For the Bombers to be good, Willy must be better (& 15 other thoughts)

1. Some scores accurately reflect the on-field action of the sporting event in question, while others don’t. Winnipeg’s 22-14 loss to the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night falls into the latter category. With Winnipeg’s defence forcing two red zone turnovers and a holding penalty wiping out a 70-yard Montreal score, Friday night’s contest had no business being a one-score game late in the fourth quarter. Mike O’Shea told CJOB after the game that he was glad certain plays went the way they did to keep the game from becoming “an embarrassment.” You and me both, coach.

2. Drew Willy recorded 303 passing yards on Friday night, one of the most misleading single-game statistics I’ve seen a player record in twenty years of closely following the CFL. Willy was errant throughout the opening three quarters of the game, falling victim to the same issues that plagued him a season ago — slow decision-making and over-estimating his own elusiveness in the pocket. It wasn’t until the game’s 47-minute mark that Willy started consistently connecting on passes, crossing the 100-yard mark (yes, 100 yard mark — not a typo) on a 13-yard pass to Jace Davis. From there, Willy tossed for another 194 yards in just under thirteen minutes against a Montreal secondary that appeared to have lost interest in a game reaching its fifth hour of play.

3. Yes, a 65-minute delay took place in the middle of the first quarter of Friday night’s contest due to “lightning in the area.” While I respect the CFL’s commitment to safety, no lightning was spotted near Investors Group Field throughout the entire stoppage in play.

4. I think we can finally put to rest the debate about the Blue Bomber offensive line. While the Alouettes registered five sacks, one came on a bobbled snap, another came on a misread blitz from Willy, and another two came on plays that saw the Bomber starter hold onto the ball for far too long. When your offensive line gives up one true sack against the likes of John Bowman, Vaughn Martin, and Gabriel Knapton, that’s a win.

5. The offensive line also did a nice job opening holes for Andrew Harris who, even at 19 touches, should have seen the ball more. Harris is the Bombers’ best player and needs to be featured accordingly.

6. Weston Dressler took a nasty head-shot just six minutes into the game and is likely out for the next while with a concussion. I’m not sure when the CFL plans to start flagging defenders for leading with the helmet on tackles, but the sooner the better.

7. Jace Davis, the much-hyped newcomer who failed to register so much as a target in the pre-season, shone on Friday night. Making five receptions for 82 yards, Davis brought more to the y-slotback spot in one game than Julian Feoli-Gudino did for much of last season.

8. The Bomber front-seven looked pretty sharp on the defensive side of the ball on Friday night. Euclid Cumming was very disruptive in the middle, while Ian Wild and Khalil Bass appear primed to become one of the top linebacking duos in the CFL. The Alouettes recorded a lot of yardage, sure, but so do most teams that dominate time of possession (33:19).

9. Early as it may be, it’s clear Drew Willy has already developed some chemistry with Davis and re-kindled the connection he formed with Darvin Adams a season ago. Throwing to newcomer Ryan Smith, however, every ball was an adventure. Considering Dressler (who looked to be Willy’s favorite target early-on) could be out for awhile, developing some chemistry with Smith should be Willy’s first order of business this week.

10. Speaking of Willy, I’ve been a harsher critic than most when it comes to the 29-year-old starter. I wasn’t quick to take to the bright-eyed, soft-spoken first-year starter from 2014 or the long-bombing, pocket-pilon we saw a year ago. This season, with Willy making elite CFL starter money, my analysis will only become more critical as expectations (rightfully) elevate in Bomberland. Willy’s got the pieces around him to be successful and he’s being compensated like a true #1 pivot. He needs to play like one. Now. Going on the road for the next two weeks should help — tossing for just one first down in an entire half of football is no way to start a season in front of (rightfully) impatient fans — and I’m interested to see Willy’s resiliency tested so soon. Let’s hope he bounces back. If not, O’Shea can’t be afraid to give Matt Nichols some reps.

11. Paul LaPolice’s game-plan on Friday night was over-matched by rookie Montreal offensive coordinator Anthony Calvillo. Sure, Calvillo is getting help from Jacques Chapelaine, but that’s a bad look for the CFL’s highest-paid O.C. As good as Montreal’s front-seven is, the Als were starting two raw rookies in the secondary along with Jovon Johnson playing out of position at halfback. The Bomber offence simply never took advantage.

12. Speaking of LaPolice, I’d like the see the “Fire O’Shea/Promote LaPo” crowd disappear in a hurry. Mid-season coaching changes almost never work in professional football and LaPolice has yet to prove his validity as an offensive coordinator in today’s CFL. When/if the offence gets humming then maybe — maybe — we can talk about a coaching change. Until then, stop.

13. Second-year Bomber Julian Posey didn’t get as badly bruised at boundary halfback as I expected he might working against S.J. Green. He’s earned the start next week in Calgary. Bruce Johnson, on the other hand, has a lot to prove with former Argonaut halfback Travis Hawkins being added to the practice roster this past week.

14. Speaking of next week’s game, the Bombers’ next six games are nightmarish match-ups. First the Bombers visit Calgary before traveling to Hamilton, hosting Edmonton, hosting Calgary, traveling to Edmonton, and then hosting Hamilton. If the club can come out of those games with a 3-4 record, they’d take it.

15. The Bombers fell to an abysmal 7-21 all-time at Investors Group Field on Friday night. The futility exemplified by that winning percentage (.250) is difficult to truly comprehend.

16. Congratulations to Chris Walby on becoming the first player inducted to the Blue Bomber Ring of Honour. Walby serves as a reminder of everything the Blue Bombers should be and (regrettably) haven’t been in recent years.


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