Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Forget about the offence, Blue need to stop Calvillo

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WE get how much worry has been invested in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers not visiting the end zone in their two pre-season games.

And that there is angst in a corner or two that the team isn't changed all that much as it tries to improve upon a 6-12 mark in 2012.

But when the 2013 CFL season starts for real Thursday night at Investors Group Field, the Bombers have a most fundamental task that, if not completed satisfactorily, will render moot all that other deep thinking and analysis.

Specifically: Here comes Anthony Calvillo, the all-time passing yards leader and all-round offensive master. Winnipeg's defence must contain, limit or disrupt him in order to give the rest of the Bombers a fighting chance.

"It's about executing," said Bombers linebacker Henoc Muamba, asked about the defence's challenge for Week 1. "We came in for our first day (of practice) yesterday and the coaches did a really good job on the game plan and we all feel comfortable and confident and it's up to us to execute and limit the mistakes.

"(Calvillo) has played football for a long time. There's a reason he's one of the greatest. There's nothing new he hasn't seen. It's just going to be on our part to bother him, make it tough on him. It's impossible to completely shut him down but we've got to do a good job of bothering him and executing our game plan to the best of our abilities."

Defensive end Alex Hall could well have something to do with bothering Calvillo this week.

"This is a familiar opponent, being in the same conference," Hall said after Monday's practice. "We know what to expect. We know what they bring. We know what their offence is about. And we know that definitely year in and year out they have one of the best offences in the league.

"We definitely have to take that into perspective. We have to have great preparation against those guys otherwise we're going to get burned."

And it sounds like Hall has been thinking about this very subject.

"Any quarterback, I don't care who you are, if you apply pressure, you get 'em flustered a little bit," Hall said. "Him being one of the best ever, he's a savvy vet so he knows all the little tricks of the trade. We just have to bring it to him, keep applying pressure."

While some will be trying to get in Calvillo's face, others on the Bombers' defence have other responsibilities.

"When you're playing against Calvillo, you know what he presents as a quarterback," said defensive back Jovon Johnson. "For us, we have to be aggressive with their receivers, challenge them at the line of scrimmage and throw off their timing because most of their routes are timing routes and we just can't give up that deep ball, the big play.

"A lot of people think they're bigger than us, more physical but at the end of the day we're faster and more quick. That's the difference, their receivers versus our DBs."

Johnson figures a healthy challenge for the season-opener might just be good timing for the Bombers.

"Any time you face a Hall of Fame quarterback like Calvillo, it doesn't matter if it's the first game or mid-season or end of the year in the Grey Cup, you know the challenges that he presents," Johnson said. "They have a good team in place and we've got to be ready to go.

"It is important to us to get off to a good start, just because of all the things we went through last year. We'd like to silence some of the critics and get the ball rolling. I think we'll be fine. It's just a matter of everybody knowing their assignments and executing at full speed."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2013 C1

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