December 15, 2018

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Record: 10–8–0

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Nichols defends Manziel's game

It seems everybody has an opinion on Johnny Manziel’s less-than-stellar CFL debut for the Montreal Alouettes Friday and that includes Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols.

In a 50-11 beatdown courtesy of the team that traded him to Montreal — the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Manziel went 11-for-20, throwing for 104 yards and four interceptions.

Nichols was asked his thoughts on the game and said it’s hard to truly evaluate Manziel’s performance if you’re not in Montreal’s system.

“Overall, he obviously showed some flashes. I was a huge fan of his in college and so it was exciting watching him run around a little bit,” Nichols said.

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Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel warms up prior the game against the Eskimos. (Graham Hughes / Canadian Press files)

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel warms up prior the game against the Eskimos. (Graham Hughes / Canadian Press files)

It seems everybody has an opinion on Johnny Manziel’s less-than-stellar CFL debut for the Montreal Alouettes Friday and that includes Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols.

In a 50-11 beatdown courtesy of the team that traded him to Montreal — the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Manziel went 11-for-20, throwing for 104 yards and four interceptions.

Nichols was asked his thoughts on the game and said it’s hard to truly evaluate Manziel’s performance if you’re not in Montreal’s system.

"Overall, he obviously showed some flashes. I was a huge fan of his in college and so it was exciting watching him run around a little bit," Nichols said.

"He had a couple of bad breaks, but overall, he’s learning a new game, new defences, new offence at the same time. From what I’ve seen, the guys that are given the opportunity to go out and make mistakes and grow from it are the guys that usually get to have a decent career up here. I mean, you’ve gotta go through some growing pains. I think every starter in the league has."

Manziel’s poor showing might have reminded some American fans that a former college football star or a high NFL draft pick can’t just strap on a helmet and dominate the Canadian game right away. Despite that, you won’t find Nichols cheering against Manziel. He’d like to see the 2012 Heisman trophy winner succeed in the CFL.

"I pull for every quarterback. I know how difficult it is. I’m one of the first ones to defend any quarterbacks," Nichols said after Monday’s practice.

"It frustrates me even when, if a guy has a bad game, and whoever is saying this guy can’t play. It is a difficult position and you can have one or two things go wrong for you and it looks like an awful game. I’ve had games where I felt I played really good and had two bad breaks and everyone thinks it was an awful game. I defend all the quarterbacks."

Backup plan

The pressure may be off Chris Streveler after the rookie quarterback started three games to open Winnipeg’s regular season, but he’s hardly been idle since returning to backup duty behind No. 1 Nichols.

The 23-year-old rookie is routinely used in third-down packages and judging by the 10-yard reception he made on a throw from wide receiver Darvin Adams on a gadget play during a 40-14 win over Toronto in Week 7, the Blue Bombers are looking for new ways to exploit his skill set.

"I guess I didn’t really have any expectations going into it," Streveler said. "But I do know that coaches Paul (LaPolice) and Buck (Pierce) do a great job of making game plans and doing schemes and things like that. So, I know they’re going to continue to give guys opportunities. If I’m included in that, that’s great."

Streveler’s numbers thus far — 58-for-92 passing for 626 yards and six touchdowns and 34 carries for 232 yards rushing — would be an impressive introduction to the CFL for any quarterback.

"I’m taking the same approach to my personal development that I did back when I was starting," Streveler said. "It’s a day-by-day process and you kinda just want to work on your craft every day. Pick up a thing or two you can learn or get better at every day and focus on that. It’s a daily effort."

The state of the west

The Blue Bombers are 4-3, which is six points back of front-running Calgary and two points behind second-place Edmonton in the brutally tough West Division.

"I think right now you don’t focus on your overall record," Nichols said.

"You try and get wins week by week and hopefully they start piling up for you. You can’t look too far ahead right now, especially in the West right now. In my mind, at minimum you’re trying to get to 10 wins; there’s a good chance you’re going to be in the playoffs at 10 and as quick as you can get to there, trying to fight for the seeding at the end, especially because I know we’re pretty West-heavy at the end."

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31 @Sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 11:20 AM CDT: Photo added.

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