A couple of first impressions about Dan Knapp and Jarvis Jones, the two latest in a series of players airlifted in by the sad-sack Winnipeg Blue Bombers this week:
- They are both human-eclipse-type offensive linemen who cast considerable shadows;
- They also both come with big-time U.S. college credentials, but after having bounced around pro football are now looking to put down roots.
And so now one meaty question everyone in Bomberland wants/hopes/prays gets answered in a positive way in the weeks ahead:
Can either of these guys play the game at all?
The two new recruits were on the field Tuesday -- with Colt Shulte, who just arrived on Sept. 5 exiting -- as the Bombers scrambled to find five healthy offensive linemen for Friday night's rematch with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Asked about lining up behind an O-line that will likely feature one of the two new guys making his CFL debut -- maybe both -- quarterback Max Hall didn't look at all like a man worried whether club officials had updated his next-of-kin information.
"Whoever is in there I've got to trust that they're going to do it," he said. "This is professional football and they're bringing guys in for a reason so whoever is playing I'm going to trust. I can't worry about it and be looking at the rush. I'm going to trust those guys that they're going to get it done. I think they will."
"This could be a Wally Pipp situation," added Bomber coach Tim Burke, recalling the former New York Yankees first baseman who showed up for work with the New York Yankees with a headache one afternoon and was told to take the day off. His replacement? Some kid named Lou Gehrig, who suited up for the next 2,130 consecutive games.
"You never know."
Therein lies the problem -- or, at least, one of many of them -- for the Bombers. Maybe Jones or Knapp develops into a bona fide starter, the kind of dominant pile-pusher that import O-linemen in this league are supposed to become when they head north. But there's also a desperate Band-Aid feel to their arrivals, partly based on this franchise's inability over the last few years to find -- or at least, draft and develop -- some nasty and talented behemoths for the trenches.
Here, then, is the latest state-of-the-Bomber-hogs report:
T Tyson Pencer: Will make his second start this Friday after being moved from guard to tackle after injuries last weekend in Edmonton. Jury is still out on the former first-round pick.
G Chris Greaves: Sixth-round draft pick of the Bombers as a D-lineman, converted to guard. Now in his fourth year and has been steady.
C Justin Sorensen: Originally drafted by the Lions but cast adrift in 2011, Sorensen has been more than serviceable and durable for the Bombers.
C Chris Kowalczuk: He's a huge dude at 6-5, 306 but what does it say of his game that with all the changes and injuries -- and the glorious opportunities for him as a result -- that he can't get into the starting lineup?
The list of walking wounded among the OL and their status for Friday's game against Edmonton:
T Glenn January, ankle, is questionable.
G Steve Morley, knee, out.
T Shannon Boatmen, whose injury Burke listed as 'everything,' is out.
T/G Marc Parenteau, neck, out.
T/G Paul Swiston, shoulder, out.
T Andre Douglas, leg, nine-game injured list.
THE NEW GUYS
65 Jarvis Jones
Jones (6-7, 302, Oklahoma) began his college career with LSU in 2007, backing up at both tackle and guard as the Tigers won the national championship. But after being dismissed for breaking team rules, he transferred to Oklahoma and was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2009; rotated at right and left tackle in 2011 and was a backup in 2011. Was most recently with Orlando of the Arena Football League and the Salina Bombers of something called the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.
66 Dan Knapp
Knapp (6-5, 305, Arizona State) signed with Oakland as a free agent in May of 2012 and played in all four pre-season games before being waived. Joined the Cincinnati Bengals practice roster and was released in the spring prior to the NFL draft.
Started 28 games in four years at Arizona State, the first two years as a tight end. Was a Pac-12 honourable mention at tackle in 2011.
THE LONG-TERM FIX
It's not complicated, although the Bombers have made it so over the last few years: cling to your draft picks and then start choosing Canadian O-linemen instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. There's a reason most successful teams start four or five Canadians on the O-line.
But, consider this: Of the 21 draft picks the Bombers have had since 2010, only three were used on hogs: Pencer, Brendan Dunn (since released) and Paul Swiston.
"You have to be consistent in the draft," said Burke. "You've got to say to yourself there's certain positions that it's easier to find Canadian players at. Offensive line is an example, so you just have to keep drafting every year at those positions and not try to draft a fullback or something like that.
"When you draft a lot of offensive linemen, you're not only drafting for your starters, you're drafting for your backups so that when that starter goes down you have a legitimately good backup. We haven't done that."
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