on based on his experience in the NFL. He showed poor awareness in zone, took a lot of holding penalties and didn’t at least become the decent man-on-man corner that he had the potential/was projected to be. That all doesn’t sound good for his chances of making it in the CFL.

The six-foot, 185-pound Green will likely compete at boundary halfback and strong-side linebacker for the Bombers. He was a strong tackler with New Mexico State, but whether or not he can regain his college form remains to be seen.

Winnipeg’s other new coup, Lawrence Martin, is far more of a mystery. He’s got great size at six-foot-three, 320-pounds and actually played tight end and fullback at a whopping 316 pounds in his second and final year of college football with South Florida; it’s safe to say Martin doesn’t lack athleticism. He had three career starts as an offensive lineman at South Florida.

Lawrence has since played in the Arena League with the Tampa Bay Storm. He’ll compete for the right tackle position with Jace Daniels and Jamarcus Hardrick.

Credit to DetroitLions.com
Credit to DetroitLions.com

Cotton, Peach the Latest Salary Cap Casualties

The purge continues again today with Kyle Walters releasing two more veterans. Both RB Paris Cotton and DE Greg Peach were released today, clearing up cap space for the Bombers’ seven free agent signings. And whether or not the team is interested in pursuing free agent MLB Henoc Muamba – which, I doubt – these salary cap cuts were going to happen, anyway.

It was obvious that their days in the Blue & Gold were numbered, as the signing of non-import Andrew Harris meant the team likely won’t carry an American running back unless, perhaps, they’re a dynamic returner. Cotton showed glimpses of greatness in his career in Winnipeg, ending the 2014 season on a tear and opening up the 2015 season in week one against Saskatchewan in equally spectacular fashion. His game against Saskatchewan, catching and running the football, was one of the most exciting performances I’ve ever seen from a Blue Bomber running back.

Cotton slowed down shortly after, and may have even lost his starting job to Cameron Marshall before breaking his arm, but it’s clear that the talent is there. Cotton could be very successful with another CFL team, but he didn’t fit into the Bombers’ plans this year simply because of his passport.

Peach, too, could find another home in the CFL, but he doesn’t have as much upside. The 29-year-old struggled in 2015 despite playing opposite Jamaal Westerman, recording just one sack in 11 games. On the other hand, he’s a high-motor guy with a big heart and lots of leadership, which any team can benefit from.

Best of luck to these two men in the future.

cotton
Trevor Hagan: Winnipeg Free Press

Bombers Given Solid Schedule for 2016

The Blue Bombers will find out very early in 2016 if all the changes they made in the off-season will pay dividends.

The CFL just released the 2016 schedule and it has the Bombers playing six of their first seven games against Calgary, Edmonton and Hamilton. Recently, the Blue & Gold have had very easy starts to the season, giving fans false hope after a strong start. The week one home game against Montreal will serve as a tuner for the tough stretch afterwards.

The Bombers don’t have any short weeks, mercifully, after numerous 4-day weeks last year. They do, however, play a whopping four games on Thursdays and one on Wednesday (August 3 vs. Hamilton). Thursday night games weren’t necessarily a success last year but the league clearly wants to give them another shot.

Unlike the last couple seasons, the Bombers will only play Saskatchewan twice this year – the annual Labour Day and Banjo Bowl contests – instead going head-to-head with the Calgary Stampeders (weeks 2, 5, 14) and the Grey Cup defending champion Edmonton Eskimos on three occasions (weeks 4, 6, 15). The Bombers have never once played the Eskimos close in Mike O’Shea’s tenure in Winnipeg, losing handily in each match up.

The Bombers play a home-and-home series with British-Columbia in weeks 16 and 17 before their second bye week of the season, eight weeks after their first one in week nine. Once again, the Bombers have been given two solid dates for bye weeks in their schedule.

After the difficult start to the season, the Bombers have a relatively easy schedule. Their longest road trip is three games, with an important bye week in between, and it’s against Toronto in week eight, Montreal in week ten and Saskatchewan in week eleven. The Blue & Gold will then play Saskatchewan, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, BC (2) and a home-and-home with Ottawa to close out the season, hopefully with a playoff spot locked up by then.

Overall, I think the Bombers have a great schedule this year for the team itself. With no short weeks, long road trips or badly scheduled bye weeks, it’s all in the team’s court to have a successful season. If Mike O’Shea’s team can reach their bye week in week nine at or above .500, they have a really good chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Our first time to see the Bombers in action is Wednesday, June 8 when they take on the Montreal Alouettes at Investors Group Field in pre-season action.

Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea says a trip back to Toronto doesn't conjure any feelings of nostalgia.
Trevor Hagan: THE CANADIAN PRESS

Bombers release Zach Anderson

It’s happening.

To the surprise of no one, the Blue Bombers have begun the process of improving their cap space through releasing veteran players deemed expendable. Zach Anderson, the first of many salary cap casualties, was officially released today.

Anderson, 26, played three years with the Bombers and was one of the teams best defensive players in early 2014, earning himself a well-deserved two-year contract extension. However, the Northern Michigan graduate tore his ACL during his breakout season and was never fully healthy in 2015.

The Bombers recently signed 24-year-old Euclid Cummings from Toronto in free agency to take over the 3-tech position from Anderson, which is a great signing, but I would have preferred to see Anderson at least be given a shot to make the team in training camp while fully healthy. Defensive Tackle has been one of the most underachieving positions on the Bombers during Mike O’Shea’s tenure, and it would have been nice to have a solid rotation there with Keith Shologan and Jake Thomas at nose with Cummings and Anderson at the 3-tech.

The odd man out of that Defensive Tackle group is Bryant Turner Jr., who’ll likely be the next veteran given the pink slip. The days of Clarence Denmark, who’d I like to see the team keep, and Greg Peach in the Blue & Gold could be numbered.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers DT Zach Anderson runs off the field during football practice at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Man., on Wed., July 1, 2015. Photo by Jason Halstead/Winnipeg Free Press
Photo by Jason Halstead/Winnipeg Free Press