Blue Bombers’ Positional Roster Grades: Defense and Specialists

The Bombers final cuts have been made as the team prepares for their home-opener on Friday against the Montreal Alouettes. In year-three of the Kyle Walters, Mike O’Shea era, it appears as though Richie Hall’s defense should improve to a top-five unit in the new year, while O’Shea’s specialists could take the league by storm.

Legend:
A or higher = great
B+ or A- = above-average
B = average
C+ or B- = below-average
C or lower:  very poor

DEFENSIVE LINE

Additions: Keith Shologan, Euclid Cummings, Shayon Green, Trent Corney

Starters: Jamaal Westerman (DE), Euclid Cummings (3-T), Keith Shologan (NT), Shayon Green (DE)

Depth: Jake Thomas, Trent Corney, Sam Scott (1-game), Derrell Johnson (reserve)

Practice-roster: Adrian Hubbard, Louie Richardson, Padric Scott

It’s been largely the defensive line that has plagued this defense recently, and this is easily the best unit the Bombers’ have boasted since 2013. Keith Shologan and Euclid Cummings, both added in free agency, are two of the best players at their respective positions, bringing some much needed assistance to the league’s best defensive end, Jamaal Westerman. The club has good depth inside in fourth-year Canadian Jake Thomas, while 9th-overall pick Trent Corney should make an immediate impact as a rotational pass-rusher. Shayon Green brings down the group’s grade, as he was quite underwhelming in preseason action. The Miami product made this team with his athleticism and his motor, but he appears one-dimensional as a pass-rusher and struggles against the run. Look for Corney to really push Green for reps as the seasons wears on if Derrell Johnson doesn’t.

Grade: A-

LINEBACKER

Additions: Shayne Gauthier, Kyle Knox

Starters: Khalil Bass (WIL), Ian Wild (MIKE), Maurice Leggett (SAM)

Depth: Tony Burnett, Sam Hurl, Jesse Briggs, Garrett Waggoner, Teague Sherman

Practice-roster: Shayne Gauthier

Ian Wild will resume his duties as the club’s middle linebacker after the Sam Hurl experiment mostly failed last season, and we know exactly what Wild offers. Meanwhile, the club will be looking for Khalil Bass to take the next steps in his development in year-two, which is his play in pass coverage. Maurice Leggett, who’s likely the league’s top safety, has made the full-time switch to strong-side linebacker, and while he’s a terrific threat as a run defender – he could probably play weak-side linebacker – some of his raw cover skills are not quite up to par. Tony Burnett, who had a tremendous preseason in his sophomore season, could soon move Leggett back to safety, but he’ll have to continue to make a name for himself on special-teams first. The Bombers’ Canadian depth is great, too, as Hurl is a good Canadian backup middle linebacker and an excellent special-teamer, while Garrett Waggonner has a ton of potential that needs to be fulfilled.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Additions: Macho Harris (FA), Kevin Fogg (INT rookie), Julian Posey (INT rookie), Taylor Loffler (CDN rookie), CJ Roberts (INT rookie)

Starters: Johnny Adams (CB), Kevin Fogg (HB), Macho Harris (FS), Bruce Johnson (HB), Chris Randle (CB)

Depth: Julian Posey, Taylor Loffler, Derek Jones, Brendan Morgan

This is easily the most top-heavy unit on the roster, as Johnny Adams, Chris Randle and Maurice Leggett are bona-fide stars, and Bruce Johnson is one of the top raw press half-backs in the league. Randle, one of the league’s premiere defenders, found himself competing for the field corner position after recovering from a torn ACL, as Leggett is set to stay at SAM linebacker, and Adams emerged as arguably the league’s best corner in 2015. Randle, who’d be playing short-side corner on most teams, easily displaced Matt Bucknor and his passport, giving the Bombers an elite cover-man at field corner. But there some large holes in the secondary at safety and at weak-side halfback, as both Kevin Fogg and Julian Posey left much to be desired in preseason action, while it’s hard to believe that Macho Harris is employed – let alone a starter. An unlikely, but smart scenario would be for Tony Burnett to emerge into a role a SAM, moving Leggett back to safety in place of Harris. And while that would be ideal, I’d be content if even Teague Sherman took over at safety in place of the four-year Rider.

