Canadian Football League News
2007 CFL Eastern Preview - Winnipeg Blue Bombers
By Fred Williams Jun 27, 2007, 15:05 GMT
Winnipeg was the CFL's most improved team in 2006, registering four more wins last year than it recorded in '05. As a result, rookie head coach Doug Berry was deservedly nominated for the league's top head coach award, which was won by Wally Buono of the Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions.
Taking a look at Winnipeg's lineup on both sides of the ball, it's not hard to believe the Bombers will be contenders in the East again this year.
Offensively, they have the CFL's rushing leader in running back Charles Roberts and two big-time receivers in Derick Armstrong and Milt Stegall. In fact, Stegall needs just two touchdowns to break the league's all- time mark of 137 that's shared by retired running backs George Reed and Mike Pringle.
But the real key to Winnipeg's offense will be quarterback Kevin Glenn.
Entering his fourth season with the Bombers, Glenn has shown flashes of brilliance at times and last year threw for 3,427 yards and 17 touchdowns. But he also had 13 interceptions, and in the club's playoff loss Glenn had just 12 completions in 22 pass attempts, although he did parlay that into 224 yards and a TD.
Trouble is, though, Glenn does get hurt, meaning the Bombers need a reliable backup. So, the club acquired former Texas Tech star Kliff Kingsbury from Montreal for veteran Brad Banks. Kingsbury does have NFL experience, but is rather short on reps in the Canadian game.
But the key for a quarterback in Winnipeg's offense is to be able to hand the ball off to Roberts while also getting into the hands of both Stegall and Armstrong and then watching all three do their thing. The job entails making sure the quarterback doesn't do anything to lose the game, rather than trying to win it himself.
The Bombers also boast a very stout defense, led by middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, who led the CFL in tackles with 110. The next player closest to Simpson last year had 83 tackles.
However, as dominant as Simpson is, a big key to his success is stellar play by a solid defensive line that gives Simpson the freedom to flow to plays and put himself in position to make tackles untouched. Defensive tackle Doug Brown remains one of the CFL's top linemen as the 6-foot-7, 302-pound Brown occupies two offensive linemen in the middle himself. Rush end Tom Canada is a tenacious pass rusher while end Gavin Walls is indeed under-rated and newcomer Nate Davis, when healthy, is also solid up the middle.
Winnipeg also worked to shore up its defensive secondary by adding veteran Davin Bush from Saskatchewan. His presence, along with that of returnees Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux, will definitely help the Bombers.
So to will the experience of defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who transformed a Bombers defense that in 2005 gave up more yards than any team in CFL history into the unit that helped anchor the club's amazing turnaround last year.
Surprisingly, just like B.C.'s Dave Ritchie, Marshall wasn't seriously considered for any of the three head-coaching vacancies that existed in the offseason, which is great news for the Bombers heading into the 2007 season. Veteran kicker Troy Westwood returns but despite posting a respectable 42.9- yard punting average he won't do both jobs. Either journeyman Pat Fleming or rookie Chris Beckman will do that.
Sports Network predicted finish: Second.
© 2007 The Sports Network