The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had one of the best defences in CFL history last season, but star defensive end Willie Jefferson believes the unit can get even better in 2022.
“We can get a lot better. Trying to push that fourth quarter chokehold on teams to just the second half. Try to come out of halftime after making adjustments and things like that, just try to shut them out in the second half instead of just trying to shut them out for the fourth quarter,” Jefferson told the media.
Winnipeg’s defence led the CFL in a number of key statistical areas last season including points allowed, offensive yards allowed, touchdowns allowed, yards per play allowed, and takeaways. The unit allowed just 30 points during the fourth quarter over the course of the regular season (2.1 per game), 24 of which came in two meaningless late-season games.
A few key contributors left the team during the off-season — defensive tackle Steven Richardson and strong-side linebacker Alden Darby signed with B.C. and Hamilton, respectively, while cornerback DeAundre Alford departed for the NFL — but Jefferson likes what the team’s newcomers have brought to the table.
“They’re hungry, they’re ready to work. They’re not shy, these guys like to ask questions — they want to know what’s going on, they want to be hands on. They don’t want to just sit back in meetings and just hear the coach talk, hear the older guys talk and things like that. They want to ask questions and be up on the board knowing what’s going on,” said Jefferson.
Winnipeg’s defence calls itself ‘The Dark Side,’ a nickname that originated during the 2021 season. Jefferson explained that the unit’s goal is to black out its opponents every time they take the field.
“When we take the field, we want everything to be black. We don’t want you to score at any cost, we don’t want you to have any yards, we don’t want you to have any catches. We just want to turn the lights off on you — we want it to be dark and that’s exactly the mindset that we go into every game, every series.”
The Blue Bombers are set to open their regular season on Friday night when they host the Ottawa Redblacks. The club went a perfect 8-0 at home last season (playoffs included) and will unveil a new Grey Cup banner following last season’s back-to-back championship.
“I can’t wait for Friday to get here, the fans to finally get a game, the 2022 season opening, home-opener for our fans and things like that, it’s going to be fun. The atmosphere is going to be electric.”