Archive for June 15th, 2012

Bombers open pre-season with win

- June 15th, 2012

MONTREAL — The most important thing to remember about CFL pre-season games is that they’re more about evaluation than end results.

The harsh reality is that when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes meet again in Week 2 of the CFL season, the lineups will look totally different.

Some of the players who played a starring role on Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium will be relegated to backup duty and others might even be sent packing once the final cuts are announced.

With that in mind, here a few takeaways from the Blue Bombers (who dressed a young lineup and didn’t use many of the few veteran starters that did make the trip in the second half)  22-10 victory over the Alouettes (whose primary offensive weapons were on the sidelines in street clothes):

1) Defensive back Demond Washington can play. The CFL rookie out of Auburn made his presence felt on the Als third offensive play from scrimmage, drilling an exposed Brandon London to the turf after the receiver jumped to try and haul in a high pass from Adrian McPherson. London stayed down for a few minutes, but eventually made it to his feet and walked to the sidelines on his own accord. Reports were that London had sustained a concussion. Washington was a beast throughout the game, finishing with five tackles and adding a fourth-quarter interception to give the Blue Bombers three in the contest (Jonathan Hefney and Johnny Sears had the others). Washington also did a nice job in the return game, but deflected praise afterward. “I’m happy more than just for me, we got a victory and just came out here and had fun,” he said. “That was the biggest thing of all.”

Hitting is part of the game, but after seeing London go down, Washington was concerned for his opponent.

“The first thing I did was go down on my knees and prayed, hoping he was all right with the guy,” said Washington. “His health is more important than getting all excited. It was a fair hit, but hopefully the guy is all right.”

Word from the Alouettes locker room was that London sustained a concussion, which is probably the best-case scenario given what took place and how awkwardly London fell to the ground.

Washington was also playing with a heavy heart as the two former Auburn football players who were shot and killed last Saturday, Eddie Christian and Ladarious Phillips, were friends of his.

“It was on my mind all week, today it was on my mind and I dedicate this win to those guys,” he said.

It says here that Washington is in the driver seat to be the first DB off the bench for the Blue and Gold and could push for a starting role before all is said and done. He brings a lot to the table.

2) The kicking battle is getting more interesting by the day. All three men received praise after the game, but Eric Wilbur had a big impact on the guy for a guy that split duties with both punter Mike Renaud and kicker Justin Palardy, who was 3-for-3 and hit from 27, 40 and 14 yards. Renaud had a pretty good day (41.4 yard punting average and mishit only one of his five, that’s what brought his average down), but Wilbur was outstanding, nailing field goals of 47 and 38 yards, averaging 50.8 yards (including a 57-yarder) on his five punts and using his strong leg on kickoffs. He even executed a fake on third down, hitting Anthony Woodson for what turned into a 23-yard gain and kept a drive alive. Woodson did most of the work, making the defender miss, otherwise the Blue Bombers would have turned it over on downs but Wilbur delivered the ball to Woodson in stride. When you’re an import trying to win a job, versatility is important. Wilbur didn’t remember making a tackle, but he was credited with one on special teams to complete his all-around effort.

3) The offence is going to be under the microscope a lot and the initial reaction was positive, to a degree, since the Blue Bombers did move the ball but had far too many drops and didn’t protect the ball real well. Officially, they only had one turnover (when Alex Brink was sacked on a forced fumble), but there were far too many drops and a couple fumbles were overturned (one by a penalty and another on a smart challenge by Paul LaPolice that turned into an incompletion instead of a fumble). Joey Elliott looked pretty good for a guy who hadn’t been under centre in a game in nearly a year and Brink had a better showing than his numbers (7-for-15 for 74 yards) would suggest as many of the drops came while he was in the game. The Blue Bombers finished with 321 yards of total offence (219 passing and 121 rushing). The kickers took care of all the scoring, other than an impressive 38-yard TD run by Bloi-Dei Dorzon, who showed off his strong speed and vision.

Overall, the Bombers defence looked pretty solid. They had two sacks (from DTs Ryan Lucas and Andre Carrol) and also got strong games from LBs Dustin Doe (five tackles) and Terrell Parker (five tackles).

On the injury front, there wasn’t an official update but Paul Hubbard, who had seen plenty of time with the first-team offence, didn’t have a good outing. Unofficially, he had two drops to go along with no catches (that’s official) and was seen with his arm in a sling after the game (saw it with my own eyes), meaning Hubbard could be sidelined for a while. We’ll provide an update when one is given.

The Blue Bombers must cut down their roster to 65 players by midnight on Saturday and will play their second and final pre-season game on Wednesday at Canad Inns against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

That’s it for now. Just a reminder to join us on Friday for our weekly live blog, which moves to a special time of 11 a.m. CT to accommodate my travel schedule back from Montreal.

Get your questions ready and Sun columnist Paul Friesen and I will do our best to answer them.