Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A few good men

Not many Blue roster spots up for grabs

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Forty-six on the active roster and seven on the practice squad. Those numbers have been drilled into the heads of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- both the veterans and rookie hopefuls -- by coaches this month, repetition designed to help motivate and remind players of what this little training camp exercise is all about.

Forty-six and seven: The number of jobs up for grabs.

While most of the roster spots appear to be spoken for, players have less than a week of camp -- plus one remaining pre-season contest -- to put in their application for employment. The Bombers are required to cut the roster down to 65 players today (only a handful of moves are expected), with the final cuts coming next weekend.

Thanks to the morning rain, Winnipeg took another day off from the field Saturday. The club is scheduled to be back at work this morning (11 a.m.), and will get in two more full workouts before the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit Canad Inns Stadium Wednesday evening (7 p.m.). After that, the tough decisions arrive.

All told, that's three more chances for players to solidify their positions or give the coaching staff something more to think about. With this soft spot in the camp schedule, here's a look at the different positions around the gridiron and how things are shaping up:

 

OFFENCE

Quarterbacks

Buck Pierce, Alex Brink, Joey Elliott, Justin Goltz

First take: Pierce is the starter until further notice. The battle, as it's been since 2010, is between Brink and Elliott for the No. 2 position. The serviceable Goltz remains on the outside.

Moving up the chart: Elliott. Missing nearly all of 2011 with an ACL injury, the Purdue pivot answered questions about his knee and turned in a nice effort in against Montreal (9-of-14 for 111 yards). He couldn't ask for a better return.

Needs a good week: Brink has looked tentative at times this camp, only to overcompensate for this by rushing a throw the next series. It's safe to say more was expected, given the playing time he saw last season.

Running backs

Chris Garrett, Chad Simpson, Bloi-Dei Dorzon, Anthony Woodson, Carl Volny

First take: Thanks to his strong finish in 2011, Garrett remains the first option. Simpson and Dorzon bring added value as kick returners. Woodson continues to prove he's a solid non-import reserve. Volny is still getting back from an ACL injury.

Moving up the chart: Dorzon. He's flown under the radar in camp, but those days of stealth are over. He looked great in Montreal (four carries for 54 yards and a TD). The coaches love his powerful stride.

Needs a good week: Simpson, which is strange to say. His tidy effort against the Als was overshadowed by others.

Receivers

Terrence Edwards, Cory Watson, Kito Poblah, Clarence Denmark, Doug Pierce, Chris Matthews, Paul Hubbard, Kurt Adams, Jeremy Blount, Isaac Anderson, Rory Kohlert, Cassidy Doneff, Jade Etienne

First take: Barring injury, four starters -- Edwards, Watson, Poblah, Denmark -- are set in stone. The fifth spot remains a mystery, though it's been shortlisted to three or four guys. Kohlert has the edge as the first Canadian backup off the bench.

Moving up the chart: Matthews. The fifth starting spot could be his to lose.

Needs a good week: This may sound harsh, but Etienne needs to start showing why the Bombers drafted him fourth overall last year. He's been invisible this month.

Offensive line

Andre Douglas, Steve Morley, Glenn January, Chris Greaves, Chris Kowalczuk, Justin Sorensen, Paul Swiston, Jordan Taormina, Brendan Dunn, Adam Rogers, Tyson Pencer

First take: Douglas and January at the tackles; Morley and Greaves at guard. The only battle is at centre, where Kowalczuk and Sorensen are looking for the starting assignment.

Moving up the chart: Injuries pressed Swiston into action at the tackle spot versus Montreal, and he held up pretty well, head coach Paul LaPolice said.

Needs a good week: Kowalczuk and Sorensen. Can someone please take command of the centre spot? The Bombers are starting to get nervous.

 

DEFENCE

Defensive line

Jason Vega, Bryant Turner, Kenny Mainor, Dorian Smith, Rodney Fritz, Brandon Collier, Andre Caroll, Ryan Lucas, Fernand Kashama, Alex Hall, Jake Thomas, Brandon Akpunku

First take: Vega, Turner and Mainor look secure, as do Smith and Fritz. Lucas and Kashama provide some non-import depth and ratio flexibility.

Moving up the chart: Tough to say, as the Bombers rotate players in and out at this spot all the time. Things will be more apparent heading into Wednesday's final pre-season game.

Needs a good week: Hall arrived in Winnipeg with a good resume; has yet to generate some buzz with his play.

Linebackers

Clint Kent, Pierre-Luc Labbe, Henoc Muamba, Marcellus Bowman, Dustin Doe, Terrell Parker, Javon McKinnon, Rene Stephen

First take: Starters are Kent, Bowman and either Labbe or Muamba -- who are slugging it out for the middle linebacker position. After starting as the No. 2, Muamba has closed the gap.

Moving up the chart: Parker has five defensive tackles, four special teams tackles and a pass knockdown in Montreal.

Needs a good week: Bowman is in no danger of losing his position, the club says. He's been out most of camp with a lower body injury; getting back on the field sooner than later is key.

Defensive backs

Jonathan Hefney, Jovon Johnson, Alex Suber, Brandon Stewart, Ian Logan, Deon Beasley, Johnny Sears, Demond Washington, Darrell Pasco, David Pender, Jeremy McGee, Brady Browne, Giovanni Aprile, Dan West

First take: The returning starters aren't going anywhere. Great battle shaping up here for the extra spots between Beasley, Sears, Washington and Pasco. Finally, some positive DB drama.

Moving up the chart: Washington had five tackles, an interception and was terrific returning kicks against the Alouettes. Has to keep the pressure on the vets.

Needs a good week: Beasley. Big trouble for the Texas product.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kickers

Justin Palardy, Mike Renaud, Eric Wilbur

First take: Palardy made 77 per cent of his field goals in 2011, and looks to be Winnipeg's best option again this year. Wilbur out-punted Renaud in Montreal; he averaged nine more yards per boot than his Canadian counterpart. His leg is stronger, yes, but Renaud is better at directional kicking.

Moving up the chart: Wilbur.

Needs a good week: Can Wilbur convince the Bombers to burn one of the three designated import spots on his leg, or does the club believe there is more value for that label at other positions?

Kick returners

Chad Simpson, Demond Washington, Jeremy Blount, Bloi-Dei Dorzon

First take: The four had chances in Montreal and all fared well. Simpson and Dorzon had nice gains on their only kickoff return chances, while Washington and Blount averaged roughly 12 yards per punt return.

Moving up the chart: Washington.

Needs a good week: Everyone. Much like the defensive back battle, this has suddenly become an area of great interest for Blue and Gold followers.

Miscellaneous

Chris Cvetkovic, Jordan Matechuk, Michel-Pierre Pontbriand

First take: The veteran Cvetkovic is the long-snapper, with Matechuk serving as insurance. Pontbriand is the little-used fullback and an excellent blocker on special teams.

Moving up the chart: No one, really. Things are pretty static here.

Needs a good week: Sure. Why not?

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2012 B4

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