Bombers 23, Lions 6

- July 26th, 2014

VANCOUVER — The Bombers have even more believers this morning after last night’s convincing win over the B.C. Lions on their own turf.

They weren’t supposed to beat the high-flying Leos, but that’s exactly what they did thanks to Gary Etcheverry’s defensive game plan and Lirim Hajrullahu’s leg. Etcheverry, the veteran defensive co-ordinator, took Lions offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones to school, while Hajrullahu, the rookie Bombers kicker, was 5-for-5 in his fifth pro game.

Add it all up, and the Bombers are 4-1 for the fourth time since 1990. They made it to the Grey Cup in two of those three previous instances.

A few more thoughts on the game …

• The Lions actually finished with more yards of total offence than the Bombers, but that doesn’t mean much considering they scored only six points. They moved the ball, but they were starting so deep in their own territory because of Hajrullahu’s kickoffs and punts that they weren’t getting into scoring position.

• The Bombers got six sacks from six players, including safety Moe Leggett, who also had an interception.

• Winnipeg defensive tackle Bryant Turner said the defensive plan was to get “vertical” on Kevin Glenn, which basically means blitzing the living snot out of him and not letting him make his quick-release passes. Mission accomplished.

• Lowell Ullrich of the Vancouver Province reported Glenn was walking with a pretty good limp after the game.

• The last time the Bombers allowed so few points on the road was when they beat Hamilton 34-4 at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Sept. 15, 2007.

• When Glenn threw his first of two interceptions on the night, someone in a Bombers jersey who was sitting in front of the press box yelled, “That’s the Kevin Glenn I know!” Too funny.

• The most jarring statistic of the night wasn’t that Bombers running back Nic Grigsby had 15 carries for 19 yards. It’s that his longest run of the night was 17 yards. He lost yardage on six rushes and got back to the line of scrimmage on another. That’s on the offensive line, which still needs to get better when it comes to run blocking. Head coach Mike O’Shea wasn’t too concerned afterwards: “Yeah sure, we want to run the ball better, but we came to B.C. and won. That’s a tough place to win.”

• The pass protection improved after last week’s troubles against Edmonton, but Drew Willy could still use a little more time back there.

• Nick Moore did exactly what he wanted to do in his return to B.C. Place. He got the win, and he led all pass catchers with seven grabs for 99 yards. But again: It’s not like the Lions got rid of him. They wanted him back — just not at the price the Bombers were willing to pay him.

• Could it be that the Lions are the worst team in the West Division? Actually, the Riders have to prove they’re better than B.C. before we go there.

• Hajrullahu pretty much split the uprights on all five of his field goals, including his 51- and 49-yard bombs. The kid is cool as a cucumber.

• Former St. Vital Mustangs receiver Brett Carter got his first CFL start and made his first career catch in place of the injured Julian Feoli-Gudino. He was beaming afterwards and happy that it all happened in a win. Had they lost, he would’ve had to downplay his personal accomplishment.

• The pre-season predictions were that Etcheverry’s defence would work well in the early going, before other teams figured it out. I wonder if they meant it would still be doing so well five weeks in?

Eskimos 26, Bombers 3

- July 18th, 2014

A few thoughts after Edmonton hammered Winnipeg in the battle of the unbeatens:

• I re-watched every Winnipeg offensive play when I got home, and the offensive line didn’t play as bad as it originally appeared. Here are a few notes:
- On a lot of the plays quarterback Drew Willy clearly didn’t have anywhere to throw, as he dumped it off to running back Nic Grigsby six times.
- Three of Edmonton’s five sacks occurred late in the fourth quarter after the game had been decided.
- On the five sacks, the players responsible were: fullback Carl Fitzgerald, Cordaro Howard, Glenn January, Dan Knapp and Paris Cotton.
- Right guard Paddy Neufeld got destroyed by Almondo Sewell in the first half, leading to an incomplete pass.
- Knapp had the worst night of any of the O-linemen, which is not a good sign considering he’s an import. Your worst O-lineman should never be an import.
- There was one play in the second half where pretty much every member of the O-line got beat.
- As for run blocking, Grigsby managed just 50 yards on 11 carries, so the Bomber hogs could have been better in that department.

• The last time the Bombers scored so few points at home was during the Jeff Reinebold days. Yes, it was that bad. The Bombers lost 20-2 to the Eskimos on Oct. 12, 1997.

• Willy is known for his quiet and cool demeanour, but he should have hurried up at the end of the first half. He was going way too slow considering they were down 13-3. Too much time went off the clock before the ball was snapped.

• It was interesting to see that Derek Jones replaced Matt Bucknor at strong-side corner instead of Donovan Alexander.

• Mike Reilly’s legs make him such a dangerous quarterback. Willy can move, but not like Reilly.

• Craig Dickenson’s fake punt call early in the fourth quarter was the turning point of the game for me. After that, the Bombers appeared to be beaten. That’s when John White started running all over the Blue and Gold, and that drive led to the touchdown that gave Edmonton a commanding 20-3 advantage.

