Bomber Thoughts: Week Twenty, Winnipeg at Toronto

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 defeated by the Toronto Argonauts on Friday evening by a final score of 21-11. Here are my thoughts:

1. I wrote a piece entitled Bombers Nearing Worst Era For Any Team In CFL History just seven days ago, so I’ll try to keep the doom and gloom in today’s post to a minimum. With that said, it’s exceptionally disappointing that the Bombers have not only missed the playoffs every year since 2012, but have also been mathematically eliminated by their final game in each of the past four seasons. Preseason games are supposed to be played in June, not November. Let’s not do this again next season, Bombers. Win some games. Make the playoffs. Your fans deserve it.

2. Dominique Davis was patently unspectacular on Friday night, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a player making his first professional start. Davis didn’t commit any turnovers and showed a tremendous amount of poise in the pocket for a first-year pivot. He may have only completed 16 of 25 passes for 169 yards, but considering how poor the Bomber offence has been throughout the 2015 season, expectations should be tempered accordingly. At the very least, Davis booked himself a ticket to Blue Bomber training camp next season and, barring a drastic turn of events, should be the third string pivot come week one of 2016.

3. Mike O’Shea told Bob Irving and Doug Brown on CJOB after the game that the lack of effort from some players was “very disappointing.” Here’s hoping that O’Shea is beginning to realize that, even though he didn’t during his playing career, many players need to be held accountable by their coaches at all times. The quicker O’Shea embraces this fact, the more likely he is to keep his job beyond Labour Day next season.

4. With the Bombers going back to royal blue at home and white on the road next season, there’s a good chance we won’t see these 2012-2015 gold away jerseys for awhile. I’m not going to miss them.

5. Expect Marcel Bellefeuille to be formally dismissed by the Winnipeg Football Club sometime during the first week of December. While his dismissal will be an easy way to appease fans, finding a talented replacement is going to be a tough task. Mike O’Shea is going into the last year of his contract and, with a possible regime change on the horizon, convincing a proven offensive coordinator to sign with the Bombers won’t be easy. For the record, the guy at the top of my wishlist is current Roughrider O.C. Jacques Chapdelaine.

6. The Bombers need a ton of organizational upgrades, but no area is as desperate for a makeover as their American scouting unit. The Argos, who routinely operate on the CFL’s tightest off-field budget, started five rookie international receivers at various points of the 2015 season. These receivers – Kevin Elliott, Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley, Phil Bates, and Diontae Spencer – combined for a final receiving total of 2,837 yards. Meanwhile, the four rookie American receivers who started for the Bombers in 2015 – Justin Veltung, Kevin Cone, Jhomo Gordon, and Mike Willie – combined for a paltry 231 yards. Playing time obviously plays a factor in these totals, but there’s no arguing Veltung, Cone, Gordon or Willie — two have whom were released during the season — failed to make the most of their opportunities this season.

7. Many fans have pointed to the play of 2015 newcomers Jamaal Westerman, Johnny Adams, and Khalil Bass as examples of how the Bombers’ scouting department is able to turn out quality players. What’s important to keep in mind is that these players, talented as they may be, are hardly the types of “diamonds in the rough” that CFL scouting departments are paid to uncover. Westerman and Adams have extensive NFL resumes, while Bass spent two seasons begging CFL teams to give him a shot. As such, we need to expect more from our American scouts.

8. Canadian talent will always be king in the CFL, but in many ways strong American scouting is the only way to financially maintain a roster that boasts an elite level of national talent. Exhibit A: Nick Moore’s $180,000 salary. If you can find talented rookie international receivers on an annual basis, you don’t have to pay a player almost $200,000 to finish fourteenth in league receiving. Saving money on such contracts is what allows teams to pay out the higher salaries that talented Canadian players are able to command.

9. Speaking of saving cap space, I’d expect the Bombers to release Dominic Picard before Christmas. With how well Matthias Goossen played down the stretch this season, there’s no way the Bombers keep Picard, who will turn thirty-four next June, at a clip of $205,000 per season.

10. Congratulations to Jamaal Westerman on finishing the 2015 season with a league-best total of 17 sacks. This marks the third-best single-season total the CFL has seen in ten years (Cameron Wake, 2008, 23; Charleston Hughes, 2013, 18) and, while I don’t have access to the veritable mountain of historical data to verify this claim, I believe Westerman has tied the record for most single-season sacks by a Canadian player in league history. Former Lion great Brent Johnson, born in Kingston, Ontario, recorded 17 sacks in 2005.

11. People have criticized the Bombers for missing out on former Manitoba Bison skill players Anthony Coombs and Nic Demski in the 2014 and 2015 drafts, respectively. Considering that Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh appear primed for long, studly CFL careers, these people are wrong to criticize Winnipeg’s more recent first round picks. That isn’t to say the Bombers haven’t missed out on any talented Bisons, though — Thomas Miles, a fourth round pick of Toronto in 2014, has been an effective starter for the Argos at weak-side linebacker since Cory Greenwood suffered a concussion. Toronto, with their aforementioned bare-bones off-field staff, finding a diamond in the rough at the University of Manitoba should serve a major source of embarrassment for the Blue Bomber organization.

12. Earlier this week I wrote that Cameron Marshall, a pending free agent, hadn’t done enough to earn a new contract for next season. After a gritty effort in Toronto (eleven carries for eighty yards), Marshall may have changed my mind.

13. The CFL announced earlier today that it will stream all 2015 playoffs games live online via YouTube. The streams will be available for free in an unprecedented move by the CFL to reach young fans, many of whom don’t subscribe to traditional cable packages. It’s a brilliant, proactive move from a league that is often accused of being too passive and reactionary when faced with serious issues. As someone who believes all television – live sports, sitcoms, reality TV, game shows, everything – will be available solely through online streaming within the next decade, this is a brilliant move that puts the CFL ahead of the curve.

14. A part of me was hoping to hear Duane Forde, Rod Black, and/or the TSN panel unload on Rogers for their gross mistreatment of the Argonauts during their stay at the Rogers Centre. While I respect TSN and its on-air personalities for maintaining a sense of class during tonight’s broadcast, hearing them rip Rogers would have been fun (and deserved).

15. On a personal note, it’s been an absolute delight to share my Bomber Thoughts with you for another year. It’s not that long ago that I was just a kid talking his parents’ ears off about his favorite football team over ear-marked copies of the Winnipeg Free Press. To think that anyone – much less hundreds of people – go out of their way to read what I think about this team is something I still have a tough time wrapping my mind around. It’s as surreal as it is flattering and it’s difficult to put into words how much your support means to me. I’ll keep posting pieces for 3DownNation throughout the off-season, so keep checking the website regularly. I also look forward to meeting as many of my readers as possible during Grey Cup week. I’ll be posting from various events on twitter, so I shouldn’t be a hard person to find throughout the festivities. I can also, as always, be reached via email at the address below.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.