In his second go-round at the helm of the offence, Blue Bomber quarterback Chris Streveler’s first and only test will be whether he can make his opponents respect his arm.
Last year, when Streveler got thrust into the starting role, nobody had a book on him. We didn’t know whether he was going to be the next Matt Dunigan, or the next Michael Bishop. Heck, the Bombers probably weren't even sure themselves what they were going to get once the bright lights came on.
Not only did he exceed expectations, thrust into the starting role at the start of the 2018 season, he even managed to win a game in his first three starts as a rookie, and he kept the team in the hunt while they waited for Nichols to return from injury.
Now that Nichols is done for a while, and with nine games remaining, if Streveler is going to be the starter, and progress and transition out of his role as a situational quarterback, it will begin, and end, with what he can do slinging the rock.
As it stands right now, Chris Streveler is primarily a body puncher, used to soften up the defence. He is part of a two-pronged rushing attack that pounds a defence and forces them to change their strategy and drop their gloves. Once he has changed the physical nature of a football game, and the gloves are down, Matt Nichols usually re-enters the contest and the team resumes their multi-dimensional attack. That will no longer be an option.
Now that there is film on Streveler, both as a starter, and a role player in this scheme, it is clear how you’d approach defending him. You’d sell out to stop the run, and load up the tackle box against him and Andrew Harris. You’d force him to make quick decisions with the football, and force him to beat you throwing the football.
Keeping Streveler in the pocket all game is similar to not letting a border collie go outside and run around. It will eventually drive him nuts and make him destructive. As it stands right now, if you can force him to toss the football thirty-odd times, you stand a good chance of winning the game.
To this point, Streveler has yet to demonstrate he can be comfortable sitting in the pocket, processing the game. He’s almost got too much energy — he’s so physical and dynamic — and the confines of the pocket are almost too sedentary for him. He can do it in spurts, for sure, and throw touchdown strikes, but all game, or over a number of games, currently seems as if it’s ahead of him.
From what we’ve seen, when he gets frustrated, he wants to tuck the ball away and run. When he experiences a setback, or makes a mistake, he wants to tuck the ball away and run. And if he feels pressure in the pocket, he wants to put the ball away and run.
The triggers to flush Streveler are many, and it is largely human nature. At this point in his development, Chris knows he is strongest at running the football, so he resorts to it when things around him fall apart. We all do it. It’s like a defensive lineman resorting to his tried-and-true pass-rush move, when nothing else is working for him.
So what does this offence have to do, to account for and maximize his strengths, and limit his weaknesses? You can expect the pocket to be moved frequently, and his launch points to be all over the field. When he does throw, you can expect many of his passes to be predetermined and preset, and his reads to be limited, both in terms of the number of targets, and the amount of field he is working with. The fewer gymnastics he has to go through before pulling the trigger, the better off he will probably be.
To this point in his career, Chris Streveler has been an excellent change-up, and situational quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He brings a level of physicality to the game from the pivot position that is unprecedented, and is unique in his skill set. Due to his unorthodox style and determination, he has a very good shot at making this a successful stint.
If he wishes to transition out of this role, however, he is going to have to get awfully comfortable at doing things that make him noticeably uncomfortable.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.