Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Oklahoma State product plans to hold position for entire season

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On the surface, the surgery to Andre Douglas' left ankle should finally settle a Blue Bombers offensive line riddled with toil and trouble this season.

Douglas, the starting right tackle, is out for the season it was revealed Monday, leaving rookie Jordan Taormina to hold down that end of the trench. Left tackle Glenn January and left guard Chris Greaves, put together with the solidification of Justin Sorensen at centre and the regular rotation at right guard between Steve Morley and Paul Swiston, seems to suggest there's finally a constant feel to the group.

The same faces every week grows into chemistry, which turns into consistency, which should lead to less intrusion in the Winnipeg backfield.

It doesn't work that way, offensive line coach Pat DelMonaco says.

"The guys' play is what settles the group down, you know what I mean?" he said after practice at Canad Inns Stadium Tuesday. "If the guys start to jell and they start to play as a cohesive unit and they're getting better every week, then you maintain the group. But if there are guys in the chain who aren't playing as well as they need to play, then you have to start manipulating the chain a little bit."

As it stands heading into the game with the Montreal Alouettes, there will be no adjustment at right tackle. Taormina, an import from Oklahoma State, has held the fort for five games now and will remain there when the lights come on Friday night (7:30 p.m., TSN, CJOB). Like DelMonaco, he's not going to exhale now that the player he's replacing is done for the year.

"Even if Andre was back I would take the same approach: Get better each week," the hulking 6-7, 325-pound tackle said. "This is news to me, that Douglas will be gone for the whole season, so all I can do is basically hold down that spot and do everything in my power to keep it."

The word on Taormina is that he's a coachable player who can take advice and instruction and apply it to bettering his technique. The coaches love his physical presence, but in the next breath point out that he's still making too many mental mistakes and missing too many blocking assignments.

"He really gets after it when he's out there, which at times is also his Achilles Heel a little bit in that he doesn't allow things to unfold sometimes, he doesn't see the whole picture at times," DelMonaco said.

Waiting in the wings is fellow import Shannon Boatman, who was brought in twice through training camp and the early part of the season as an insurance policy as the Douglas injury concern played itself out. Boatman spent two years in Toronto (2009-10) and started five games at tackle for the Argos two seasons ago.

DelMonaco says Taormina has kept the position because he's been improving every week. Head coach Paul LaPolice echoed that job performance, but didn't sound like he was ready to commit to Taormina for the long haul.

"If Boatman was here in training camp and had the equal amount of reps, I think it's a much fairer thing," LaPolice said of comparing the two.

"We'll make change if a change needs to be made. I like Jordan. He's physical, I just want him to clean up his inconsistencies."

Overall, the Bombers O-line continues to be a work in progress. The current unit has to wear a CFL-high 16 sacks against through the first five weeks, though it must be pointed out that not all the sacks against are through the offensive line; running backs and quarterbacks share some blame, as well.

"When we make a mistake right now, it's colossal," DelMonaco said. "We don't have the subtle mistake; we make the full bore... we blow it all. We've cut that down from Week 1 to Week 5 to about two (colossal) mistakes now."

For those curious: the Bombers had six major O-line errors in Week 1, according to the coach.

As for the turnstile at the right guard position, DelMonaco says the Bombers will keep doing it until one player -- the veteran Morley or the rookie Swiston -- shows more consistency. Morley has had some struggles but Swiston has earned the playing time, the coach said, adding that he sees the youngster as a starting CFL guard down the road. Twitter: @wazoowazny

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2012 C4

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