The Winnipeg Blue Bombers opened their preseason schedule with a 30-20 loss to the Edmonton Elks at IG Field Friday night.
The Bombers will wrap up their exhibition series Tuesday night in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Here are my observations from Friday’s loss to the Elks.
● It’s important to note that while jobs are certainly won and lost during the pre-season, it’s far from pretty football and hardly an indicator of a team’s future success. That said, while the game had plenty of sloppy play, it was great to have football back after a long and cold winter.
● What a beautiful night for football, with temperatures hitting plus-25 at kickoff. It was a pretty sparse crowd – with an announced attendance of 20,518 – but at least Mother Nature showed up. Nice touch by the Bombers to have the singing of the Canadian and Ukrainian anthems.
● The Bombers had nearly 80 players dress for this one, meaning there were a ton of moving pieces and a lot of different looks in all three phases. Kudos to Brad Fotty and Kevin Todd, the Bombers equipment staff, for getting them ready to go.
● Pre-season is always a great opportunity to look at the quarterback depth and with the departure of Sean McGuire over the offseason, that No. 2 spot behind starter Zach Collaros is up for grabs. And after Friday’s performances, the edge has to go to Dru Brown. Brown was with the Bombers last year, dressing for two games and attempting just 14 passes. Against the Elks, he finished 10-for-13 for 108 passing yards and one touchdown in two quarters of play. He also rushed for a two-yard score. Brown looked confident in the pocket and his arm was on point.
● That’s not to completely discredit Dakota Prukop, who was signed as a free agent over the winter and is in his fifth CFL season. Prukop was good at times, and has quick feet, with three runs for 18 yards, including an eight-yard rushing TD. He just wasn’t all that effective through the air, finishing five-for-14 for 81 yards and two interceptions. It should be noted that Prukop hasn’t had a lot of time to study the playbook and should be better with time.
● I’m hearing there’s a good chance that Collaros doesn’t play against the Roughriders Tuesday, which should give Brown and Prukop another chance to show their worth. I don’t think you can disagree with sitting Collaros, especially in a hostile environment, in a game that means nothing, and considering he pulled in an MVP-calibre season without a preseason last year.
● Much of the Bombers starting defence played the first half and it was a particularly rough night for the secondary, including giving up a 58-yard touchdown on the Elks opening drive. With safety Brandon Alexander (knee) expected to be out weeks and strong-side linebacker Mercy Maston (lower-body) done for the season, it’s going to be a challenge for the Bombers to make up for those losses. By game’s end, the defence surrendered 455 yards, including 284 through the air. By comparison, the Bombers offence had 292 total yards.
● I wrote on Friday that receiver Dalton Schoen had been impressing during training camp but that he was going to have to make his mark during a game. The 25-year-old lived up to the hype, beginning with a two-yard touchdown late in the first a quarter. He had another quality catch in the second frame, this one for 19 yards, with 18 yards coming after the catch. He caught all four balls thrown his way, totalling 27 yards. Rookie Blake Jackson also looked good, with three catches for 42 yards, including an 18-yard catch that set up Brown’s rushing TD.
● There was a cool moment early in the second quarter, as University of Manitoba product Cole Adamson swallowed up Elks quarterback Tre Ford for a sack. Adamson, who the Bombers selected in the fourth round in this year’s CFL Draft, is headed back to school in the fall.
● Other notable plays on defence include a sack from Adam Bighill, and a punishing hit from defensive back Malcolm Thompson that forced a fumble, which was recovered by defensive lineman L.B. Mack.
● Brady Oliveira might be the projected starter, and deservedly so, but Johnny Augustine should and will be a big part of the rush game. Augustine is such a slippery and strong runner, and he showed it again Friday. He had two 17-yard bursts during a Bombers second-quarter scoring drive, finishing with six carries for 54 yards – an average of nine yards per run. Oliveira, who was limited in action, had three rushes for 19 yards.
● I’ve been quietly saying Nic Demski is going to have a breakout season, assuming he can stay healthy, and finally record his first 1,000-yard season in his 7th year in the CFL. He had three catches for 80 yards in the first half against the Elks before exiting the game. Keep an eye out for No. 10.
● On the kicking game, the Bombers never attempted a single field goal in this one. Ali Mourtada was two-for-three on one-point converts, with his miss bouncing off the right upright. Mourtada and Marc Liegghio shared punting duties, with three kicks each, with the net yards an equal 103 yards each. Both had two kickoffs, with Mourtada averaging 71.5 yards, and Liegghio averaging 67.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.