Bombers’ QB depth chart becomes clouded in preseason loss (& 11 other thoughts)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost to the B.C. Lions by a score of 34-21 in Friday night’s preseason finale at B.C. Place Stadium. Here are my thoughts on the game.

1. The Bombers’ quarterback situation was clouded in B.C. following mixed performances from young pivots Alex Ross and Chris Streveler.

Ross, who completed just one of eight pass attempts for 12 yards last week in Winnipeg, finished Friday evening 10-of-13 for 78 yards. Streveler, who finished a perfect 10-of-10 for 140 yards and a touchdown last Friday, went just three of nine for 44 yards, a touchdown, and a pick-six. Neither performance should inspire confidence, though neither was an unmitigated disaster. Bryan Bennett, who saw his first preseason action on Friday night, played the entire second quarter and finished five of nine for 64 yards and a touchdown.

The Bombers will have to weigh their options ahead of Thursday night’s regular season opener in Edmonton. Regardless of who starts, a decision should be made sooner rather than later — the club will need to begin installing a game plan for their young quarterback as soon as possible if they are to enjoy success against a very good Eskimo team at Investors Group Field.

2. It was a mixed night for the Bombers’ two top draft picks Daniel Petermann and Rashaun Simonise. Petermann recorded four receptions for 21 yards and made a nice block on Odell Willis to secure the edge on Bryan Bennett’s 58-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle. Simonise, on the other hand, was targeted twice and appeared to be out of position on both plays.

Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky will likely be the club’s two Canadian starters come next week, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Petermann get some reps off the bench. He’s earned them.

3. Michael Couture was the Bombers’ best offensive lineman on Friday night, looking very solid at right tackle. I never project Couture as a tackle — I always envisioned him playing alongside his SFU teammate Matthias Goossen at centre or guard — but his ability to play centre, guard, and tackle makes him the perfect candidate to be the Bombers’ sixth offensive lineman again this season.

Rookie Cody Speller looked solid at centre, while Ben Koczwara appeared to struggle at times at right guard.

4. Sam Montgomery had an impressive night coming off the edge in Vancouver. Montgomery is a former third round pick of the Houston Texans who was released by the team in his rookie year for violating a team rule. He’s bounced around professional football ever since without finding a home — until now, possibly.

The Bombers have a lot of depth at defensive end — Jackson Jeffcoat, Tristan Okpalaugo, Craig Roh, and Trent Corney should all make the team — but Montgomery is a player the club needs to keep around. Whether it’s the active roster, one-game injured list or practice roster, the Bombers need to find a spot for the former LSU star.

5. The Lions may begin the season with David Foucault at right guard, but I believe they’ll be starting 2018 third overall pick Peter Godber by the end of the year.

6. Kyrie Wilson routinely impresses me with his ability to chase down ball carriers. Wilson was a tackling machine at Fresno State — he recorded 313 tackles in 30 collegiate games — and I like what he can offer as a special teamer and rotational defender. He and Quentin Gause would make nice American depth pieces for the Bombers to round out their linebacking group. Assuming Adam Bighill and Jovan Santos-Knox start at middle and weak-side linebacker, respectively, this would leave Ian Wild and Jevaris Jones without spots on the team.

7. Winnipeg’s rookie returners — Donteea Dye, A.J. Coney, and Jahad Thomas — didn’t show much when given an opportunity with the football. It’s probably safe to conclude that Ryan Lankford and/or Kevin Fogg will resume the return duties this season with rookie running back Johnny Augustine getting looks on kick-offs.

8. I thought Mohammed Seisay had the best performance among Winnipeg’s rookie defensive backs on Friday evening. Seisay turned 28 in May and brings with him three years of NFL experience, giving him somewhat of an upper hand on the competition. Chris Randle (boundary cornerback), Anthony Gaitor (boundary halfback), Chandler Fenner (strong-side linebacker), and Taylor Loffler (safety) appear to be locks to start week one. Assuming Maurice Leggett isn’t healthy enough to play in week one, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two remaining positions (field halfback and field cornerback) filled by Seisay and second-year man Brandon Alexander, respectively.

9. 2018 seventh round pick Jacob Firlotte missed the block on B.C. linebacker Frederic Chagnon that resulted in a blocked punt in the first quarter. Firlotte seems like a great kid, but that doesn’t bode well for his odds of making the team.

10. It’s hard to ignore the success that Dominique Davis has enjoyed thus far with the Ottawa Redblacks. Davis looked good in both of his preseason outings with his new club, completing 26 of 36 pass attempts for 286 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also recorded a rushing touchdown.

I receive almost nothing but negative replies regarding Davis’ play when I mention his time in Winnipeg and I can’t yet figure out why. His numbers were unspectacular — 33 of 54 for 377 yards, no touchdowns, no picks — but Davis was never given an adequate opportunity to show what he could do as a member of the Bombers. Davis posted the best quarterback rating (82.1) of any back-up of the Walters/O’Shea era (Dan LeFevour, 50.0; Brian Brohm, 61.8; Robert Marve, 73.8) and releasing him outright in early February has proven to be a costly decision.

Davis still has a lot to prove, but there’s little argument that he would be the Bombers’ starter on Thursday had the club brought him back this season. Oops.

11. Darian Durant’s name was in the news yesterday when TSN’s Dave Naylor reported that the veteran pivot would be willing to come out retirement to join the Bombers following Wednesday’s injury to Matt Nichols. The news came just three weeks after Durant’s twitter tirade during which he lashed out against those who criticized the way in which he handled his decision to retire.

Durant began his string of tweets by telling Blue Bomber director of public relations Darren Cameron to “stay in [his] lane,” an intriguing statement given that Cameron was engaging in a matter of public relations at the time (which is literally his job).Durant then spent hours replying to angry fans — most of whom cheer for the Bombers — and making fun of the club’s long Grey Cup drought.

Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with Durant venting on twitter. Some called Durant’s comments petty, but they were also highly entertaining and made for interesting conversation (which, for those who care about and cover the CFL, is always a win). I also appreciate the fact that players need to censor themselves throughout their careers — even in the face of staunch (or even unfair) criticism, retaliation is rarely a wise move for active players.

This, however, is precisely the problem with Durant’s misguided “comeback” attempt. The CFL is a small league — burning a bridge is perilous under any circumstances, particularly when your rights are held by one team (the Bombers hold Durant’s rights until February of 2019).

Durant referenced a number of factors regarding his decision to retire, all of which were perfectly reasonable. The two-time Grey Cup champion became a father this winter, so family life was obviously a factor. Durant also stated on twitter that he “no longer wanted to play football,” that his “body didn’t respond” to off-season training, and that he wished to “move on with [his] life.” All of these are legitimate reasons to step away from the game.

Durant’s sudden desire to abandon retirement render these reasons meaningless. It’s clear that Durant’s decision to retire was never about family, health concerns or “bleeding green” — he simply couldn’t bring himself to be someone else’s back-up.

12. All nine CFL teams are required to reduce their active rosters to 46 players by 10:00 AM ET on Sunday. This total does not include players on the practice roster (teams are allowed to carry up to ten) or personnel on the one or six-game injured lists.

Winnipeg will open the 2018 CFL regular season on Thursday versus the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field at 7:30 PM.

Must Read