Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Improving defence a work in progress

Bombers unit ready to tackle Ticats and their dual-threat QB

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive linemen (from left) Greg Peach, Louie Richardson, Bryant Turner and Zach Anderson are digging what the coaches are preaching.

DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive linemen (from left) Greg Peach, Louie Richardson, Bryant Turner and Zach Anderson are digging what the coaches are preaching.

HAMILTON -- Perfect would not describe the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence under new co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry.

The unit has given up an average of 23 points per game through five games this CFL season and hasn't held an opponent to less than 300 yards.

But the Bombers are 4-1 entering tonight's game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University in large part because the defence has been good at adjustments and timely big plays and because they continue to improve.

Case in point was last Friday's 23-6 win at B.C. It was the first time since 2009 the Lions didn't have a touchdown in a home game and the team's lowest point total at home in 27 years.

All of those elements -- adjustments, big plays, improvement -- will be required for tonight's challenge, as the 1-3 Tiger-Cats send out fleet quarterback Dan LeFevour for his second career start.

Hamilton's No. 1 pivot, Zach Collaros, is on the injured list.

'We kind of focus on what we need to focus on, ourselves... We feel like if we come out and do everything we've been taught to do, and we practise hard on that all week, we can stop the quarterback or whatever else they have planned'

-- Bryant Turner

In his first career start last Saturday, LeFevour ran for 109 yards, had 361 more passing and sparked the Cats to a 33-23 win over Ottawa. It was the first time in known league history that a first-time starting quarterback ran for more than 100 yards.

"I think every game that's something that's part of my game," LeFevour said on Wednesday. "You try to use that as a tool so that when the time comes or the play call comes, I'm going to use my feet to win."

It was no great surprise LeFevour likes to run. He's in his third year with the Ticats, having often keyed short-yardage situations with productive gains.

The Bombers say it's no big thing facing a multi-level danger such as LeFevour.

"We kind of focus on what we need to focus on, ourselves, and we rarely even watch film on the next team as far as defence," said Winnipeg defensive tackle Bryant Turner. "We feel like if we come out and do everything we've been taught to do, and we practise hard on that all week, we can stop the quarterback or whatever else they have planned.

"There's no special preparation for either a great running back or a great quarterback or great receivers. Week in, it's the same thing... focus on getting better and yesterday's fast, today's slow, that's one of our mottos."

None of that's to say the Bombers aren't aware of LeFevour's abilities.

"Any time we're going against a dual-threat quarterback, you've got to be expecting that run and you just have to contain and make sure you get him the first time, make the first tackle," said Bombers defensive back Demond Washington. "You can't continue to miss tackles on a guy who has the capability of running, who can beat you by running."

Winnipeg has seen such an opponent already this season.

Edmonton's Mike Reilly did a number on them in Week 4, a 26-3 win for the Eskimos at Investors Group Field.

"We missed a bunch (of tackles) then," Washington said. "We've gotten a whole lot better since then. You can't just go in there and make an arm tackle and expect a guy like that to go down."

"Mike Reilly surprised us," Turner added. "I think he surprised everybody. We're used to Mike Reilly taking some big hits. We're not used to Mike Reilly making big plays on his feet, so it was definitely something we focused on more.

"And our tackling, we never say something like 'missed tackles.' Etch doesn't speak in that language. It's more about getting the job done. He and his staff are very positive guys. My coach, you never hear him say, 'No, that's wrong.' They're very positive people.

"As far as bringing down the quarterback, it's effort. You just get there, wrap him up and do it."

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea denied Wednesday any special measures are in place to confront LeFevour and his teammates tonight.

"It's not my planning," O'Shea began. "Gary Etcheverry does a great job and his staff does a great job making sure we're ready. I wouldn't say there's a lot of extra planning involved. I would imagine they probably didn't even mention the words 'missed tackle' because they don't talk in that language.

"They talk about doing their jobs and making sure the guys understand where they have to be and why. When the quarterback decides to pull it down and run with it then the guy who's closest to him will make the play. And the play might not necessarily be to tackle, it might be to cut him off so someone else makes the tackle.

"But I don't think they're spending a lot of time deviating from what they do."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2014 D2

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