Grade: B+

KICKER/PUNTER

Additions: Justin Medlock (FA)

Starter: Justin Medlock (K/P)

Depth: Sergio Castillo (1-game)

After witnessing Lirim Hajrallahu almost single-handedly cost the team wins, the Bombers went out and signed one of the greatest kickers in CFL history, Justin Medlock. The 32-year-old is easily the league’s top kicker, although his punting has been largely below-average throughout his career. Sergio Castillo had himself a great preseason, solidifying a backup plan should Medlock miss time with an injury.

Grade: A

RETURNER

Additions: Quincy McDuffie

Starter: Quincy McDuffie

Depth: Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith, Tony Burnett

One of the fastest players in the league, McDuffie is a somewhat proven returner in the CFL and won this position in Winnipeg quite handily. He’s a fearless, decisive returner with great vision, short-area quickness and deceptive force. McDuffie, who returned a punt for a touchdown against Winnipeg in 2014, will be an electrifying returner in 2016. Tony Burnett will likely return kickoffs along with the Central Florida product.

Grade: A

PHIL HOSSACK: THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)
PHIL HOSSACK: THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)

Stock Market Report: Bombers vs. Alouettes

It’s well-versed that CFL rookies must make an excellent first impression in training camp and in preseason game situations, as two games is not a lot of time to earn a roster spot, let alone displace a veteran.

If the second-half of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 36-13 victory over the Montreal Alouettes is any indication, a large amount of rookies wearing the Blue & Gold must’ve made some strong impressions for Mike O’Shea and his staff.

While it’s impossible to really know for sure without the play-calls, certain players absolutely popped off the page with blue-chip performances, while others inevitably disappointed. Any game is extremely hard to evaluate at first glance, and the weekly installment of the game-review Stock Market Report is my thoughts after replaying the game and working my rewind button to hell on every play.

Here’s the inaugural Stock Market Report of 2016: newcomers edition.

BLUE-CHIP STOCKS

JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Travis Bond: The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Bond could’ve earned himself a starting job with his performance on Wednesday. Bond was easily the Bombers’ top offensive lineman, and he took reps at both offensive tackle and guard. On a second & one play with 1:51 remaining in the first half, Bond essentially ate the nose guard as Carlos Anderson plunged behind him for a 1st down – and that may not have even been his best block of the night. Bond only lost one match-up all night, and in the match-ups he did win, he completely instilled his force on the defender. Bond even showed great comfort passing off defenders and picking up twists, too. Having excelled at both guard and offensive tackle in the preseason game, he should enter the season as the swing man with Jeff Keeping out eight weeks, since the team still seems really high on Jace Daniels at left guard.

Trent Corney: Upon further review, Corney was significantly better as a pass-rusher than both Adrian Hubbard and Shayon Green. (All three were played in the third and fourth quarter, too; Corney faced the same competition for much of the game). While Hubbard was extremely slow off the ball, Corney showcased an absurd burst out of a three-point stance. (That wasn’t necessarily unexpected with his absolutely off-the-charts athleticism). Corney, who recorded two sacks in his first taste of pro ball, used his hands surprisingly well on a couple of rushes, showcasing his expanded repertoire on a series of plays while absolutely bullying sophomore tackle Jacob Ruby on an Alouettes’ drive that started at around the three-minute mark of the second quarter. The Virginia product wasn’t nearly as average against the run as I first thought he was following the game, either; he maintained gap discipline and responsibilities decently well. The Bombers won’t start Corney in week one, but this muscle-head should be the club’s primary rotational pass-rusher from the get-go.

