Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers 5 storylines

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Als starting quarterback Troy Smith played well in Week 2 after a horrendous showing in Week 1. His development is crucial for Montreal.

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Als starting quarterback Troy Smith played well in Week 2 after a horrendous showing in Week 1. His development is crucial for Montreal.

MONTREAL -- Today's five storylines:

 

1. Can an improvised Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive line handle a dominating Montreal Alouettes front four?

 

The Bombers will be without a regular stalwart on the left side of their line here Friday night, as starting left guard Chris Greaves (knee) sits out and Cordaro Howard makes his first CFL start.

It is a delicate thing at the best of times to have to disrupt the continuity of a unit as tightly knit as an offensive line, but it will be a formidable challenge here tonight against a Montreal front four led by CFL sack leader John Bowman that is widely considered to be as good as any in the CFL.

The Als gave up just 70 net yards of offence to the BC Lions in the first half last week and much of the credit for that stifling performance has to go to a front-four scheme, designed by Als defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe, that is as confusing as it is relentless.

 

2. Can the Bombers force Montreal QB Troy Smith to be a quarterback?

Smith is a former Heisman trophy winner and showed promise in a handful of starts in 2013 in relief of an injured Anthony Calvillo.

But he is still very green and it showed in Week 1 as he struggled to get anything going in a 29-8 loss to the Calgary Stampeders that saw the Als only find the end zone on the final play of the game.

Als offensive co-ordinator -- and former Bombers QB -- Ryan Dinwiddie said Thursday he simplified the playbook for Smith in Week 2 and the results were immediate as the Als rode tailback Brandon Whittaker and the running game to a 24-9 win over the B.C. Lions.

But even with the win in Week 2, Smith comes into tonight's game against Winnipeg with the second-worst QB efficiency rating in the CFL, suggesting the challenge for the Bombers is to shut down the Montreal running game and force Smith to beat them with the pass.

 

3. Can Nic Grigsby continue to romp?

While all the attention the first two weeks has been on Bombers QB Drew Willy and Winnipeg's aerial prolifics, the Bombers running game with tailback Nic Grigsby has been instrumental in setting up that passing attack.

Grigsby romped for 122 yards in a Week 1 win against Toronto, which led Ottawa to key on him in Week 2. The Redblacks did reduce his rushing yards output -- Grigsby was held to 62 yards on the ground last week -- but he still burned them for three TDs on the ground and his presence helped open up the passing attack.

With a well-regarded Montreal pass rush expected to be coming fast and hard tonight after Willy, the Bombers will want to establish a running game quickly.

 

4. Can the Bombers continue to dominate in La Belle Province?

For reasons no one seems to fully understand, the dreadful Bombers of the past two seasons thrived whenever they played in Montreal.

Fully one-third of Winnipeg's nine combined wins over the past two seasons came in Montreal and the Bombers will take an active three-game winning streak into Stade Molson Friday night.

It's a quirky phenomenon and while both teams say the past has nothing to do with the present, don't think it's not been mentioned in both locker-rooms this week.

A side note -- If the Bombers win tonight, it will be just the second time a team has won on the road in the CFL this season. Home teams are 7-1 so far in 2014, but history suggests that will level off soon. In 2013, home teams went 38-34, a win clip of just 53 per cent.

 

5. Just how versatile exactly is Johnny Sears?

Sears will make his first ever start at safety tonight in place of the injured Maurice Leggett, bringing to four the number of positions he has started as a member of the Bombers (he has previously made starts at cornerback, half-back and linebacker).

Next up -- Johnny Sears at tackle?

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2014 C3

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