Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We ain't seen nuthin' yet -- nice if we could

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Dave Ritchie used to tell us that when you are leading a division, "you get to drink the good water," because you are upstream from all your neighbours and the first to dip into it. It's early in the season, but right now the water is looking a little brackish and off-colour coming out the faucets on Maroons Road.

When you are down 35-0 in the second quarter to a team that scored a single point the week prior and has a starting quarterback that you expect all four of yours to be better than, it's a little hard to extrapolate the positive.

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That being said, I am not ready to condemn the 2012 Winnipeg football team to a season of ridicule and underachievement, even after watching them play doormat for their first three games. Before passing quarter-term evaluations on this football team, there are still things we need to see.

For starters, I want to see a Bomber quarterback take all of the starting reps in practice and take all of the starting reps in the game. Actually, make that two or three games with the same guy leading the charge.

By Week 3 of the regular season, it's not often that all three of your pivots have spent considerable time under centre. While it's always helpful to get the men farther down the depth chart some live-fire reps, it does less than nothing for the cohesion of your offence. Every time a new quarterback is introduced into the game, the style, the timing, the cadence and the familiarity with the receivers and running backs changes along with the face of the new leader.

Milt Stegall used to tell stories of all the subtle communicative gestures he and Khari Jones had. He told me he could simply look Khari's way prior to the snap and have him see what he was seeing and understand how he was going to change his route accordingly. If you are getting second- or third-team repetitions in practice, it is not possible for you to have this level of familiarity and degree of understanding with players you occasionally play with. There needs to be consistency at the No. 1 position on the football field to see what the offence is capable of.

Further to that point, I want to see Andre Douglas step back into the offensive line and join Glenn January and the interior three and help keep whatever quarterback it happens to be in the game for four quarters.

Replacing a rookie with another veteran on the offensive line has a trickle-down effect. When your book-end tackles are experienced veteran players, it sets the tone for the rest of the offensive-line play and should also alleviate rookie jitters.

I want to see last year's Most Outstanding Canadian, Cory Watson, return to a receiving corps of Terrence Edwards, Chris Matthews, Kito Poblah and Clarence Demark.

The things Cory brings to this already talented group are a unique style of physical play, an ability to wade through and catch balls in heavy traffic and an explosive propensity to break a catch from most anywhere on the field. Once again, if a veteran replaces a rookie in this group of players, the expectations naturally go up.

I want to see Chad Simpson, the NFL tailback, take some snaps in the backfield. When established NFL players take their turn on the CFL field, it raises the play of the players around them because everyone wants to see how they measure up. It was evident when Mike Sellers played here, and every time Juran Bolden joined the secondary, their play was elevated whether he was contributing or not.

Defensively, I want to take a look at Marcellus Bowman playing weak-side linebacker for the first time this year, and I want to see Alex Suber and Brandon Stewart back in their usual spots.

Reinstating the most physical linebacker this roster still has into the lineup and providing consistency at other positions will undoubtedly improve the play of a defence still waiting for its breakout game.

While every team has to deal with and adjust to injuries throughout the regular season, and it is no excuse for consecutive marginal performances, rarely does one team come up against the level of infirmary-based roster-juggling this team has seen through the initial weeks.

Before we get a good idea of what this team is capable of, it sure would be nice to see all the players on the field that are supposed to be there and what they can do if they're together for a stretch, especially when the season is still young and the water still potable.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, usually appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2012 D2

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