Tim Flanders: Speed, shiftiness, vision    Flanders showed it all in his first game with the Blue & Gold. Averaging 5.3 yards on 15 carries for 80 yards, Flanders did a great job hitting the hole without any hesitation. His vision in general was terrific, and he also excelled as a pass-catcher. The Sam Houston State alum added 32 yards on two grabs, including a 22-yarder on a screen play. I don’t know if Flanders, who had a cup of coffee with the Lions in week 20 last year, could have played any better in his debut. After all, his fumble after an ankle-breaking juke on Mitchell White was overturned.

Thomas Mayo: The 6-1 pass-catcher made the most of the absence of Jace Davis, who was the favorite to win the lone opening in the Bombers’ receiving corps in the first week of camp. Finishing with 2 receptions for 27 yards in the stat column, Mayo also had a great play off a high slant route across the middle versus cover-1 wiped off by a penalty. A couple plays later, with 16 seconds on the clock, Mayo got the Bombers down to around the 3-yard line with another tough grab on the same route as before. Away from the ball, he got better separation than most of Winnipeg’s struggling receiving corps, showing that he should receive an increase in targets in the second preseason game. In that case, giving his sample of tough catches already, Mayo will be a week one starter if he can repeat his game one performance against Ottawa.

Sergio Castillo: He’ll inevitably be released during final cuts, however Castillo’s four-for-five-performance should earn him another gig when CFL teams are looking for kicking help in a month or so. After missing his first kick from 44 yards, knowing he already had no chance of making the roster, Castillo could’ve packed it in right then and there. Instead he went out and made kicks from 35, 44, 39 and 49. Castillo also added two extra points. Good for him.

Quincy McDuffie: A terrible drop on a would-be touchdown catch from McDuffie was the only thing that prohibited the former Ti-cat from locking up a roster spot. Otherwise, the diminutive speedster was great as both a receiver and a returner. His route-running was better than expected, and he made an emphatic statement in the third quarter with a reception on a beautiful corner route, which featured a nice inside stem to open the halfback’s hips. He also, as expected, made plays when receiving the ball in space, breaking off a 17-yard romp after catching a speed-out against a soft zone. McDuffie showed the same short-area burst as on the corner route here, evading the first tackler with a nasty juke-move. The club is still very high on Justin Veltung – as they should be – but it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep McDuffie off the roster.

Andrew Harris: Harris’ highlight reel catch-and-run in the 1st quarter was everything Bomber fans had ever dreamed about when the Winnipeg-native first burst onto the scene in 2011 with the Lions. With how the Bombers intend to use the run-game under Paul Lapolice, I have no doubt Harris will lead the league in yards from scrimmage in 2016.

SOLID INVESTMENTS

Photo via JOHANY JUTRAS http://www.johanyjutras.com

Jamarcus Hardrick: The most enthusiastic offensive lineman I’ve ever seen, Hardrick had himself a fantastic outing. The veteran of 18 career starts dominated at both offensive tackle and guard, and if it was my choice, I’d have Travis Bond starting at left guard with Hardrick as the depth swing-man. (It was announced that Jeff Keeping is out about 8 weeks with a knee injury, and Michael Couture is nowhere near ready to be the sixth man). Hardrick is an absolute mauler in the run-game, while also possessing the needed quickness to block speed-rushers as a book-end. He was a solid pickup in the off-season by GM Kyle Walters.

Brian Bennett & Dominique Davis: The two battling pivots weren’t as great as Winnipeg’s 23 second-half points might indicate, but each showed some positive traits as inexperienced quarterbacks. Both guys were extremely poised in the pocket, mostly executed the play-calls and showed some good escapability. Aside from his beautiful, back-shoulder touchdown toss to Fred Williams, Bennett was quite inaccurate, while Davis didn’t always seem to see the defense quite as fast as needed. The latter still has the upper-hand, though    and likely by a large margin after Wednesday    but one thing’s for certain: both quarterbacks competing for the third-string job are gamers.

