Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue Bombers, Friday night: 5 storylines

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1. Hog Heaven

The Bombers offensive line is the league's most maligned and for good reason. This week it will feature two players, Dan Knapp and Jarvis Jones, who were signed only Tuesday and who have never played in the CFL. Throw in rookie guard Tyson Pencer starting only his second pro game and the Bombers have major issues up front. The offensive line is viewed by many as the key component to any football team. How this group is able to pass-protect and deliver in the ground game will be a major storyline to this game.

2. Hail Mary for Hall

The Bombers will start Max Hall at quarterback and he carries a rating of 68.8 into this game. Hall has completed 34 of 54 passes with three interceptions and one touchdown on the season. The continuing saga at quarterback has the entire franchise in limbo. The pressure on Hall to perform is, on the surface, about just this game, but in reality this runs much deeper. If Hall is to have a little success, immediately questions about his fitness to become the long-term answer for this team will be raised. If he struggles, which he mostly has in the opportunities he's had to date, he'll quickly be thrown onto the scrap heap along with so many others that have auditioned before him. Hall is starting because the coaching staff believe he has the ability to make better decisions than his stablemate, Justin Goltz. The knocks against Hall are his arm strength and mobility.

3. Fan-o-meter

The Bombers were very hush-hush all week about the ticket count for tonight, but they had more than 4,000 tickets left late Thursday when they last entertained a discussion on the matter. The club has had solid attendance to date, averaging over 32,000 per game. But with the home opener and the Banjo Bowl behind them and a complete disaster of a team, attendance figures and how they effect the team's bottom line will be a story the rest of the way. The Bombers budget was pinned on attendance figures around 31,000. So if they can stay close to that number the rest of the way they know what they are dealing with. Once it dips below that number, however, they have new and complex issues to solve.

4. Canadian content

Winnipeg has had only one effective Canadian starter all season and that's been Henoc Muamba. Everyone else has been either vanilla, hurt or terrible. With Cauchy Muamba out of the lineup the Bombers will have to move import Jovon Johnson over to safety and that means the club will have to have another Canadian on the field at all times. Jake Thomas will see time at tackle while Teague Sherman and Pierre-Luc Labbe will get work at linebacker. Receiver Cory Watson is again injured and Akeem Foster will replace him on offence. One adage in the CFL states the team with the best Canadians on the field will usually win. Tough to expect that from the Bombers this week.

Johnson will be making his first start at safety since Nov. 5, 2011 and defensive back Marty Markett will start at Johnson's spot at corner. So the secondary may actually be better, but the resulting use of backup Canadians in starting roles at other positions could hurt.

5. Coaching

The Bombers were plainly outcoached last week in their visit to Edmonton. Head coach Tim Burke admitted as much after the loss. How the Bombers counter in terms of game plan may or may not matter. Burke and his assistants can draw up the perfect game plan but if the players they have are unable to execute, it won't matter. Still, it's incumbent upon Burke and his staff to put whatever players they have at their disposal in the best position to succeed, which clearly wasn't the case last week. The Eskimos were waiting for the Bombers blitz and quarterback Mike Reilly picked them apart. Key will be how offensive line coach Pat Delmonaco is able to get a patchwork line to contribute and not be a total loss for the team and how Casey Creehan schemes to defend Reilly.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 20, 2013 C9

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Updated on Friday, September 20, 2013 at 8:53 AM CDT: Adds videos

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