At some point over the last few days -- between the torturous chore of watching film from their last performance and doing the clich© looking-in-the-mirror thing -- those at the controls of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence came to this conclusion:
It's time to take the leash off Buck Pierce and let him do his thing again.
'When he has done some positive things this year, he's extended plays with his feet. I think you'll see a little bit more wide- open Buck Pierce this week'
-- head coach Tim Burke
"When he has done some positive things this year, he's extended plays with his feet," said head coach Tim Burke. "I think you'll see a little bit more wide-open Buck Pierce this week."
So, here are the Bombers, once again wrestling with what has been the franchise's great dilemma since Pierce's arrival four years ago -- trying to balance the need to let him use his mobility with the worry that every time he leaves the pocket he's going to be left dazed and confused after taking another hellacious hit.
And so a winter's worth of work by offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton that saw the offence reshaped to provide Pierce with better protection has apparently been augmented, altered -- perhaps even abandoned -- after three weeks of the season that has seen the Bomber attack struggle to find any consistency and their quarterback sacked a league-high 14 times.
Ultimately, the changes are all about making Pierce comfortable with the offence, even if it means everyone in the organization will be watching through their fingers every time he gets outside the tackles.
"Obviously, a strength is me moving around running. Hopefully, we'll see some more of that this week," said Pierce. "It's fair to say you want to use your players' abilities and in this league there's opportunities to make plays outside of the pocket. I've always felt that I could do that well. I think we're going to do more of that this week.
"You don't want to put me in situations where I'm out on the perimeter by myself. I don't want that. I want to improve my passing game staying inside the pocket. But, you know, in this league there's lots of plays to be made outside as well."
Officially, Pierce has two carries for seven yards this season, not including the many times he has galloped for his life and been brought down behind the line of scrimmage. Worth noting: in 2011, when Pierce helped guide the Bombers to an appearance in the Grey Cup, he rushed for a career-high 324 yards on 51 carries. He has a career rushing average of 7.4 yards and, for a team desperate for any kind of production -- especially on first down -- that's a mighty tantalizing number.
Still, with that reward, as everyone in Bomberland is painfully aware, comes some serious risk. One short run trying to move the chains can also equal one long stint on the disabled list.
"He's going to have to be smart about taking hits," said Burke. "He's just going to have to get down on the ground when he needs to."
Again, the dilemma. Remember, it was Pierce who said on the day he was introduced as the Bombers quarterback back on April 12, 2010 that getting him to play more cautious -- to step out of bounds, to slide rather than lean into a tackler -- would be like "trying to teach a dog to not to chase a Frisbee."
On Monday, he said: "I'm not doing what I need to do to put our team in a position to be successful. We're doing some good things, but I missed some throws that I normally don't miss. Those are going to happen, but they can't happen all the time."
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