Tony Burnett: Likely Winnipeg’s most underrated player, Burnett locked up his roster spot with his performance Wednesday night. Suiting for about half of Winnipeg’s games in 2015 – Burnett battled a couple of injuries in his rookie campaign – Burnett will be the club’s designated import at linebacker once again in year two. The USC product’s excellent change of direction skills, in tandem with his tackling abilities, were put on display in the preseason opener. He reacted quickly to an Alouettes’ screen pass with 2:44 left in the second quarter, making a drive-ending, solo tackle with no other defender near the ball. Burnett played well at both SAM and WIL linebacker in the third quarter, and made another excellent open-field tackle on Duron Carter’s missed field goal return in the 1st half.

Addison Richards: Richards’ play against Montreal showed that he isn’t quite ready to be Rory Kohert’s primary backup, but he certainly showed some signs of potential. In the very few games that Richards was healthy enough to suit up in last year, the game seemed to be going 1,000-mph in the rookie’s head. He seemed much more confident on Wednesday, and although his route-running needs a ton of work, Richards played very fast and with poise. Sure, his first catch – a 12-yard curl – was a poor route, while his second was a short hook with the corner playing way off in deep zone duties, but it was good for the Regina product to get on the stat-sheet after a tumultuous first season.

Carlos Anderson: Ditto to Flanders in every aspect – decisiveness, speed, shiftiness – but the only thing preventing Anderson from being a blue-chipper that night was his pass-blocking. Anderson was burnt badly by a blitzing linebacker in the C-gap around the 11:00 mark of the third quarter, which hurts his stock. Averaging 6.7 yards-per-carry on the ground, he did, however, match Flander’s effectiveness as a runner – although working with the starting offensive line (not Michael Couture, specifically), he might have even been better – and provides experience and big-play ability as a returner. Mike O’Shea, Avon Cobourne and Paul Lapolice are going to have to make a very tough decision when it comes to Andrew Harris’ backup.

STOCK DOWN

Manase Foketi: He received significant playing time, but Foketi was a weaker point on what was a very solid offensive line for all four quarters. Playing mostly offensive tackle, Foketi’s feet seemed to be stuck in the mud on his kick steps. For reference, watch Aaron Lavarias go nearly untouched around the edge (2:10 mark of the 2nd quarter) as the Bombers rolled the pocket to Foketi’s side. With Bond and Hardrick putting on a clinic, Foketi’s days in Winnipeg could be numbered.

Macho Harris: Harris’ missed open-field tackle on a Brandon Rutley screen pass on Montreal’s second drive of the game was an abrupt reminder that he was one of the underlying issues of Saskatchewan’s brutal defense in 2015. With Tony Burnett’s continual development at linebacker, I’m open to having Burnett start at SAM, allowing Maurice Leggett to replace Harris at safety. As a strong-side LB, Burnett is probably no better than Leggett as a cover-man, but it’d be worth it with Leggett, an elite safety, stepping in for Harris on the back-end.

Shayon Green: Frankly, Adrian Hubbard wasn’t all that better, but he did, at least, show some life while setting the edge on a couple run plays, and while recording a sack against All-Star right tackle Jeff Perrett. Green, meanwhile, was largely ineffective, running himself out of the play against the run, and while looking one-dimensional as a pass-rusher. While Green is far more athletic, he lacks the technique that Hubbard possesses.

Kevin Fogg: Fogg entered Wednesday’s game with a lot of hype coming from his excellent 10 days of practice, so anything less than an average-to-solid performance would see his stock drop. Als’ receiver Chandler Jones beat him a couple times on the night for solid gains, although I’m not too sure if Fogg actually had flat responsibilities on Jones’ touchdown reception from Rakeem Cato. Fogg still has a good chance to start in week one at boundary halfback, but with Julian Posey receiving a lot of reps, Donald Celiscar continuing to improve – he was very sound in coverage, and forced a fumble on kickoff – as well as Johnny Patrick returning to the lineup, Fogg needs to be an impactful player on Monday against Ottawa.

