Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Still some hope for offence

Decent receivers, tailback... all Bombers need is a competent QB

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MONTREAL -- There are all kinds of factors -- and people -- to blame when you're dissecting what went wrong in a 3-10 season.

And the remaining five weeks of this CFL regular season -- and long into the off-season -- will undoubtedly be devoted to a long and brutal postmortem of how things went so wrong with the 2012 edition of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

But this is probably as good a place as any to begin that discussion:

This weekend's visit to Montreal marks the fourth time the Bombers have changed their starting quarterback from week to week, which is two more changes than B.C., Montreal, Hamilton, Calgary and Toronto have made this season -- combined.

Ponder that for a moment: Those five teams, or 62.5 per cent of the CFL, have collectively changed their starting quarterbacks just twice all season long. And with Joey Elliott going in this weekend for a once again injured Buck Pierce, the Bombers alone have now changed theirs four times.

That's crazy, of course, and it is exactly why at least four of those five teams are going to the post-season next month and Winnipeg isn't.

In a quarterback-dominated league, the Bombers simply never found any consistency this season. And while you can blame rookie offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton for a lot of things, you cannot blame him for the fact Pierce simply isn't very healthy and backups Elliott and Alex Brink simply aren't very good.

"It's a unique year," said Crowton at Canad Inns Stadium on Saturday as his team held its last full practice before traveling here to face the Alouettes on Monday.

"I think the young guys (Brink and Elliott) are growing. Hopefully they'll continue to grow. At the same time, when Buck came back, I love the way he played. And I feel very confident when he comes back again that good things are going to happen."

Crowton was asked if the revolving door at quarterback this season makes it unfair to judge whether the offensive scheme he was trying to implement was any good or has any future.

"I'm judging what we're doing and I've been very disappointed in some of the results -- angry at myself for taking some time to learn the league," said Crowton, "I feel like I'm like the young quarterback, as soon as I get a good feel for it, the next week something new happens. And I'm like, 'Dang.'

"I feel like we're getting better. But we're not getting better on a consistent note. And what we have to do is we have to be consistent."

And there have been elements of this offence that actually have been consistent. For starters, slotback Terrence Edwards and wide receiver Chris Matthews have a combined 1,608 yards -- 831 for Matthews and 777 for Edwards -- making them the fifth-ranked receiving tandem in the league, just 131 yards behind the top-ranked duo, Toronto's Chad Owens and Dontrelle Inman.

That's pretty good company and that's something you can build on, particularly if you can marry it with an effective running game.

Now, that kind of balanced attack has been something that has eluded Winnipeg all season, but not because the raw material hasn't been there in the form of tailback Chad Simpson.

Although he missed the first three games of the season with injury, Simpson has still managed to accumulate 721 yards so far and remains on pace to top 1,000 yards. That ranks him third in the league on a per-game average, while his 6.0 yards per carry rank him fourth in that category.

The only three backs with a better per-carry average this season are Calgary's Jon Cornish, B.C.'s Andrew Harris and Toronto's Chad Kackert -- again, some pretty good company.

Put those two elements together -- a dangerous receiving tandem and an effective feature tailback -- and Winnipeg would appear to have at least the start of a decent offence when -- and if -- they ever get an effective and reliable starting quarterback.

Alas, that is a very big and imposing 'if' in these parts.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2012 B4

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