Archive for July, 2012

Injuries add up for Blue Bombers: July 31

- July 31st, 2012

The hits just keep on coming for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who lost a pair of non-import backs to injury during Tuesday’s workout at Canad Inns Stadium.

After losing Anthony Woodson for the season with a shoulder injury that requires surgery, the Blue and Gold saw both Nathan Riva (hamstring) and Jordan Matechuk (hand) leave practice early.

Naturally, Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice wasn’t thrilled by the latest development.

Riva’s injury looks to keep him on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, while X-rays were required for Matechuk before realizing the severity of his injury.

Regardless, LaPolice conceded the Blue Bombers will be giving serious consideration to adding RB Will Ford as a designated import this week.

Some have wondered why this measure wasn’t taken already, as Ford has looked good in practice and has earned a shot as a backup to Chad Simpson.

The only other option available to LaPolice at this time would be to activate Carl Volny, who has yet to participate in game action this season because of knee and hamstring injuries. Volny is doing more each day and is an option, but it says here the Blue Bombers should give Ford a shot regardless.

Speaking of Simpson, he missed another workout for maintenance, a theme that has become quite commonplace.

While Simpson has given the offence a big spark, it’s clear his absences aren’t going over that well with LaPolice, who admitted he’d like to see his RB on the field a bit more other than on game days.

Speaking of injuries, WR Chris Matthews and DB Johnny Sears were full participants on Tuesday, while DB Jeremy McGee was involved for roughly half of the workout. All three figure to play this week.

Same goes for Simpson and DB/returner Demond Washington, who also took a maitnenance day on Tuesday.

Right tackle Andre Douglas spoke to the media about his season-ending surgery, which is slated for Aug. 13 and noted it wasn’t a recurring injury but one that happened in his first practice back from a hip injury that held him out of most of training camp.

The Blue Bombers made a roster move on Tuesday morning, releasing LB Dustin Doe.

Found the move a bit surprising, given how high both LaPolice and defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke were on Doe during min-camp and training camp.

But Doe made four starts and his play was up-and-down (14 tackles, four special teams tackles and one pick), so much so that non-import Henoc Muamba got the start in Week 5 and played well enough for the Blue Bombers to consider Doe to be expendable.

“We didn’t know too much about him last year and when you get a lot of opportunities to play, you have to perform at a high level,” said LaPolice. “He was a little more inconsistent than we would have liked.”

LaPolice pointed out a critical error that Doe made on a play last week against the Edmonton Eskimos that led directly to a blocked punt. Although the ball was eventually recovered by the Blue Bombers, it was a big mistake nonetheless.

Terrell Parker will be third on the Blue Bombers depth chart at WILL LB behind Marcellus Bowman and Muamba and will likely see the majority of his work on special teams.

It seemed like at least one member of the Blue Bombers wasn’t thrilled by Doe’s release, as LB Brandon Stewart wore Doe’s No. 3 jersey instead of his usual No. 8 on the sidelines, presumably in silent protest.

The main story we’re working on is on RT Jordan Taormina, who has held down the job through six weeks and has been fending off a challenge from Shannon Boatman.

Taormina gave an interesting answer when asked what his expectations were going into training camp?

“My expectations were to get some playing time, but I did prepare for a starting job when I came up here. Nothing came as a surprise. I’m ready to step in there, wherever they need me, left, right, guard, centre. It doesn’t matter. I’ll play wherever the coaches need me.”

Both LaPolice and offensive line coach Pat DelMonaco see improvement with Taormina. LaPolice said he likes how physical Taormina is but that it’s important for him to eliminate the mental mistakes and that Shannon Boatman has been getting more reps to bring competition for the spot.

“He’s got to cut down on his assignment errors,” said DelMonaco. “But he’s coming along physically. Jordan plays with a really good attitude and really gets after it when he’s out there, which at times, is also his Achilles’ Heel a little bit, in that he doesn’t let things unforld a little bit or see the whole picture.

“He’s a very coachable guy, that’s why he’s won the job. Jordan has shown he’s progressing every single week. That’s why he’s maintained the job, to keep some continuity with the group.”

The daily notebook includes thoughts of Douglas and some other tidbits.