Gerrard Shephard & Lester Jean: On a night where the majority of the receiving corps struggled to get separation, Shephard and Jean may have struggled more than any of the receivers at getting open or making plays on the football. Bennett’s pass was slightly behind him, but Shephard had a bad drop across the middle at the 8:17 mark of the fourth quarter, while Jean struggled to beat press, and didn’t generate any leverage with the ball in the air.


OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: OL Travis Bond (6’6″, 230-lbs)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: LB Tony Burnett (6’1″, 205-lbs)

The Bombers are in action next on Monday against the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

Blue Review: Bombers Dust Als in Preseason Opener with Dominant Second Half

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers scored 33 unanswered points on route to a convincing 36-11 victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the 2016 CFL season’s inaugural preseason game.

This game isn’t all that indicative of either team, as the Bombers pulled away in the second half when the majority of the players on the field will be out of work in a few weeks. But regardless, this was a big win for a Winnipeg football club that needs as much momentum from the city behind them as possible heading into the regular season.

Here are my initial thoughts on the Bombers first victory of 2016. I’ll have a more detailed and conclusive piece out tomorrow after I’ve re-watched the game.

1. QB battle heats upDominique Davis and Brian Bennett, two pivots battling to win the third-string quarterback job, both delivered solid, if unspectacular performances. As a result of the Bombers switching between Davis and Bennett each drive, neither performed against a stronger or weaker defensive unit than the other – and frankly, their performances against Montreal’s third defensive unit should be taken with a grain of salt. But they each showed some positive signs, as Davis maintained poise in the pocket and threw into tight windows – something he has shied away from in practice, but shouldn’t given his rocket-like arm. He also showed some touch on a tear-drop corner route to Quincy Mcduffie in the third quarter. Bennett, meanwhile, was slightly slower in his decision-making, but showed off his athleticism on several scrambles before throwing a beautiful, 28-yard back-shoulder TD toss to Fred Williams in the fourth quarter. While both quarterbacks shone at times – neither were necessarily great – I think Davis still has the upper-hand over Bennett.

2. Bombers dominate the trenches: Not enough can be said about the Bombers’ offensive line play in the run game, as both Tim Flanders and Carlos Anderson had huge days on the ground. Travis Bond, in particular, seemed discipline and quick – especially for a 230-pounder – while displacing bodies in the run game. But give credit to Flanders and Anderson, as both hit the hole hard and made tacklers miss in the open field. I don’t believe Pascal Lochard’s passport has his backup duties secure, as the Bombers will have a hard time keeping a backup American running back off of the roster if Anderson and Flanders continue to impress. Which runner, however, will have to be decided on Monday against Ottawa.

3. Receivers struggling to get separation: I was disappointed overall in the play of Winnipeg’s receivers, particularly within the first team. With Drew Willy at quarterback, the Blue receivers got little-to-no seperation from Montreal’s defensive backs, who were mostly in press cover-1 or vanilla man-zone concepts. The Alouettes have a talented secondary, but that shouldn’t overshadow the struggles of Darvin Adams and Ryan Smith. It went far beyond two of Winnipeg’s top pass-catchers, however, as even later in the game, with Bennett and Davis in the game, the balls had to be thrown into very tight coverage. I’m not at all worried about Smith and Adams, but it was still disappointing to not see them come out firing in week one of the preseason.

4. Not all doom & gloom: Although the level of competition that they faced must be taken into account, there are three exceptions in particular to that last thought: Addison Richards, Quincy McDuffie and Thomas Mayo. McDuffie, who was also Winnipeg’s best returner, would have assembled a blue-chip performance had he not dropped a sure touchdown on a 15-yard dig across the middle. He made a few plays downfield, which was a nice surprise, but made his money when given the ball on designed plays in space – as he should. Winnipeg’s second round pick in 2015, Addison Richards must’ve got the monkey off of his back with a couple of catches in the second half. An injury-plagued rookie season saw the game seemingly go 1,000-mph too fast for the Regina product to handle, but it’s slowing down in year two. Richards played really, really fast and made some tough grabs, although it’s clear his route-running needs work before he’s ready to be a key contributor. Regardless, Wednesday night showed that Richards isn’t a player who shrivels when the lights are on.

