Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–6–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Willy? Yes, he will: Bombers pivot, like his team, improving all the time

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It started off with fireworks but generally, the man at the controls of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence is not so much about the oohs and aahs.

Starting quarterback Drew Willy, who threw for four touchdown passes in the 2014 season-opener against Toronto, has since been more about the little things.

Yes, there was the Week 2 fourth-quarter rally from the doldrums to beat Ottawa but generally, the 27-year-old in his first real stint as a No. 1 quarterback has been making good reads, limiting the really bad mistakes, establishing good habits, keeping reasonable control of the football, showing his teammates he's got some pluck and toughness and in more games than not, though he's been frequently running for his life but hasn't overreacted or buckled under the pressure.

"Overall, it's overall consistency in my game," Willy said Monday, asked about his priorities as he's helped build the Bombers' record to a surprising 4-1. "I'm working on my drops, my reads. Every single week is an important game for us so you have to come out here and practise at a high level, mentally be into it.

"It's a really long season and you've got to keep focused. You've got to have a process each week and go through the same process.

"I'm trying to do that, and to be mentally sharp. I felt really good last game, going where my reads took me and I think the ball was coming out quick. It was just one of those things that you feel more comfortable with more reps. So I'm just trying to keep working at it out here and learn as much as I can from the coaches."

Last Friday's 23-6 win in Vancouver over the B.C. Lions was a persistent, workmanlike effort that was less about flash and more about focus. It also showed that Willy and the offence are starting to find some level of comfort with their playbook as they head for a Week 6 matchup Thursday in Hamilton.

"I think the basic concepts, yeah," Willy said. "But we're always adding more. That's what's great about coach (Marcel) Bellefeuille's system. He's been a lot of places so he knows a bunch of different routes for us to put in. I'm looking forward to keep working with him and for every one of us to keep improving."

Improvement -- that was another thing the Bombers had in spades in beating the Lions.

The team's scheme to protect its pivot was certainly trending better against a pretty good defence. Sacks against were down to just two.

"Pretty pleased with the protection and it was good that guys were getting open as well," Willy said. "It all adds up together and will make us more efficient throughout the year."

Willy wasn't specific about what the Bombers did better to protect him in B.C., saying it was a little bit of improvement in performance and a little adjustment in game plan.

"I think those guys are starting to jell together, just working on the communication," he said. "A lot of it comes down to me getting the ball out on time and the receivers getting open.

"They did a very nice job and we're looking forward to them to keep improving and myself to keep improving so we can move forward."

Did he have any planning say or suggestions in the big step forward last week?

"I speak with coach Bellefeuille a lot about what we're trying to do on certain protections," Willy said. "A lot of the time, we'll go to the O-line coaches and work with coach Bellefeuille so it's kind a process that we have throughout the week.

"But I like what we did last game. We just want to make sure our rules stay the same and no matter what a team throws at us, we're able to pick it up."

Also among the things that are difficult to quantify is Winnipeg's resilience. A strong bounce-back from a 26-3 home loss against Edmonton was on display last Friday.

"You have a loss, you always want to come back strong," Willy said. "It was good to see. I didn't realize their (B.C.'s) record was as good in that place as it's been. It's pretty impressive. But like I said, our defence played great, gave us good field position on special teams and we just need to be more efficient in the red zone. We were pretty efficient throwing the ball, percentage-wise."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2014 D1

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Updated on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 6:38 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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