Be sure to check the paper and look for updates at www.winnipegsun.com throughout the day.

Bombers back to work: July 30 edition (updated)

- July 30th, 2012

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were back on the field Monday morning after being rewarded with three days off by head coach Paul LaPolice.

The mood seemed pretty upbeat, which is natural, considering the Blue Bombers are coming off their first win of the season, a 23-22 nail-biter over the Edmonton Eskimos.

Quarterback Alex Brink was among those to point out there’s still plenty of work to be done, as the Blue Bombers get set for a second of four consecutive home games, on Friday vs the Montreal Alouettes, losers of two consecutive games (a phrase you haven’t heard often for the past decade or so).

“We like that we got a win, but there’s still a lot of things we can improve on,” said Brink. “There’s definitely a bit of a lighter mood in regards to coming out to practice and a more focused intensity on what we have to accomplish this week.”

Brink is coming off his first CFL victory as a starter, but both he and LaPolice recognize he still has work to do to take the next step in his development.

“It’s definitely a confidence builder. You always take your successes and you want to build on top of them,” said Brink. “You learn a lot when you go through those down times, in general. Not just in games, but throughout a season, throughout a career.

“Guys want to look at the quarterback and see a guy that can lead them to victories, so when you’re getting wins, that increases the way they feel about you, definitely. At the same time, they’re stepping up and making great plays, so that builds confidence for themselves and the confidence I have in them.”

“He certainly plays with confidence and believes in his abilities and what he can do — I thought he performed well, thought he managed the game well,” added LaPolice. “There are some things he has to do better, just like everybody else has to do better. Again, this guy has started five games in his career. I was pleased.”

Speaking of quarterbacks, Buck Pierce (foot) was moving around pretty well on Monday and even tried to work himself into some of the passing reps, though he remains out indefinitely.

“We’ll be very (cautious),” said LaPolice. “When he’s ready to go, he’ll be ready to go. We don’t want this to be a re-occurring thing. We’ll do our due diligence in making sure he’s healthy.”

It was a good news, bad news type of day on the injury front (stop us if you’ve heard that one before).

WILL linebacker Marcellus Bowman took first-team reps and looks like he’ll be good to go on Friday night (barring any setbacks for the hamstring injury that kept him out the first five weeks of the 2012 campaign.

Bowman is eager to get the season going and figures to be an upgrade over Dustin Doe and Henoc Muamba, who made his first start at weakside LB on Thursday and fared well in the eyes of LaPolice.

Bowman brings a great deal of experience, is good in coverage and also plays with a lot of energy.

Before the media scrum was over, LaPolice revealed that right tackle Andre Douglas is going in for left ankle surgery on Aug. 13, has been placed on the nine-game injured list and is done for the season.

The Blue Bombers were counting on his experience, but rookie Jordan Taormina has performed better as the season has moved along and my colleague Kirk Penton has been wondering if Douglas was going to just be handed the job when he was healthy enough to return.

It’s a moot point now, but LaPolice said he was happy with the level of talent in house here, including import Shannon Boatman and non-import Paul Swiston, who has also been getting work in at guard in both practices and games.

We’re working on a piece dealing with the return of Bowman and loss of Douglas as our main story.

Notebook will include some thoughts from DE Alex Hall, who discusses his penalty for hitting Steven Jyles late in the third quarter of Thursday’s win, among other things.

DT Brandon Collier (shoulder) was back on the field in full pads for first time since getting hurt in Week 4 and we won’t know his status for a few more days. DE Kenny Mainor (ankle) was also in full pads and might be activated from the nine-game injured list early, but that’s yet to be determined.

Here’s a quick hit at status of other injured Blue Bombers going into Week 6 (remember the Blue Bombers are going into the bye week following Friday’s match-up):

* S Ian Logan (lower-body) out

* LB Brandon Stewart (lower-body) out

* DB Alex Suber (lower-body) out

* RB Chad Simpson (lower-body), expected back on field Tuesday after maintenance day

* DB Johnny Sears (“banged up”), expected back on the field Tuesday after maintenance day

* WR Chris Matthews (undisclosed), expected back on field Tuesday after maintenance day

* DB Jeremy McGee (hamstring), hurt in Thursday’s game, played through pain. LaPolice was hopeful he will play this week

* DE Rodney Fritz (illness) missed Monday’s workout due to illness

* RB Carl Volny (hamstring), knee is feeling better but still feeling with hamstring discomfort, still out indefinitely

Bombers win, the day after

- July 27th, 2012

But you wouldn’t have known that talking to Paul LaPolice on Friday. He was quite sombre with the media despite the fact his team is finally off the schneid.

