Bomber Thoughts: Preseason Week Two, Hamilton @ Winnipeg

Bomber Thoughts is a blogging series for which Blue Bomber Talk author John Hodge writes new posts immediately following every Blue Bomber game of the season.

The Bombers dropped their final preseason game of the 2015 campaign to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 26-15. Here are my thoughts:

1. I’m extraordinarily tired of hearing people say that the “preseason doesn’t matter.” It matters. It matters quite a lot, actually. That isn’t to say that the score of preseason games matters a great deal, but the level of play certainly does. Preseason games are the stage upon which future stars perform for the first time; they are the best means by which to measure the depth of an organization, one of the most important factors in determining which teams are around at the end of the season in a sport as rough as football. Saying that “the score doesn’t matter in the preseason” is a relatively fair assertion. Saying that “the preseason doesn’t matter” is utter foolishness.

2. The Blue Bomber offensive line was excellent on Friday night. Drew Willy was extraordinarily well-protected throughout the first half, the lone blemish coming on a play that saw Dan Molls’ blatant offside infraction go uncalled. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a clean half of pass protection.

3. Drew Willy was disappointing against a Ti-Cat defence that featured only six projected starters in the first half. Even with stellar protection, Willy connected on just one deep ball to Clarence Denmark for a gain of forty-five yards. Outside of that, Willy amassed his remaining ninety-seven yards through the type of underneath ‘dink and dunk’ passes that offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille loves so much. With the new rules limiting the amount of contact defensive backs can have on receivers after five yards, I don’t understand why the Bombers refused to attack deeper portions of the field.

4. Rookie Sukh Chungh played the entire game at right guard and performed at a very high level. Look for him to start next week in Regina.

5. Addison Richards had a tough debut in blue and gold. Unable to play last week due to injury, Richards got into his first live CFL action with the second-team offence early in the second half. The twenty-one-year-old former Regina Ram was the target of back-to-back Brian Brohm tosses in his second on-field series, failing to record a reception on either play. Richards was then hurt and forced to leave the game with an ‘upper-body injury.’ Meanwhile, rookie Lemar Durant — the receiver out of SFU who was passed over three times by Winnipeg in last month’s draft — notched five receptions for eighty-five yards with Calgary on Friday night. Hm…

7. Welcome back, beer snake. You looked as fun, stupid, glorious, and unique as ever before.

8. It’s too early to draw any major conclusions of Sam Hurl’s play at middle linebacker, but I wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw versus Hamilton. I liked Hurl’s straight-line speed and his punishing physicality, but I thought he really lacked cover skills and quickness. I’m interested to see how he plays next week in Regina.

9. Kris Bastien looked excellent on Friday night. Recording four receptions for fifty-nine yards, Bastien showed off his soft hands and did a nice job blocking down-field. It’s worth noting that Bastien’s reps came against Hamilton’s second- and third-string defenders, but every player’s got to start somewhere, right?

10. Brian Brohm regressed from a mediocre performance in Toronto last week. Brohm went just 2/6 for twenty yards before what should have been a Ti-Cat interception ended his night.

11. Where was the Blue Bomber pass rush? I loved newcomer Jamaal Westerman’s burst off the line but incumbents Greg Peach, Bryant Turner, and Zach Anderson were all but invisible. The team is going to need far better results from this group if they’re going to take any pressure off of the club’s defensive backs this season.

12. Speaking of the club’s defensive backs, I thought Johnny Adams and Malachi Freeman stood out for their tenacity and physicality in coverage. Both players run well and are able to time their contact with the arrival of the ball effectively, abilities that allow Adams and Freeman to cover receivers cleanly. Conversely, Demond Washington was as handsy in coverage on Friday night as ever before. If Washington can’t clean up his coverage techniques soonhe’s going to be eaten alive by illegal contact penalties in 2015.

13. Unless Addison Richards is placed on the six-game injured list, expect rookie Jordan Reaves to be cut later today. Reaves should be commended for his improvement in camp, but it was evident from the snaps I saw that he’s simply not ready for pro action. Expect him to land on the practice roster before the start of the regular season, as he’s still a worthwhile project.

14. I was surprised with how little we saw of Garrett Waggoner this preseason. Though plug-and-play players are virtually impossible to find through the CFL draft (particularly at linebacker and defensive back), I thought we’d see Waggoner get a lot of reps with the second-team defence at the WIL linebacker position. In reality, we rarely saw the rookie outside of special teams units. Something to keep an eye on.

15. Lirim Hajrullahu had a poor start to the 2015 season, missing a field goal from thirty-six yards out and going just 1/2 on extra points. Here’s hoping he can regain his 2014 form sooner rather than later.

16. As disappointing as it was not to see Jordan Yantz take the field, it was clear from Mike O’Shea’s pregame interview on CJOB that Yantz wasn’t going to get any playing time. Yantz will be cut later today, but I believe we’ll see him on the practice roster soon.

17. As happens every so often, I had a few twitter followers complain about my negativity during the game. If you’re a follower of mine, please know that I do my best during games to remain as impartial as possible in my analysis. I tell it like it is, good or bad. Am I cheering for positive results? Yes. At the end of the day, I’m a season ticket holder and a fan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. With that said, however, I’m not interested in sugarcoating the negatives or overselling the positives. I tell it like I see it regardless of the colour of the uniforms on the field. If this type of coverage isn’t to your liking, please feel free to hit the ‘unfollow’ button. I promise I will not be offended.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.