• Paris Cotton had a heck of a time trying to catch kickoffs in practice two weeks ago, so he spent 20 minutes after the last practice of the week catching as many as he could. He should have kept doing it, because he bobbled two kickoffs last night.

• The Eskimos have two wins at Investors Group Field. The Bombers have three.

• The Eskimos had 192 rushing yards and 192 passing yards. That’s what you would call a balanced attack.

• Winnipeg’s tackling was dismal, and it was dismal before they spent more than 38 minutes on the field. Chris Randle’s attempt on Calvin McCarty in the second quarter was especially weak. Ejiro Kuale had a couple cracks at bringing down Reilly, but he couldn’t do it. The topper was when Reilly went down head first after a long run and nobody touched him, allowing him to get up and run for another 10 yards. Teague Sherman got his first career sack, but there were a couple times he should have had Reilly wrapped up but failed to do so.

• Demond Washington had another game to forget. He got hurt twice, his roughing the passer penalty was awful even though it didn’t lead to an Eskimos touchdown, and he bumped into Paris Cotton when the latter was trying to haul in a kickoff. His unnecessary roughness penalty against Fred Stamps probably wasn’t a penalty.

• Stamps must hate coming to Winnipeg. He had to have testicular surgery after a game in Winnipeg a few years ago, and last night he left the field on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on. The weird part is he went back in the game between the hit and being carted off on a stretcher.

• Winnipeg’s red zone defence was tremendous. So at least there was that.

• The Bombers lost the turnover battle for the third straight game, but it was the first time they lost. They have to knock that off pretty soon.

• If I’m Mike Renaud, I’m getting healthy as soon as humanly possible so Lirim Hajrullahu doesn’t get more chances to show the brass that he can do a great job with the punting.

• Bottom line is they’re still 3-1. If you had asked the Bombers back in February what they would’ve taken after four games, 3-1 probably would’ve been their answer.

CFLPA press release

- June 3rd, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

(STONEY CREEK, Ont.) — In an attempt to resolve the differences between the C.F.L.P.A. and the P.R.C. and C.F.L., on June 2nd, 2014 we contacted the Mediator and advised him that the C.F.L.P.A. Negotiating Committee would be prepared to recommend an agreement on terms more favourable than our last position.The terms that we communicated were as follows:

Term
4 years;

Minimum Club Player’s Salary
2014 $4.8M;
2015$5.0M;
2016$5.2M;
2017$5.4M.

Salary Cap
2014$5.2M;
2015$5.6M;
2016$5.8M;
2017$6.0M.

Minimum Compensation for Players
2014$50,000;
2015$51,000;
2016$52,000;
2017$53,000.

Revenue Protection Clause
Increase the gross revenue that triggers re-negotiation of the salary cap from $12 million to $18 million.

Compensation for Veterans for Increase in Salary Expenditure Cap
Veterans would be paid an average of $8,500.00 per Veteran Player, which would be redistributed based upon number of years of veteran status.Rookies would be paid the already proposed $1,500.00.

In addition to the above, we communicated that there were other important issues that had to be
resolved. Those key issues identified were the Option clause, practice times and contact during practices, pension plan (we revised our proposal to $4,000.00 per Player and $4,000.00 per Club), salary protection and medical treatment when players are injured late in the season, and maintaining the provision in the Collective Agreement that requires all Contract Advisors/Agents to be registered with the C.F.L.P.A. We also indicated that we would be prepared to recommend that we agree that the marketing fee in the sum of $450,000.00 remain the same.

We communicated this to the Mediator and requested that he contact Legal Counsel for the P.R.C. to
determine if there was a willingness to sit down and try to resolve the terms of the Collective Agreement inclusive of these terms.

On June 2nd, 2014, a few hours later, the Mediator contacted our Legal counsel and advised that the Player Relations Committee had convened to discuss this proposal and they are not prepared to move in any respect from their last offer. They maintain that is their best offer and it will not improve. They indicated that they see no point in meeting unless we are prepared to accept their offer.

We want to let it be known that the C.F.L.P.A. has moved over $1M off of our original proposed salary cap in order to facilitate negotiations and to work towards a resolution. We have also agreed with many of the P.R.C.’s proposed changes to the Collective Agreement. Once again the P.R.C. has flat out rejected any proposal we have put forth and are in no way interested in negotiating. Their mandate appears to be that of not creating a partnership with the players, but dictating the terms of what they deem to be an acceptable agreement.

The Executive and Player Representatives of the C.F.L.P.A. are united and are in no way prepared to
recommend the last proposal of the P.R.C. to our members.

Bombers overnight report, June 3

- June 3rd, 2014

Two days are in the books at Bomber camp, so it’s time to start cutting players. Just kidding. Sort of.