It’s a good sign LaPolice isn’t overly excited about the win. It’ll keep his young team in check when it goes for two victories in a row next Friday night against the Montreal Alouettes. In addition, there is still plenty for him to worry about. That will be covered in my column tomorrow in the paper and online later tonight.

That’s one thing LaPolice has always been good at since taking over two years ago: consistency in his message to the team. He never gets too high or too low. It doesn’t make for great copy, as he trots out the same stuff day after day whether they’re winning or losing, but it shows that the leader always has his wits about him, regardless of the situation.

Here’s what else came of LaPolice’s meeting with the media a day after the big 23-22 win over the Eskimos …

• They’re hoping to have Marcellus Bowman back in the lineup next Friday against the Alouettes, and that would be a big addition to the lineup. He’s good, and they miss him.

• LaPolice let it slip that quarterback Buck Pierce is going to be out until September. Pierce told the media on July 17 he hoped to miss only four weeks, which meant a healing date of Aug. 14. Pierce is always optimistic when it comes to his injuries, and it looks like he was too optimistic once again.

• Why did the Bombers let Pierce play a football game on Friday the 13th anyway?

• It sounds like the only other player who could return to the lineup next week is right tackle Andre Douglas, but Jordan Taormina hasn’t exactly been a turnstile in his place. Might Douglas have to earn his way back into the lineup?

• The Bombers are off for the WHOLE weekend after their big win. I’m not, though, so stay tuned to the blog and the paper for plenty more Bomber analysis over the next two days.

Blue Bombers defeat Eskimos 23-22

- July 26th, 2012

There you have it folks.

The final home opener at Canad Inns Stadium provided the usual twists and turns and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers found an unlikely way to win their first game of the 2012 CFL season.

How did they do it?

Well, to make a long story short, in a variety of ways.

But they did enough things well to grasp a victory from the hands of defeat.

After the Blue Bombers had pulled ahead after a 27-yard field goal by Justin Palardy with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter, the Eskimos were driving down the field with the clock winding down and got a critical third-down conversion as they tried to rally for a victory.

But moments after eluding a would-be tackler in field-goal range for Grant Shaw, Eskimos QB Steven Jyles was stripped-from-behind by Blue Bombers rookie DT Jake Thomas and the ball ended up in the hands of Jovon Johnson.

As they say, that’s the ball game.

And rather than stare at 0-5 with a date against the Montreal Alouettes pending for next Friday, the Blue Bombers will wake up in the morning with a notch in the win column and some much-needed confidence to boot.

That sound you hear is Bomber Nation breathing a big sigh of relief. You could probably hear the same thing from the offices of head coach Paul LaPolice and GM Joe Mack.

It’s still an uphill battle at 1-4, but it represents an important step in the climb back nonetheless.

Here are the answers from our pre-game questions:

1. How will the Blue Bombers defence hold up?

The Blue Bombers followed up their strong performance in Toronto with another good one, forcing a fumble with the game on the line and generally playing a bend-but-don’t-break style against the Eskimos.

Jyles completed just over half his passes (16-of-30) for 244 yards, had some big plays but turned the ball over when it mattered most.

The Blue Bombers displayed plenty of emotion throughout the contest and got some strong pressure from Alex Hall.

There were some breakdowns in the secondary again, but overall it was another step in the right direction for the Blue Bombers.

2. Alex Brink starts, but will he finish?

Indeed he did. Best effort of his career, from where we sit. After struggling to the tune of 9-for-34 with two picks, Brink bounced back in a big way with 294 yards through the air. He did have two picks, but both came as he was either rushed or hit while in the act of throwing. Most importantly, the picks didn’t bother him one bit.