5. Willy no need to worry: The Bombers pass-attack was no threat when Drew Willy was at quarterback, but that’s nothing to worry about from the standpoint of the franchise’s signal-caller. Sure, his accuracy was off on two deep tosses, and he also forced a near-interception in the direction of Ryan Smith, but Willy received no help from his receivers, with nowhere to throw on most of his drop-backs. Montreal’s first-team defense also looked very good in coverage, while the Bombers’ offense was still quite vanilla being not even two weeks into training camp.

6. Hubbard makes money: Rookie defensive end Adrian Hubbard, along with competitor Shayon Green, received significant playing time against Montreal’s starting offense, and the Alabama star made the most of it. Hubbard made two significant plays in the opening couple drives, setting the edge on a sweep play for Maurice Leggett to make the tackle, and recording a sack on a nice speed-rush on Kevin Glenn’s third drive. That sack, however, was aided by Bruce Johnson’s nice hip-turn to stay in SJ Green’s hip-pocket on a shallow post, taking away Glenn’s read. He was a SEC sack-machine with Alabama, but it was mostly Hubbard’s run defense throughout the night really made him some money in the battle for the opening defensive end spot opposite Jamaal Westerman.

7. Castillo comes through: Sergio Castillo, who has virtually no chance of making this team as long as Justin Medlock is here, booted in four field goals and added two extra point converts. After he is inevitably cut by the Bombers, Castillo now has a good sample of his play assembled that he can show other teams who’ll be needing kickers in the next month or so. Good for him.

8. Randle’s spot is locked in: Chris Randle is one of this team’s top defenders, and there’s no doubt that the club will find a way to start six Americans in the secondary in order for the Utah product to have a spot. It’s quite remarkable how different of a player is Randle, who played boundary corner in Johnny Adams’ absence, when he doesn’t have a receiver running full-blast towards him before the ball is even snapped. Randle seemed comfortable at corner, and with defensive coordinator Richie Hall calling straight man-coverage for the first three plays, he won his match-up against perennial All-Star pass-catcher Duron Carter.

9. Fogg nowhere to be seen: Rookie defensive back Kevin Fogg has had an excellent training camp, but he seemed to struggle in the opening preseason game. A victim of a handful of completions, I haven’t yet seen the Liberty product cover well in zone duties. Whether that’s an issue with his ability to pick up receivers with his peripheral vision while watching the quarterback, or a struggle with zone hip turns – I couldn’t tell you. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounced back in a big way against Ottawa; otherwise it will be Julian Posey starting for the Bombers at weak-side halfback in week one.

10. Blue draft class shows well: The Bombers had arguably the best Canadian draft of any team in 2016, and the youngsters played surprisingly well in their first taste of professional football. Trent Corney’s first game was a roller-coaster – recorded a coverage-sack, a tackle for loss, and a couple of decent pass-rushes, but he also made some mistakes. The athletic freak was washed out on a handful of pass-rushes and ran himself out of the play on a couple of snaps in run defense. It was the Virginia product who allowed the Alouettes to get out of their end-zone in one rush in the fourth quarter, getting sealed with a down-block. Michael Couture, albeit against some weak competition, was the most surprising contributor in this win. Winnipeg’s 10th overall selection, Couture was exceptionally consistent in the third and fourth quarter while at centre – his raw-strength was not at question. Taylor Loffler, meanwhile, showed better range than he has in practice, making an exceptional break on the football on Vernon Adams’ final pass of the game. Frank Renaud made a couple huge tackles on special-teams, while Zach Intzandt, who’s still new to the offensive side of the football, did not have a disastrous performance by any means. Nose guard Rupert Butcher deflected an Adams Jr. pass attempt for an interception by Garrett Waggoner. Although Shayne Gauthier and Alex Vitt were nursing injuries and did not play, it was a very good night for Winnipeg’s 2016 draft picks by the standards of it being their first live action in the CFL.