Four practices are not enough for the players to prove to the coaches that they can play in the league, but you can bet the coaches can already envision what the roster will look like on June 26 when they open against the Toronto Argonauts at IGF — as long as the players aren’t on strike, of course.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

• Drew Willy is establishing himself as the best quarterback in camp, although it’s not like he’s been a dominant performer. Max Hall has looked pretty comfortable, but he definitely has the weakest arm of the five pivots in camp. And that includes Bisons quarterback Jordan Yantz. We’ll see how Willy performs on Monday night against the Argos before we make any grand assessments.

• One of the first people I ever interviewed at the Winnipeg Sun was a fresh-faced high school kid named Donovan Alexander. I was talking to him again on Monday, but this time he was a seven-year CFL vet. Time flies when you’re watching a lot of football.

• Mario Arrutia or Aaron Kelly? Both are having excellent camps from what I’ve seen, and it looks like whichever one of them gets the fifth starting spot in the receiving corps won’t disappoint. Kelly isn’t the fastest pass catcher on the planet, but he has the hands. Urrutia looks a little thicker than Kelly, and he, too, hasn’t dropped many passes.

• Kickers Lirim Hajrullahu (I know how to spell it now without looking it up!) and Brett Maher have both shown off strong and accurate legs since rookie camp started. It’s no secret that Maher has to be waaaay better than Hajrullahu and Mike Renaud to win all three jobs, but he appears to have the physical tools. Soon we’ll find out how he performs under pressure in a game.

• This joke will never get old for me, so I apologize in advance for trotting it out again: What was your favourite memory of the Kevin Smith era?

• Why does it seem like almost every NFL name player who comes up to the CFL gets hurt in the first few days of camp and is sent packing. I wonder how much of it is actually injury and how much of it is attitude. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea hinted Monday that Smith’s attitude was not very good. Throw in the hamstring injury Smith suffered on Sunday, and there was no point in keeping him around.

• In case you missed it last night, the Bombers re-signed Brett Carter and released injured receiver Jordan Brescacin (hamstring).

• Receiver Cory Watson watched Monday’s practice due to a minor hamstring pull. Not a good way to start the year for the injury-prone Canadian. The Bombers need him to be healthy first, and then they’ll want him to put up some big numbers.

• I chatted Monday with Maurice Leggett, who is getting plenty of safety reps. In fact, I haven’t seen too many other hopefuls lining up at the position Cauchy Muamba couldn’t handle last year. Johnny Sears is on the depth chart at safety, but he’s been primarily playing weak-side halfback through the first two days.

• It’s official: Defensive line coach Mike Scheper is nuts. He sprints towards the line of scrimmage and runs along with the play nearly every time in practice. It looks like it’s all in an effort to get his players to hustle to the ball.

• Sadly, we’ll never be able to ask Mike Scheper why he does what he does during practice, as O’Shea has banned his assistants from doing interviews. The only conclusion I can draw from that is he doesn’t trust his coaching staff very much.

Bombers depth chart

- May 28th, 2014

QB — Drew Willy, Max Hall, Brian Brohm, Robert Marve
RB — Will Ford, Nic Grigsby, Paris Cotton, Carl Volny, Kevin Smith, Errol Brooks
FB — Michel-Pierre Pontbriand, Carl Fitzgerald
WR — Mario Urrutia, Jason Barnes, Braylon Bell
SB — Nick Moore, Jaymar Johnson, C.J. Tarver
SB — Cory Watson, Julian Feoli-Gudino
SB — Clarence Denmark, Aaron Kelly, Donavon Kemp, Aaron Woods
WR — Rory Kohlert, Jordan Brescacin, Taylor Renaud
LT — Glenn January, Jarvis Jones, Paul Swiston
LG — Chris Greaves, Tyson Pencer, Jesse Peterson
C — Steve Morley, Quentin Saulsberry, Matthias Goossen
RG — Randy Richards, Chris Kowalczuk, Quinn Everett
RT — Pat Neufeld, Dan Knapp, Dale Stevenson

DE — Jason Vega, Greg Peach, Willie Moseley
DT — Ryan Lucas, Louie Richardson, Kashawn Fraser
DT — Bryant Turner, Jake Thomas, Zach Anderson
DE — Kenny Tate, Stafford Gatling, Louis Nzegwu
WLB — Desia Dunn, Kamaal McIlwain
MLB — Ejiro Kuale, Ian Wild, Graig Newman, Jesse Briggs, Aram Eisho
SAM — Korey Banks, Maurice Leggett, Stephon Morris
CB — Chris Randle, Marty Markett, Daivon Dumas
HB — Demond Washington, Brandon Hogan
S — Johnny Sears, Dan West, Matt Pierce, Teague Sherman
HB — Alex Suber, Don Unamba, Bruce Johnson
CB — Donovan Alexander, Matt Bucknor, Kris Robertson, Derek Jones

K/P — Lirim Hajrullahu, Mike Renaud, Brett Maher
LS — Sean Blake