Bomber Thoughts: Week Five, Winnipeg at Edmonton

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 Winnipeg Blue Bombers were decimated by the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday night by a final score of 32-3. Here are my thoughts:

1. Every time the Bombers get lit up – which, sadly, has been a fairly common occurrence since I joined twitter in 2012 – I get tweets from a small number of my fellow Bomber fans accusing me of being too negative in my assessment of the team. After a performance like tonight’s, I’m not sure how being too negative is even possible. Aside from the Bombers’ front seven – for whom I have some praise below – what positive things could possibly be said of Saturday night’s game? Drew Willy was poor before getting hurt. Brian Brohm was terrible in relief. Nick Moore, Darvin Adams, and Paris Cotton all dropped passes. Addison Richards dropped a pass into a defender’s hands. The offensive line gave up four sacks. The secondary gave up three touchdown passes to a rookie quarterback. The Bombers took seventeen penalties. Troy Stoudermire did nothing in the return game. Kendial Lawrence rattled off a fifty-three yard punt return for what was essentially a touchdown. The Bomber offence was unable to score a single point off two Edmonton turnovers. Lirim Hajrullahu can’t make field goals anymore. Fortunately, Hajrullahu wasn’t called upon to attempt a dreaded one-point convert. Finally, a team coached by a former special teams coordinator took three – THREE – fifteen-yard no yards penalties. To be frank, this game was an unmitigated disaster. The Bombers are now 2-3 on the season with a point differential of -50. If you’re still claiming that this team simply “needs time to gel” or “is still rebuilding,” it’s time to give your head a shake. Toronto is off to a 3-1 start on a brutal schedule without its starting quarterback. Ottawa is 3-2 one year removed from expansion. Edmonton – who won just four games in 2013, in case you forgot – is 3-0 without Mike Reilly at the helm. So don’t talk to me about patience. Don’t talk to me about negativity. I’ve supported this team my whole life despite never having seen them win a Grey Cup. I pay for tickets. I pay for merchandise. I travel 5,000 kilometers annually to watch this team play at Investors Group Field. When they play like garbage – and that’s an apt word for how they played against the Eskimos: garbage – I have the right to voice my fair assessment of the team. Anyone who is uninterested in hearing my “unfair negativity” can feel free to hit the unfollow button and continue deluding themselves into believing that 32-3 losses are acceptable. I won’t be offended. In the meantime, the rest of us are going to continue demanding the best from our team.

2. I started the hashtag #WhatMarveDid midway through the fourth quarter and encouraged Bomber fans to use it in an explanation for why Mike O’Shea refuses to play Robert Marve. Of the hundreds of tweets that followed, these were some of my favorites:

#WhatMarveDid

3. Mike O’Shea told CJOB after the game that “Robert Marve didn’t practice this week … [because] he is nicked up.” Before I respond to O’Shea’s comment, I should first clarify that O’Shea’s answer was at least, in part, a lie. Many local journalists reported seeing Marve take reps at practice this week, as sparse as they may have been. I should add that I’m highly skeptical of Marve’s “injury” – if the second-year pivot is really that hurt, why fly him all the way to Edmonton if he was never going to play? Dominique Davis, signed by the blue and gold late last month, is healthy and ready to be activated from the practice roster. If Marve was truly too hurt to play, the club shouldn’t have dressed him.

4. Marcel Bellefeuille’s Blue Bomber offence has now scored just fifteen points – yes, fifteen points – in its past three games against Chris Jones’ blitz-happy Eskimo defence. I find it difficult to put into words just how disappointed I am that after a year of film study and the CFL’s implementation of new, offence-friendly rules, Bellefeuille is still being brutally out-coached. As formidable as Edmonton’s defence is — full credit to them for putting together a great game — there is no excuse for scoring just three points in a CFL game. The Bombers will host the Eskimos on October 3rd; failure to score so much as a touchdown in that game would be a fireable offence for Bellefeuille.

5. As I said in last week’s post, defensive end Jamaal Westerman has earned every penny the Bombers spent bringing him to Winnipeg this past off-season. Westerman had his best game as a Bomber in Edmonton, recording a sack – he now leads the team with three – and nine tackles. With Nate Collins and Thaddeus Gibson breathing new life into the Blue Bomber defensive line, I’m only expecting bigger and better things from Westerman as the season progresses.

6. A number of Bomber fans used to defend Joe Mack by saying he “found good imports.” Many fans now defend Mike O’Shea by saying his “players love playing for him.” In my opinion, the only fair way to defend a coach or general manager is to say he “wins games.” So far, O’Shea hasn’t won many.

7. Gary Lawless wrote a solid piece on Sam Hurl this past Thursday describing the ways in which Hurl has played well this season despite a lack of accompanying statistics. While I think it’s fair to cut Hurl some slack based on the film evidence of his play – kudos to Lawless, by the way, for going straight to the source (O’Shea) and digging up tangible, hard evidence for his column – I think it’s worth mentioning the extent to which Hurl’s limitations are pigeon-holing the Bomber defence into specific schemes. Hurl’s skill set doesn’t allow the Bomber defence to employ much schematic diversity and he too frequently loses one-on-one battles at the point of attack with blockers and ball carriers. Has my opinion of Sam Hurl improved from a week ago? Marginally, yes. Do I now believe Hurl to be a starting-caliber CFL middle linebacker? No.

8. In my recap of the CFL draft back in May I questioned the Bombers’ selections of Regina receiver Addison Richards and Queen’s defensive back Brendan Morgan at eleventh and fifteenth overall, respectively. With players like SFU’s Lemar Durant, Western’s Daryl Waud, and Calgary’s Adam Konar still on the board early in the second round, I had high hopes for Richards and Morgan to prove their worth early this season. On Saturday night, Morgan took one of Winnipeg’s three fifteen-yard no yards penalties, while Richards contributed a bad drop. It’s obviously too early to draw any serious conclusions about 2015 draft picks, but I think it’s important that these two rookies contribute more as the season progresses.

9. I think it’s safe to say the fans have spoken.

Marve RT

10. In professional football you have to make the most of opportunities when they arise. Second-year Bomber Devin Tyler got the chance to start at right tackle in Edmonton after Jace Daniels, whose play declined over the first four weeks of the season, missed some practice time this week due to a minor lower-body injury. Sadly, Tyler struggled mightily against the Eskimo pass rush and, barring an injury, has likely seen the last of the field for awhile.

11. I’d be much more accepting of Saturday’s one-sided loss if the Bombers hadn’t already been throttled once this season. For the second time in four games, the Bombers lost all focus and tenacity after witnessing starting pivot Drew Willy sustain a serious-looking injury. This begs the question: where the heck is the leadership on this team? Dominic Picard, Chris Randle, Stanley Bryant, Clarence Denmark, Demond Washington, Nick Moore — these are veterans who are supposed to be able to keep the team calm, cool, and collected when the pressure’s on. As it stands, I’m not seeing it.

12. The Bombers play their next game in just five days’ time at home versus the 2-2 BC Lions. After a very disappointing Alberta road trip I think it’s safe to expect poor attendance at Investors Group Field, a busy Rum Hut, and plenty of “We Want Marve” chants if Drew Willy is unable to play.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: bluebombertalk@gmail.com

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.