11. Keeping’s importance: I’m happy to hear that Jeff Keeping’s injury might not be as serious as first thought. He’s the most important depth player on this team aside from Matt Nichols, and the Bombers would have to toy with the ratio to make room for another American starter on the offensive line if one of Mathias Goossen, Sukh Chungh or Pat Neufeld are hurt. Although Michael Couture impressed me today, the SFU product still needs a year of seasoning before he is ready to be the sixth man.

12. Harris hits home: Andrew Harris did exactly what we all wanted him to do in his debut in the Blue & Gold: deliver a highlight-reel catch-and-run on one of his first few touches of the game. Harris’ 39-yard touchdown scamper on a screen pass was called back on an illegal block, but it gave Bomber fans a glimpse of what the former Oak Park Raider brings to this offense.

13. Sherman shows off his versatility: Teague Sherman is the Bombers most valuable depth defensive player, and he did it all on Wednesday night (including, for the first time, handling holding duties on the field goal unit). A proven stud on special-teams, Sherman was all over the field on defense from the strong-side linebacker position.

14. Bombers made the right call with Tajh BoydWe saw on Wednesday night why the Bombers, who had Boyd’s rights for a few weeks in 2015, never offered the former Clemson star a contract. In an almost laughable situation, the Alouettes chose to give multiple series’ to two CIS quarterbacks – one of whom has been Andrew Buckley’s backup at Calgary – instead of seeing what Boyd could do. Seeing as even the best CIS quarterbacks in generations usually can’t crack CFL rosters, Drew Burko and Jimmy Underdahl, as expected, struggled – and struggled mightily. On a side-note, Vernon Adams Jr. likely got a wake-up call in his first CFL game. He wasn’t helped out by any of his offensive mates, but the Oregon star still had a very rough outing.

15. Questions about Leggett island: Maurice Leggett could be the Bombers’ weak-link in man-coverage this year – every secondary has one. Leggett, who’s an elite safety, is a really good player, but it’s clear that he does not match up well against the better receivers in one-on-one coverage. Leggett was beat on a couple Kevin Glenn completions, including his touchdown pass to Nik Lewis on the 245-pounder’s infamous out-route. He’s such an excellent player to have in the box, but I’m still hoping that the Bombers find a suitable rookie to play SAM linebacker, and thus move Leggett back to safety. It’s not likely, however, and while Leggett will get beat in one-on-one coverage against better receivers, he also brings some great abilities to the table while at linebacker – including in pass-defense.

16. Officials win this game: I have absolutely no complaints about the officiating from the contest, and even completely forgot about the new “eye in the sky” replay official until after the game. The penalties were limited and justified, and it really seemed like the defensive backs were granted more freedom in coverage. Last year, defensive backs were penalized for breathing on receivers. This year, not so much.

17. Slick new duds… for one team: Adidas’ new royal blue uniforms were eye-candy for spectators and Bomber fans. But they dropped on the ball on Montreal’s duds, making zero changes to Angry Birds’ uniforms – except one, and it’s terrible. The names on the back of the jersey’s are so small that they’re nearly impossible to read. Not a fan, Adidas.

The Bombers save most of their cuts until after Monday’s contest in Ottawa, when they’re due. That game will also be televised on TSN.

PHIL HOSSACK - Winnipeg Blue Bomber starting quarterback Drew Willy scrambles Wednesday evening at Investor's Field. June 8, 2016
PHIL HOSSACK – Winnipeg Blue Bomber starting quarterback Drew Willy scrambles Wednesday evening at Investor’s Field. June 8, 2016 (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)