Tim Burke says the biggest problem with Swaggerville is that it has lost its swagger.
The Bombers defensive co-ordinator invoked on Monday the most overworked phrase in the CFL during the 2011 season as he tried to explain what went so terribly wrong for his defence in surrendering 551 yards to the Montreal Alouettes in a 41-30 loss at Stade Molson Friday night.
"I don't think we played very good. And I don't think we are playing with as much passion and enthusiasm and sense of urgency that we did last year at this time. And that's been addressed and we'll see if it changes," said Burke.
"You tell them the truth. We're not playing as well as we did last year. We don't see the passion and the swagger and the things it's going to take for us to be a great defence. We've got good enough players to be a great defence, but right now we're last in the league in almost every category."
Indeed, a Bombers defence that spent almost all of 2011 as the leader or near the top in just about every important statistical category, suddenly finds itself a cellar-dweller in many of those same categories after just two games. Consider:
The Bombers defence is dead last in the CFL in yards passing by their opponents (678) and completion percentage by the opposing quarterback (75.4) and they are ahead of just Hamilton in opponents' net yards of offence (880), opponents' average net rushing yards (115.5) and total points given up (74).
So it's little surprise that Winnipeg, just like Hamilton, is 0-2.
Now, the good news is the Bombers defence hasn't been completely without merit. The unit formerly known as Swaggerville held B.C. QB Travis Lulay and his high-octane crew to just 16 points through the first three quarters of their Week 1 contest.
But then along came the Alouettes last Friday and their running back Brandon Whitaker, who erupted for 235 all-purpose yards and three TDs.
While much has been made about the glaring inability of the Bombers linebackers to cover Whitaker on Friday, Burke says the problem was much deeper.
"We were supposed to have some switch-offs in coverages that didn't occur so he was wide open," said Burke.
Still, Burke wasn't giving the play of his linebackers -- principally Dustin Doe at weak-side, Canadians Henoc Muamba and Pierre-Luc Labbe in the middle and Brandon Stewart at SAM -- a pass, either.
"I didn't think it was very good. They were very poor in coverage," said Burke.
Labbe didn't disagree. "I think it was a tough game for a lot of people and yeah it was very tough for us. We got picked on a lot and Whitaker, with (137) yards receiving, that's way too much."
And there were other problems, too. "Some misalignments," explained Burke, "by some people who were covering (Whitaker) that gave him the advantage. And then he out-athleted us a couple times. He's a great back, he had a great day. And we didn't have a great day."
The good news is the Bombers defence gets some confidence building that should come with the opportunity this Friday to play an Edmonton Eskimos offence that mustered just one point against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday, looked to be in complete disarray and has a short week to prepare for the Bombers.
The bad news is the Bombers defence is in a bit of disarray right now, too. Both starting DB Alex Suber and Stewart are definitely out of the lineup for Friday.
Both players were injured Friday night -- Suber in the second quarter and Stewart in the fourth quarter -- and their absences triggered a series of changes at Bombers practice Monday morning.
Stewart was replaced at strong-side linebacker by DB Jonathan Hefney, while Suber was replaced by Darrell Pasco. Hefney is being replaced at halfback by Johnny Sears, who is in turn being replaced at cornerback by Deon Beasley, who's back from injury.