July 7, 2015


Record: 1–1–0

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Logo

Blue Bomber Report

By Gary Lawless

O-line a disaster area

Big Blue's foundation, and their 3-1 record, is built on popsicle sticks

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby bobbles a pass into the waiting hands of Edmonton Eskimos' #41 Odell Willis early in the game Thursday. Willis took it and ran to score the Eskimo's opening touch down.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby bobbles a pass into the waiting hands of Edmonton Eskimos' Odell Willis early in the game Thursday. Willis took it and ran to score the Eskimo's opening touch down.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy gets wrapped up in the arms of Edmonton Eskimos' #90 Almondo Sewell in the second quarter of Thursday's game.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy gets wrapped up in the arms of Edmonton Eskimos' #90 Almondo Sewell in the second quarter of Thursday's game.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby, left, and #34 Paris Cotton bobble a kick from the Edmonton Eskimos deep in the Bombers' zone during Thursday's game.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby grimaces after receiving an Edmonton Eskimos' kickoff followed closely by an Edmonton tackle in the first quarter of Thursday's game.
Edmonton Eskimos' #82 A.J. Guyton celebrates his touchdown late in the third quarter against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thursday evening at Investors Group Field.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' #32 Nic Grigsby looks for room in the third quarter against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Matt Bucknor hangs on tight to tackle  Edmonton Eskimos' #85 Nate Coehoorn in the third quarter Thursday evening at Investors Group Field.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Julian Feoli-Gudino clings to the ball as he goes down on a flying tackle from Edmonton Eskimos' #40 Deon Lacey in the third quarter Thursday.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy goes down hard on top of Edmonton Eskimos' Eddie Steele while defenders #39 Corbin Sharun and #41 Odell Willis complete the third-quarter play.
About all the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offensive linemen could do was stare down the Edmonton Eskimos late in the game Thursday.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby bobbles a pass into the waiting hands of Edmonton Eskimos' #41 Odell Willis early in the game Thursday. Willis took it and ran to score the Eskimo's opening touch down. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby bobbles a pass into the waiting hands of Edmonton Eskimos' Odell Willis early in the game Thursday. Willis took it and ran to score the Eskimo's opening touch down. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy gets wrapped up in the arms of Edmonton Eskimos' #90 Almondo Sewell in the second quarter of Thursday's game. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy gets wrapped up in the arms of Edmonton Eskimos' #90 Almondo Sewell in the second quarter of Thursday's game. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby, left, and #34 Paris Cotton bobble a kick from the Edmonton Eskimos deep in the Bombers' zone during Thursday's game. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby grimaces after receiving an Edmonton Eskimos' kickoff followed closely by an Edmonton tackle in the first quarter of Thursday's game. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Edmonton Eskimos' #82 A.J. Guyton celebrates his touchdown late in the third quarter against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thursday evening at Investors Group Field. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' #32 Nic Grigsby looks for room in the third quarter against the Edmonton Eskimos. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Matt Bucknor hangs on tight to tackle Edmonton Eskimos' #85 Nate Coehoorn in the third quarter Thursday evening at Investors Group Field. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Julian Feoli-Gudino clings to the ball as he goes down on a flying tackle from Edmonton Eskimos' #40 Deon Lacey in the third quarter Thursday. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy goes down hard on top of Edmonton Eskimos' Eddie Steele while defenders #39 Corbin Sharun and #41 Odell Willis complete the third-quarter play. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
About all the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offensive linemen could do was stare down the Edmonton Eskimos late in the game Thursday. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press

The offensive line is the foundation every football team is built on and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hogs simply aren't good enough.

The Canadians are poor and the Americans average, rather than the standouts they should be. All the good work GM Kyle Walters has managed to date is going to be undone by his offensive line.

Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy is wrapped up by Edmonton's Almondo Sewell in the second quarter.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy is wrapped up by Edmonton's Almondo Sewell in the second quarter. Photo Store

Results such as Thursday night's 26-3 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos are predictable with the kind of work being done by the five men in the trench.

The offensive line is a tent pole on every team and usually the main support on a strong club. That can't be said in Winnipeg. They're holding the canvas up with a bent piece of aluminum that's ready to break in several spots. Check that. It's broken. That was the canvas hitting the ground Thursday, with little more than a whisper. And now the word is out: Winnipeg is weak on the line, can be controlled early and eventually forced to submit.

Winnipeg started a group comprising imports Glenn January, Dan Knapp and Cordaro Howard along with Canadians Steve Morley and Patrick Neufeld. They were awful. They accomplished next to nothing, and worse, allowed quarterback Drew Willy to be sacked four times and knocked around on several more occasions. He's the guy putting the bread on the table and letting him get battered is unacceptable. Walters has to be watching this unfold and fuming.

If the line can't protect the quarterback or open holes for the backs, it's two-and-out all night. The opposition wins the time-of-possession battle, the field-position match and ultimately, the scoreboard war.

Fixing this problem is near impossible mid-season. In fact, Walters will have to come to hard decisions and determine if it's time to begin a complete rebuild. Such a move comes with major repercussions.

Moving out veteran imports to test new U.S. talent may prove successful in the long run, but will cost the Bombers games right now. Playing rookie Matthias Goossen and allowing him to gain experience on the job will result in mistakes and growing pains on the field.

But if not now, when? Walters is under unique pressures. CEO Wade Miller needs wins to sell tickets. Head coach Mike O'Shea wants to win now. So does all of Winnipeg.

But sooner or later the price needs to be paid, because limping along with inferior line play will eventually undermine the entire franchise. You can't win with a bad offensive line. If you can't win, after years of putting an inept product on the field, fans won't buy in or buy tickets. A strong crowd of 30,976 trickled out of the stadium early in the fourth quarter and Miller had to be cringing at the sight. This franchise is far from out of the woods, and they need to entertain.

The offensive line is the foundation for everything. On and off the field. They set the tone and deliver the mail. Or not, in this case.

The Bombers trailed 13-3 at the half, but the score was flattering. They collected all of four first downs and were owned by the visiting Edmonton Eskimos in time of possession -- 20:14 to 9:46. The second quarter saw Edmonton hold the ball for 11:41 while Winnipeg's offence had their hands on it for just 3:19.

The Bombers had 29 yards rushing and 94 yards passing for a whopping 123 yards of offence. It all added up to three points, which came very late in the half.

The third quarter was a little better, as the Bombers earned five first downs. But no points. The final 15 minutes was more of the same as the Bombers mustered no points and two first downs. You read that correctly.

The final time of possession was 38:38 to 21:22 in Edmonton's favour.

Pitiful. Losing football. And it all starts on the line. No push and no protection equals no offence.

Fixing the line woes isn't as easy as saying Walters needs to turn his attention to the boys with beef. This has to be an organizational call. Miller needs to be onside, as does O'Shea. No one will be happy about tearing the Band Aid off and revealing this open wound, but it's going to have to happen. The Bombers and their 3-1 record are built on popsicle sticks. That barely gets it done in July.

It doesn't make it into November.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2014 C3

History

Updated on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 8:39 AM CDT: Adds slideshow, adds video

8:44 AM: Adds sidebar

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Scroll down to load more

Top