Bombers fail mid-terms

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

It is that time of year most losing teams dread -- the mid-term report.

And, once again, this Winnipeg Blue Bombers' report card won't be pretty. While the Bombers get an A for effort for most, but not all, of their games in the first half of the CFL season, the bottom line is that their record is 2-7, tied for the worst on the circuit and out of a playoff spot. at means they get an overall F grade through the first nine games, no matter how many apples they bring to this teacher. Yet, it won't take much homework to become the CFL's most improved student.

Here is a look at how diffe-ent aspects of the club stacked up:

THE MARKS

A: Top of the league B: Better than most C: Average

D: Hit the books F: Worst in the CFL

QUARTERBACKS -- C

If only the oft-injured Buck Pierce had managed to stay healthy for any length of time, the offence could have realized its full potential. Both Pierce and Steve Jyles had their moments and are in the top half of CFL passing and scoring stats, but they failed to put points on the board when it mattered most. And they only have two wins between them, in nine games.

Just wondering, is it too late to get Kevin Glenn back?

RUNNING BACKS -- C-plus

Tailback Fred Reid is currently fourth in the CFL with 658 yards on 106 carries and his 6.2-yard average is second among starting tailbacks, despite being one of the few in the league who seldom gets spelled off. Fullbacks Jon Oosterhuis et al are almost exclusively used as blocking backs.

RECEIVERS -- C

Slotback Terrence Edwards is enjoying an all-star season and would likely be the club's MVP if the voting were done today. SB Terence Jeffers- Harris was in the running for rookie of the year until he got hurt. But their fellow pass catchers have been both inconsistent and plagued by dropitis. Many of those drops have taken the club out of games or at least negated possible comebacks, and Adarius Bowman was not the only guilty party. Edwards and Jeffers- Harris raise these guys above a D.

OFFENSIVE LINE -- C

is is a tough one because the Hogs have given the quarterbacks enough time to throw for some good yardage at times, but have allowed 24 quarterback sacks -- tied for the worst in the CFL. Reid has only rushed for one 100-yard game, although both Pierce and Jyles have had big games rushing -- and the club is among the CFL's rushing leaders. But their second-down conversions suck and we still think the line should dominate opposing front sevens whenever they employ two starting imports.

DEFENSIVE LINE -- B-plus

This is the best unit on the club and would be even better if the two starting defensive ends would quit taking all those ill-advised penalties. Both Phillip Hunt and Odell Willis would be in the running for Winnipeg's top defensive player if they had not been flagged for so many infractions. In their defence, they get mugged more than any other DE's in the league while the refs turn a blind eye. Hunt currently leads the CFL with eight quarterback sacks. e interior, with Doug Brown and whomever lines up beside him, has been solid for the most part. e Bombers are second in the CFL in rush defence. Take away those penalties and these guys get an A.

LINEBACKERS -- F

Sure, they have been riddled by injuries since the season started but how many impact plays have any of them made in the nine games since the season started? Middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn has not made anyone forget Barrin Simpson while rookies Marcellus Bowman and Bernard Hicks have plenty of upside when healthy. But we are still waiting for it to develop.

DEFENSIVE BACKS -- C

Cornerback Jovon Johnson is currently the leading candidate to be the defensive MVP, despite a couple of games he would like to play over. Fellow corner LaVar Glover had also been solid but injuries have affected the inside DB and safety positions. Alex Suber could rate consideration as the club's top rookie while veteran Clint Kent has filled in admirably at both DB and LB. The club is fourth in pass defence but only seventh in interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS -- C-plus

The placekicking -- Alexis Serna lost his job -- and kickoff return teams were atrocious through the first half. After a rocky start, the kick cover teams have been the most improved unit on the club. Clint Kent is tied for second in the CFL leaders with 12 special teams tackles.

Mike Renaud is the leading punter in both average (45.9 yards) and net (38.4). Jovon Johnson remains the leading punt returner with 47 for 501 yards and a 10.7- yard average (third) and two touchdowns (first), and is the leading candidate to become the club's special teams rep again.

COACHING, PERSONNEL AND MANAGEMENT -- F

Sure, some of the team's stats are pretty good and should translate to better grades -- and more wins. But these guys are judged by their bottom line and that bottom line, 2-7, is a failure. At different times this season, the jobs of the special teams coordinator, defensive co-ordinator, offensive co-ordinator, head coach and GM have been questioned. GM Joe Mack did find Jeffers-Harris, signed Jyles and recruited others we are still waiting on. But the current lineup has yet to prove it is good enough and we wonder why the personnel department has yet to make any significant mid-season moves.

We also wonder why the current regime has created an aura of mistrust by keeping the media -- the go-between them and their ticket-buying fans -- out of the locker room for the first time in two decades. It gives the impression they are trying to hide something.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


Photos