June 22, 2017

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Davis the better athlete, but LeFevour is my No. 2

Dan LeFevour has spent six years in this league handling sudden-change scenarios and causing headaches for defences whenever he brings his added dimensions and unique style of play to the game. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Dan LeFevour has spent six years in this league handling sudden-change scenarios and causing headaches for defences whenever he brings his added dimensions and unique style of play to the game. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

By all appearances, not only do the Winnipeg Blue Bombers appear to have three viable, and competent quarterbacks on their roster, but Dominique Davis seems to have nailed down the highly coveted No. 2 spot, behind incumbent Matt Nichols. While it is hard to deny the potential and future of Davis, there are only two circumstances in the regular season where I would have him enter the game before Dan LeFevour.

To understand this argument, we must first understand the role of a No. 2 quarterback, and how they are called upon to perform in different, and usually chaotic, environments.

The most common, of course, is when the starter gets banged up. Without warning, the No. 2 is most often asked to grab his helmet off the bench and transition seamlessly to the game, with maybe a couple of warmup tosses under his belt, and zero feel for what is actually going on. He will enter the game, and the defence will immediately smell blood in the water, and try to put their foot on the neck of the offence by being even more aggressive and forcing the one player who hasn’t even broken a sweat yet to get the ball out of his hands in a blink of an eye.

Indeed, it may be one of the hardest things to do in pro football: to enter a regular-season or playoff game cold and secure a win.

Which is exactly why I would not put the inexperienced pivot, who hasn’t thrown a pass in the regular season since 2015, in this environment. Davis may be going into his third year in the CFL, but there is no other scenario that requires the cool hand of experience more than an abrupt change at the helm of the offence.

While Davis has thrown for a grand total of 169 yards in the regular season, LeFevour is sitting at about 2,500 yards. He is in his sixth year, is 30 years old and has played for four different teams in the CFL and and five more in the NFL, in every conceivable scenario. The role of the reliever in pro football has been his primary focus, and pretty much what he has specialized in since he started playing north of the border.

Not only does LeFevour have the experience that is the single and most critical component of being a backup and entering a sudden-change environment, along with a near 68 per cent completion rate, he also possesses the tools to send an opposition defence reeling when he enters the game, as opposed to being a sitting duck when defenders close in for the kill.

When defences prepare for Matt Nichols, they are not preparing for a quarterback they expect to wander out of the pocket by choice. Defensive linemen won’t have to be as disciplined in their pass-rush lanes, they won’t have to worry about setting a hard edge and containing him and preventing him from extending a play with his legs. Defences most certainly won’t have to "spy the QB," by assigning a linebacker to make sure the pivot doesn’t consistently bail out and scramble for first downs.

If Matt Nichols goes down unexpectedly and LeFevour enters the game, all of these variables change and the defence has to go off their script. When a backup goes into the game and he does not play the same style as the quarterback you prepared for all week and tailored your pressure package and disguises against, you tend to get very basic and simplistic on defence in a hurry.

While these two pre-season games demonstrated to many of us that Dominique Davis may be the most athletic of all three quarterbacks— he has the strongest arm, is probably the quickest — and has the potential to be a starter down the road, a sudden change in the middle of a football game is not what I would throw him into in 2017. Not if you want to win that game.

If a contest gets out of hand, or is out of reach for the opposition, then in these two scenarios, or one where Nichols is out for multiple games, then Davis would absolutely be my No. 2. He needs as many opportunities as he can get, and as much seasoning in real, regular-season game scenarios, so he can feel confident in whatever predicament he finds himself in.

LeFevour has spent six years in this league handling sudden-change scenarios and causing headaches for defences whenever he brings his added dimensions and unique style of play to the game. I would hope the excitement over Davis’s potential and possibilities down the line doesn’t deter the football team from using the right tool for the job this season if the situation calls for it.

 

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Read more by Doug Brown.

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