Blue Bomber Final Roster Grades & Analysis

2014 positional grades found below are taken from a similar roster grade piece John Hodge wrote at this time last season

Grade Legend

A or higher = elite
B+ or A- = above average
B = average
C+ or B- = below average
C or lower = poor

Quarterback

Newcomers: None

Starter: Drew Willy

Back-Ups: Brian Brohm, Robert Marve, Josh Portis

Practice Roster: None

Analysis: Drew Willy regressed over the course of the 2014 season. Finishing his first full season as a CFL starter with a disappointing fourteen touchdowns to sixteen interceptions, many blamed Willy’s struggles on his inexperience, a porous offensive line, and the ill health of star receiver Nick Moore. After an off-season that saw Kyle Walters and company revamp the Blue Bomber offensive line and hand Drew Willy a shiny new contract extension, the excuses are at an end for the Bomber starter. Back-ups Brian Brohm and Josh Portis have looked steady in spot duty while Robert Marve’s athleticism and rocket-like arm have captivated football fans across the province of Manitoba. The Bombers’ QB stable receives a slightly improved grade over last season for an increase in experience and depth through the addition of Portis.

2014 Grade: C+

2015 Grade: B

Running Back

Drew Willy, Paris Cotton,

Newcomers: Da’Rel Scott

Starter: Paris Cotton

Back-Ups: Cameron Marshall

Practice Roster: Da’Rel Scott

Analysis: Paris Cotton resumes the starting role he earned late last season. Cotton finished the 2014 campaign with two 100-yard rushing games in just four starts along with a decent 5.5 yard-per-carry average. Given the extent to which the Bombers have upgraded their offensive line this off-season, Bomber fans should expect big things from Cotton in 2015. Meanwhile, back-up Cameron Marshall has recorded just two career carries and, as such, is largely an unknown. Marshall (5’11, 215), as well as practice roster player Da’Rel Scott (5’11, 210), bring some beef to a Bomber backfield that has been devoid of power runners for far too long. The Bomber backfield receives a slightly worse grade than a season ago for a lack of experience — and though I don’t question the abilities of Cotton or Marshall as ball carriers, we’ve yet to see how well they perform in pass protection.

2014 Grade: B+

2015 Grade: B

Fullback

Newcomers: Tim Cronk, Chris Normand, Ettore Lattanzio

Starter: Michel-Pierre Pontbriand

Back-Up: Tim Cronk

Practice Roster: Chris Normand, Ettore Lattanzio

Analysis: Michel-Pierre Pontbriand remains to be one of the CFL’s most underrated blocking fullbacks, though his pass catching and ball carrying skills leave much to be desired. Enter 2015 draftee Chris Normand, a player who has the same frame as Pontbriand (6’2, 230) but also possesses the athleticism and ball skills to be used as on offensive weapon. With Normand developing on the practice roster, Tim Cronk, one of the big surprises of Blue Bomber training camp, looks to join Pontbriand in the role of special teamer and run blocker. Rookie Ettore Lattanzio, a converted defensive lineman, will likely make his CFL career strictly as a special teams player. This group receives an improved grade from last season for added depth and the addition of a second impact blocker.

2014 Grade: B

2015 Grade: B+

Receiver

bombers

Newcomers: Darvin Adams, Kris Bastien, Justin Veltung, Addison Richards, Toney Clemons, Jhomo Gordon

Starters: Darvin Adams, Nick Moore, Clarence Denmark, Julian Feoli-Gudino, Rory Kohlert

Back-Ups: Justin Veltung, Addison Richards, Kris Bastien

Practice Roster: Toney Clemons, Jhomo Gordon

Analysis: As much as people around the league have criticized Nick Moore for an injury-plagued 2014 season, the truth is Moore was actually one of the league’s most effective receivers when healthy. Though his failure to reach the end zone hurts Moore’s numbers, his 553 yards over nine starts projects to a 1,100-yard season, a number that would have seen Moore match his 2013 receiving output with the BC Lions. For a year in which passing numbers were down across the league, Moore’s 2014 average of 61.4 receiving yards per game is hardly a number to dismiss. By contrast, Weston Dressler put up just 32 receiving yards per game in 2014 – and did so making $20,000 more than Moore in the process. Meanwhile, Clarence Denmark established himself as a top-tier CFL receiver in 2014, while nationals Julian Feoli-Gudino and Rory Kohlert proved themselves to be capable starters. With Addison Richards and Kris Bastien poised to push for playing time down the stretch this season, Bomber fans will be hopeful to see the output of their national pass catchers improve across the board. This group failed to live up to the positional grade I gave them last season. I have a feeling they won’t this time around.