After completing a 40-yard TD to Chris Matthews on final offensive play of first half, Brink was 7-for-7 during the third quarter and then got the job done in the fourth, earning his first win as a starter.

3. What will Chad Simpson do for an encore?

After an impressive 91 yards and one catch for 31 yards in his Blue Bomber debut, the former NFLer had 14 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown, adding five catches for 49 yards. He didn’t reach 100 yards, but it won’t likely be long before he does. Having Simpson in the backfield gives the Blue Bombers much better balance and that will be required as they attempt to push back toward the .500 mark.

That’s going to do it for tonight.

Kirk Penton handles things this weekend.

Take care.

Blue Bombers game-day preview edition: July 26

- July 26th, 2012

So we’re less just over three hours away from kickoff of what will be the Winnipeg Blue Bombers final home opener at Canad Inns Stadium.

We know you’ve heard that one before, but this time, you can pretty much take it to the bank.

The state of the Blue Bombers 0-4 start has been discussed at length, but here are a few things we’ll be looking for as the Blue and Gold face the Edmonton Eskimos for the second and final time of the 2012 season.

1) How will the Blue Bombers defence hold up?

After a pretty solid outing against the Toronto Argonauts last week, the Blue Bombers should have a little extra bounce in their step: a) because they’re playing at home for the first time and b) there should be some additional emotion in the year as Thursday represents the one-year anniversary of coach Richard Harris’ death. He meant a great deal to the organization and there are many players who are sure to be motivated to perform well.

Finding a way to contain Esks running back Hugh Charles is near the top of the priority list. Although he didn’t exactly run wild against the Blue Bombers a few weeks ago, he torched them on a couple of short passes, one of which turned into a 76-yard touchdown reception. Charles is coming off a 100-plus yard rushing game and playing with confidence and you can bet QB Steven Jyles will make him a focal point of the game plan.

Another Eskimo to watch this evening is SB Fred Stamps, who has been kept in check this season but could be due to break out.

2) Brink starts, but will he finish?

This is something that has nothing to do with injury, though Brink was knocked from the game the last time these two met (on a high hit from Eskimos MLB J.C. Sherritt. Brink has a full week of practice under his belt and at least starts the game with the entire receiving corps at his disposal (the first time the Blue Bombers have had that luxury this season). That should lead to better completion numbers than what he put up (9-for-34 with 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 rushing TD) against the Argos. Fans and media members alike were calling for Joey Elliott last week and if Brink struggles again, you wonder how long it will take for that to happen again (rhetorical question). Brink told the media he wasn’t worried about being on a short leash. Elliott said he expected  Brink to start again this week and said he was there to support him. We think Brink will play better, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Elliott get some snaps if things aren’t going well, especially since he had a strong fourth quarter against the Green and Gold in mop-up duty at Commonwealth Stadium. After picking up only one catch last week, Chris Matthews should be more involved. Also, look for Kito Poblah to finally make a big impact within the offence.

3) What will Chad Simpson do for an encore?

His debut last week turned plenty of heads, but the former NFLer needs to be even better this week if the Blue Bombers want to find the win column. Simpson rushed for 91 yards and would have eclipsed 100 yards were it not for an offside penalty on Jade Etienne that nullified a 30-yard run. It’s become apparent the Blue Bombers need to have some semblance of balance on offence and getting Simpson involved early is the best way to ensure that happens. The Eskimos front seven is physical, so the onus is on the offensive line to open up some holes for the speedy Simpson. If he rushes for a hundred yards or more, the Blue Bombers will certainly give themselves a chance.

There are plenty of other storlyines, but that’s what we’ll be watching closely, at least initially.

Four first half turnovers sunk the Blue Bombers in a 42-10 loss to the Eskimos on Friday the 13th, they’ll need to protect the football to have a chance in this one.

I think the Blue Bombers will play their best game of the season, but am not sure it will be enough.

The Eskimos defence is too strong right now — look for Winnipegger Don Oramasionwu to have another strong effort in his homecoming game against his former team — and that’s what will help put them over the top in a game that stays tight until the fourth quarter.

Eskimos 27 Blue Bombers 17

What’s your call?

Either Kirk Penton or I will check back in with some post-game thoughts here.

Enjoy the tilt.