Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

O'Shea eyes penalties

Bombers need to clean up their act if they want success

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback hopeful Robert Marve made a good impression in limited time against Toronto on Monday.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback hopeful Robert Marve made a good impression in limited time against Toronto on Monday. Photo Store

CALGARY -- 1. Mind your manners.

Yes, it's just the pre-season. And yes, a lot of the guys who will play here this weekend won't be around when the regular season opens at Investors Group Field at the end of the month.

It's revealing that twice Friday, Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea was asked by reporters what he will be paying most attention to when his team takes on the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium tonight in what will be Winnipeg's final pre-season game.

Both times, the top item O'Shea recited was the need to reduce the number of penalties the Bombers take.

"Penalties is number one -- we have to eliminate the penalties," said O'Shea, who made no secret of his displeasure with the 13 penalties for a whopping 165 yards his club took Monday in their pre-season opener at Investors Group Field, a 24-22 loss to the Toronto Argonauts.

"That's one of the problems the Bombers ran into last year and we can't have a repeat performance of that. We can't finish top of the league in penalties and yardage anymore. It's not going to allow us to win and the guys understand that and are just going to have to clean it up and refocus."

2. Battle for backup

O'Shea insisted this week the battle for the backup quarterback position is still very much up in the air and veteran Max Hall as well as rookies Brian Brohm and Robert Marve are all still contenders to win the job to be the first off the bench this season behind starter Drew Willy.

Hall has the advantage in CFL experience, but he's struggled at times in training camp this spring and his performance in Monday's pre-season game was uninspiring. Brohm also didn't show much on Monday.

Both men will need to show more in Calgary -- particularly after Marve stole the show against the Argos with an impressive late touchdown drive that had Bomber fans suddenly Googling his name.

3. Canadian content

Time is running out for the Bombers brain trust to figure out how they intend to field seven Canadians at starting positions this season. Today's game might offer some clues.

Receivers Rory Kohlert and Cory Watson should be at least two Canadian starters come regular season, although Watson is hurt -- yet again. Offensive linemen Chris Greaves and Steve Morley should be two more non-import starters.

Beyond that, the Bombers also intend to start Winnipegger Donovan Alexander at cornerback, although, like Watson, he's also missed most of training camp with an injury.

After that, it's anybody's guess. Another non-import offensive lineman in Patrick Neufeld or Matthias Goossen? A non-import like Jake Thomas on the defensive line? Sure, but then what non-import backs up Thomas now that Ryan Lucas is done for the year?

Good questions, all of them. Time for some answers.

4. Just win, baby.

O'Shea has been all about instilling a winning culture in a Bombers locker-room that grew very accustomed to losing in recent years -- a point O'Shea drove home Monday night when he talked about how "hollow" and "empty" he felt after the loss to Toronto. A pre-season loss, remember.

So don't kid yourself -- this Bombers team has come here to win, not just evaluate. The fact they're playing their second pre-season game while Calgary is playing their first means they should be expected to win.

If O'Shea felt hollow and empty after Monday's loss, it's hard to imagine how yet another one tonight will have him feeling.

5. And they're off.

You cannot make the club from the tub and veteran Bombers running back Will Ford has spent almost the entire pre-season thus far nursing an injury.

That's created a great opportunity for rookies Paris Cotton and Nic Grigsby to challenge for Ford's job as Winnipeg's feature tailback and both men have seized the opportunity.

O'Shea said Cotton and Grigsby are running neck and neck in the race for the job. Someone needs to stick a neck out front tonight.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 C3

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