Mike O’Shea says Chandler Fenner was at the top of the Bombers free agent list.
“Defensively he’s a very active, very aggressive player and you add on top of that 27 special teams tackles, so he’s going to make our special teams unit better as well as our defence. But the added bonus you get from him is a guy who is committed to playing special teams,” O’Shea, the blue and gold head coach, told Bob Irving on 680 CJOB in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg signed Fenner to a two-year contract on the first day of free agency.
“When I spoke with him it’s evident that he certainly puts a big emphasis on it and wants to play, so he’s going to make us better in two facets of the game. Anytime you can land a guy who is going to help you in two of the three phases that’s a real bonus,” O’Shea said.
“That kind of leadership you don’t have to speak a lot. You go out there and you run down on kick-off, then you play defence, then you play punt return, then you run out on punt, your teammates notice.”
Fenner started at strong-side linebacker for the Lions last season. Maurice Leggett manned that SAM linebacker position for the Bombers a year ago. Some sort of a lineup change will occur for one or perhaps both players.
“It’s all pure speculation until right now,” O’Shea said with a laugh. “We do see Chandler Fenner playing that dime spot and we see Mo as a versatile guy who can slot into a bunch of different spots for us.”
Leggett has been in Richie Hall’s scheme since the defensive coordinator came to Winnipeg for the 2015 season.
“Obviously we like Mo’s play-making ability and he’s been in our system and understands the defence front and back. We have no problem slotting Mo in a couple different spots and see how it plays out,” O’Shea said.
Leggett suffered a season-ending Achilles tear while bringing down an onside kick late in the Bombers’ win over the Lions in Week 17. The 31-year-old had another excellent season, recording 50 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, three interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown and a 97-yard punt return touchdown in 13 games. Less than five months after the injury, Leggett can already dunk.
“It does look good for training camp,” O’Shea said in regards to when Leggett could be back to full health.
That would give some impressive depth as far as players able to play the strong-side linebacker spot.
“[Fenner and Leggett] gives us an advantage,” O’Shea said.
“The ability to move guys around and possibly give some different looks to the opposing offences so they can’t really get a bead on exactly everything we’re doing.”