Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Chris Streveler is enjoying one of the more impressive debuts that the Canadian Football League has seen in quite some time from a pivot fresh out of college.
In two games, the 23-year-old has completed 37 of 56 passing attempts for 424 yards and 6 TDs, while rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He came within 3 points of defeating the Edmonton Eskimos in his first career start, and then led the offence to nine scoring drives in a 56-10 win over the Montreal Alouettes in week two.
Based on his college production and success, his combine testing numbers, and what he’s shown thus far with the Blue Bombers, Streveler is clearly an extremely gifted quarterback — and one with a very high ceiling, too. We cannot, however, ignore the fact that he’s operating in a dream scenario for a rookie quarterback, with an offensive coordinator that does an excellent job catering his offence to the strengths of its skill-players (not to mention one of the league’s best rushing offences, as well as a receiving corps that does not lack play-makers).
In week one, Coach Paul LaPolice dialled up a very rookie-friendly game-plan for Streveler, which featured plenty of screens and quick RPOs. The University of South Dakota product executed the game-plan formidably, no doubt, although he really only completed four or five passes downfield, including touchdown strikes to Weston Dressler (16 yards) and Darvin Adams (23 yards). His touchdown throw to former college roommate Drew Wolitarsky, for example, is excluded from that number as it was the result of a fake-bubble screen to Dressler, causing Edmonton field-corner Jordan Hoover to come downhill, leaving Wolitarsky open in the end-zone. Two plays earlier, the Bombers gave Hoover and the Eskimos defence the same look out of the same formation, except they actually threw the bubble screen to Dressler, which went for 14 yards. The Eskimos’ secondary did not want to give up another chunk of yards on a bubble screen, causing them to bite on Streveler’s pump-fake two plays later. These are the kind of simple but effective ways that LaPolice has eased Streveler into professional football.
In his second start, LaPolice opened the flood-gates for Streveler on the ground. The Bombers schemed up a plethora of designed quarterback runs, which bodes well for the signal-caller that rushed for 1,543 yards in two seasons at USD and clocked a 4.45s 40-yard dash at his pro-day.
The returns were quite positive for Streveler, Lapolice, and the Bombers’ offence, as the Illinois-native rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown en route to being named a Shaw CFL Top Performer of the Week.
The counter-trey has always been a big part of Lapolice’s offence during his current tenure in the Manitoba capital. Streveler’s size and athleticism, however, allow them to run counter-trey with the quarterback.
Here the Bombers run QB counter-trey off of jet-sweep action from Weston Dressler. Teams will often leave the play-side DE unblocked — making it an option play – but the Bombers have him shield-blocked by F-SB Nic Demski. Alouettes middle linebacker Henoc Muamba flies to the left in pursuit of Dressler’s ghost motion, giving Streveler a nice running lane and 8 yards on 1st-down. With a physical, big-bodied runner such as Streveler, I’d expect Coach LaPo to continue to run many variations of QB Power in the near future.
The Bombers’ offence also had success on their QB Draws.
The above play is one of the more creative ways that I’ve seen the QB Draw run. The Bombers’ half-roll protection is a big part of their offence, but Coach LaPolice has never had the personnel to run this play out of that package. Streveler sets up to pass behind the tackle, and then pulls the ball down and follows his lead blocker, running back Andrew Harris, back up the middle for a sizeable gain on 2nd-&-9.
And then there’s the classic no-huddle, empty-backfield QB Draw that can be known as the “Labour Day Special” (See Joseph, Kerry , and Willy, Drew ). The Bombers went no-huddle and LaPolice dialled it up for Streveler on 2nd-&-7. The first-year pivot showed impressive elusiveness and moved the chains.
A less drastic addition to the offence was the inside-zone read-option, which is run by every offence in the league with athletic quarterbacks (i.e. Edmonton, B.C., Hamilton., Saskatchewan). The other teams, including the Bombers, would run the zone-read as an RPO (run-pass option). Rather than running with the ball if the defensive end crashes down to stop the running back, the QB would pull it, boot outside the pocket, and have a passing concept downfield to throw to. With Streveler, the Bombers can do both.
Here they are running their inside-zone-read as an RPO:
And here they are running it more traditionally, without a passing concept:
Most inside-split-zone runs are not option plays. The split/wham-man (above is #82 Drew Wolitarsky) blocks the back-side defensive end and the ball is given to the running back every time. But it seems as though the Bombers are coaching their slot-backs to bypass the defensive end if he crashes down to stop the running back, and instead block the next most dangerous man, essentially giving Streveler a lead-blocker if he keeps the ball. This play, which the Bombers ran a variation of at least 3 times against Montreal, will likely be a staple play for the offence as long as Streveler is the man behind centre.
The great test still awaits for Coach LaPolice and his young, promising quarterback. The Bombers’ week three opponent, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, now have two regular-season games worth of film on Streveler, and should have a good grasp on his tendencies.
It will be up to LaPolice to give Ticats’ defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville new looks he hasn’t seen before, while ensuring that the man operating the offence, 23-year-old rookie quarterback Chris Streveler, is comfortable executing.