2014 Grade: A-

2015 Grade: A-

Offensive Line

Newcomers: Dominic Picard, Sukh Chungh, Stanley Bryant, Corey Lewis, Thomas Griffiths

Starters: Stanley Bryant, Chris Greaves, Dominic Picard, Sukh Chungh, Jace Daniels

Back-Ups: Devin Tyler, Matthias Goossen

Practice Roster: Corey Lewis, Thomas Griffiths

Analysis: What is there to say about this group? The weakest link of the 2014 Winnipeg Blue Bombers could very well have become the team’s greatest strength heading into the 2015 campaign. Stanley Bryant is the best offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League, while Dominic Picard and Sukh Chungh will bring a level of nastiness to the Bomber offensive line that is likely to go unmatched by any of their CFL counterparts. Jace Daniels and Devin Tyler had a strong preseason performances, while Chris Greaves is as steady as ever. Finally, Matthias Goossen, capable of playing all three interior positions along the offensive line, could very well be the CFL’s best sixth offensive lineman. This group will take some time to gel, but this is by far the most talented offensive line I’ve seen the Bombers put together in over a decade.

2014 Grade: C+

2015 Grade: A-

Defensive Line

Greg Peach, Louie Richardson, Bryant Turner Jr., Zach Anderson

Newcomers: Nate Collins, Jamaal Westerman, Derrell Johnson, Ivan Brown

Starters: Greg Peach, Zach Anderson, Bryant Turner, Jamaal Westerman

Back-Ups: Jake Thomas, Thaddeus Gibson, Derrell Johnson, Kashawn Fraser, Nate Collins, Louie Richardson, Ivan Brown

Practice Roster: Deantre Harlan

Analysis: Another positional group that failed to live up to my 2014 grade, the defensive line of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers looks to improve in 2015. With the ineffective Jason Vega now in Toronto and third-year man Zach Anderson back from a torn ACL, this group could wreak havoc on opposing offences this season. Jamaal Westerman brings tremendous value both as a pass rusher and a national starter, while Greg Peach is expected to continue his workman-like output from the opposite defensive end spot. I fully expect Zach Anderson to become a household name this season, freeing up Bryant Turner to return to his all-star status in 2015. This unit may not be as dominant as the defensive lines in Edmonton or Hamilton, but it may come close this season.

2014 Grade: A-

2015 Grade: A-

Linebackers

Newcomers: Sam Hurl, Khalil Bass, Tony Burnett, Garrett Waggoner

Starters: Khalil Bass, Sam Hurl, Chris Randle

Back-Ups: Jesse Briggs, Graig Newman, Garrett Waggoner, Tony Burnett

Practice Roster: None

Analysis: This positional unit is by far the biggest question mark of the 2015 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. With depth players Jesse Briggs and Graig Newman as the lone returning linebackers, the club has done a complete overhaul at this position that struggled so mightily a year ago. While it’s a safe bet that Chris Randle will play well at the SAM linebacker spot vacated by Teague Sherman, Johnny Sears, and Don Unamba, starters Sam Hurl (MAC) and Khalil Bass (WILL) are relative unknowns. Hurl, who has just a handful of CFL starts under his belt with Saskatchewan, failed to stand out in last week’s match-up versus Hamilton, while Bass has yet to play a down of professional football outside of Winnipeg’s two preseason games. Though this group’s grade gets a nod for being one of the league’s deepest in terms of national content, it has a lot to prove come the start of the regular season.

2014 Grade: D

2015 Grade: C+

Defensive Backs

Sherman Washington

Newcomers: Lin-J Shell, Vernon Kearney, Johnny Adams, Brendan Morgan, Demetrius Wright

Starters: Johnny Adams, Demond Washington, Moe Leggett, Bruce Johnson, Matt Bucknor

Back-Ups: Don Unamba, Derek Jones, Brendan Morgan, Demetrius Wright, Teague Sherman

Practice Roster: Vernon Kearney, Lin-J Shell

Analysis: Four of the five 2014 Blue Bomber starters will resume their roles in the defensive backfield this season. Rookie Johnny Adams will take over for Chris Randle at weak side cornerback, while Demetrius Wright or Lin-J Shell will step in at safety until Moe Leggett is able to return from an upper body injury. Derek Jones and Brendan Morgan provide decent national depth behind Matt Bucknor, while Unamba and Kearney bring some size to a relatively diminutive backfield. So long as Adams is able to carry over his level of play from the preseason, there’s no reason to expect this group to skip a beat in 2015.

2014 Grade: A-

2015 Grade: A-

Specialists

Newcomer: Chad Rempel

Starters: Lirim Hajrullahu, Chad Rempel

Back-Ups: None

Analysis: The only group that surpassed my roster grade in 2014 was the specialist unit, led by rookie sensation Lirim Hajrullahu. Hajrullahu, just twenty-four at the start of last season, was good on 87% of his field goals and punted 109 times for an average of 43.8 yards despite starting the year off purely as a placekicker. Though the Western product will have to avoid the sophomore slump – Hajrullahu struggled mightily in his only preseason action against the Ti-Cats – he’s proven he can successfully perform all three kicking duties at the CFL level. Chad Rempel, meanwhile, comes to Winnipeg to end the painful adventure that was the 2014 Blue Bomber search for a capable long snapper behind Ian Wild. The only thing holding this grade back is Hajrullahu’s directional punting skills that will have to improve with the new return rules that have been put in place for the 2015 season.

2014 Grade: C+

2015 Grade: A-

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

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