Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Passing game must catch on

Elliott has to back Tabbies off with completions

  • Print

The biggest challenge facing Joey Elliott when he takes the field as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Thursday won't be the Hamilton defence or the pressure to deliver the home crowd a win.

He needs to complete some passes.

Since the club was riding high with a 7-1 record after the first eight games last season, the Blue and Gold have dipped to a shameful 4-12 regular-season record -- including a 1-5 record this season. Explanations for the recent drop-off range from inexperience to injuries, but another reason for the low win frequency has been the quarterback play.

Simply put: It hasn't been good enough.

"I wouldn't say it's where we need to be to be successful," head coach Paul LaPolice said Monday. "We need to be a lot better. That's not all on the quarterbacks, that's on everybody, but we need better quarterback play."

Before twisting each quarterback on the skewer, there are a few factors to recognize.

Quality quarterback play is helped along by accuracy, a sound running game, sure-handed receivers and quality protection up front. Each of these areas has a big say in how an offence runs, true, but at the end of the day, either the guy under centre is getting it done or he isn't.

It's difficult to offer a complete player analysis in this space, so we'll narrow our focus and direct most of our attention to completion percentage, a number that often provides a good foundation of how things are going.

A high percentage means the offence is moving and typically results in points on the board. Makes sense: A handful of extra completions leads to a handful of more first downs, and could ultimately give birth to touchdowns and wins.

Where to begin? How about last season?

When the Bombers scorched out to that 7-1 start, the quarterbacks (Buck Pierce, Alex Brink, Joey Elliott) went 146-of-232 for 1,943 yards, completed 63 per cent of their passes and threw for 11 touchdowns against six INTs. On average, the Bombers went 18-of-29 for 243 yards per game, throwing three TDs every two games and getting picked off just three times every four contests.

Since that celebrated opening to 2011, things started to go south. In the final 10 games, the pivots (including Justin Goltz) kept the completion frequency up (217-of-343 for 2,551 yards), but turned the ball over a lot more than they found the end zone (nine TDs, 16 INTs).

The game average: 22-of-34 for 255 yards; four TD throws every six games with three picks every two games. More passes, more turnovers and less success (a 3-10 record in that span).

This year, the numbers have been flat out brutal across the board. Winnipeg quarterbacks are only completing 55 per cent of their passes (120-of-217 for 1,563 yards), good for last in the CFL. The league average is 64 per cent. To go with that, just seven touchdown passes in six games (Edmonton has a league-low six majors through the air) and the Bombers' nine interceptions makes them the most charitable QB group in the league.

Simply put: That's not getting it done.

So how do the Bombers turn around the air attack?

The pass protection needs to improve -- from both the offensive line and the tailbacks -- and finding more touches for the run game would be a good start, as well (Winnipeg is last in the league with 95 rushes). LaPolice insists his stable of arms is accurate enough, and the receivers have been pretty average in the dropped pass department (the CFL doesn't keep an official stat on drops).

Offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton hinted a little more accuracy could be the solution.

"On first down, we want to be a bit more accurate in our passing game, get our pass percentage up a little bit, so we can get a better start," he offered Monday.

Quarterback was supposed to be the strong point this season. All three free agent QBs were brought back -- the veteran Pierce was healthy, while Brink and Elliott were on the way up -- putting their deep pool of talent at the position as the envy of the league.

The results of that depth have yet to be realized. Twitter: @wazoowazny

Pivotal depth chart (with apologies to Justin Goltz)

The Bombers will start a different quarterback for the third time this season when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Thursday. A look at how all three have played this year, and what their immediate future holds:

Buck Pierce

Numbers: 24-of-40 for 327 yards; 60 per cent completion rate; one TD and two INTs

Next: After starting the first three, Pierce hasn't played since injuring his foot in the blowout loss in Edmonton. He's looked ready to play at practice and should be back by September.

Alex Brink

Numbers: 85-of-159 for 1,043 yards; 53.5 per cent completion rate; five TDs and six INTs

Next: Brink appeared in all six games, making the last three starts. That audition didn't go as well as the club hoped, and he was lifted for Elliott. He's the backup for Thursday. The club insists he's still part of their plans.

Joey Elliott

Numbers: 11-of-18 for 193 yards; 61 per cent completion rate; one TD and one INT

Next: Makes his first start in two seasons and just his third CFL start overall. He'll get a good look from the coaching staff. Win or lose, he'll most likely see another chance next week versus B.C. -- provided Pierce isn't ready to go.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2012 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on 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.

You can comment on most stories on 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 April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Stephen Harper announces increased support for Canadian child protection agencies

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • KEN GIGLIOTTI  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / July 23 2009 - 090723 - Bart Kives story - Harry Lazarenko Annual River Bank Tour - receding water from summer rains and erosion  damage by flood  and ice  during spring flooding -  Red River , Lyndale Dr. damage to tree roots , river bank damage  , high water marks after 2009 Flood - POY
  • A young gosling prepares to eat dandelions on King Edward St Thursday morning-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 17- bonus - May 24, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Soccer: A Love Story Series

2013 Mazda 5 GX AWD at

I really, really miss it

Charline Labonte hopes to hit the pitch again when her hockey career is over



Will Connor McDavid make the Edmonton Oilers a playoff team?

View Results

Ads by Google