Collaros: Buck Pierce wants Bombers to be ‘grittiest team in the league’

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One of the most intriguing questions heading into the 2021 CFL season for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is how the team’s offence will look under Buck Pierce. The club’s offensive coordinator may be new to the role, but it sounds like we’ll be seeing a lot of what made the unit successful under Paul LaPolice in 2019.

“Buck’s mantra is going to be gritty. We’re going to be the grittiest team in the league,” said quarterback Zach Collaros in a videoconference. “We want to run the football, we want to finish guys, be blocking down the field, allow Andrew to gain big runs, and when a guy catches the ball down the field, we’re blocking down the field to allow for explosive plays.”

Virtually every offensive contributor from the team’s Grey Cup run in 2019 has returned. The only notable departures are receiver Lucky Whitehead, who finished the season as a healthy scratch, and offensive lineman Cody Speller, who filled in at centre during the postseason while Michael Couture was out due to injury.

Harris turned 34 in April, which could mean that the team will look to limit his workload. This wouldn’t be hard as Nic Demski and Johnny Augustine — both of whom were productive coming out of the backfield in 2019 — are back this season.

The Bombers also have Winnipeg native Brady Oliveira returning from a season-ending leg injury he suffered early in 2019 as well as fifth-round draft pick Kyle Borsa, who ran a 4.38 forty-yard dash at his pro day.

“There’s a reason everybody’s back. These guys have that attitude and they understand what the standard is, how we want to play,” said Collaros. “Obviously from a continuity standpoint, knowing what we do here and what the playbook is we can definitely build on some things earlier in the season than if you had a completely new group or completely new playbook.”

Paul LaPolice’s offence averaged 147.9 rushing yards per game in 2019, which was 25 yards better than the second-place Montreal Alouettes. The number also more than doubled the average production of the eighth-place Toronto Argonauts (73.6 yards per game) and ninth-place Calgary Stampeders (71.3 yards per game).

The flip-side of LaPolice’s run-oriented attack was a league-worst passing offence. The Bombers averaged just 212.2 passing yards per game in 2019, which was 27 yards worst than the eighth-place Ottawa Redblacks.

Winnipeg has been criticized for a lack of balance on offence in the past, but it doesn’t appear much will change under new offensive coordinator Buck Pierce in 2021. Considering the team scored the third-most points in the CFL in 2019 en route to a Grey Cup victory, that’s probably not a bad thing.