New D, same old problems

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 2:02 PM ET

Tim Carter was simply beside himself.

"I can't control not making the team," the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back said after Thursday's 23-9 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos in a CFL pre-season match. "What I'm upset about is that I want to be the best at what I do and right now, I'm not where I wanted to be.

"I'm going to stick with it. I'm definitely not down on myself. I'm looking good at practice, I'm looking damn good at practice. But in the games, I'm not finishing right now."

Carter's return from elbow surgery was expected to take some of the sting out of the fact that neither veteran defensive back Ricky Bell (retired) nor veteran cornerback Eric Carter (released) returned to the Blue Bombers this year. And big things are still expected from the youngster. But Carter seemed to be burned more than any other pass defender Thursday.

"He struggled a little bit," conceded head coach Jim Daley. "But he had a great camp so hopefully, he'll recover."

But exhibition matches are much tougher challenges than training camp.

"After practices, I was thinking my game was coming back pretty fast," said Carter, 26. "But I'm not consistent in the games right now. I've just got to keep working and try not to get frustrated because I want to be out there at the level I was at when I left."

At least the 5-foot-11, 195-pound pass defender did not give up a big-gainer.

"But I didn't make any plays and that's what I do," he said. "I'm a defensive back and I make plays. But I haven't made a play yet and just being close ain't gonna cut it too long. Oh man, I just want to finish. I've just got to stay disciplined in my leverage and learn the defence a little better, know where my help is and go from there. At least I'm healthy."

But Carter had plenty of company in that doghouse that became a permanent home for the secondary last year as the Bombers allowed 336 yards through the air by three different Edmonton quarterbacks. Starter Jason Maas alone went 9-for-11 for 120 yards.

"Our pass defence is obviously a concern and it's one that we can hopefully improve on as our guys get down to the starting rotation," Daley said, referring today's final cuts. "It appeared that, when it was second-and-long, they (Eskimos) converted too often. A lot of times it was because of receivers finding a hole.

"I hope we have most of the pieces. Sometimes, you just have to patiently teach because you can't keep changing pieces and make an impact."

And the newcomers in the secondary are still getting to know one another.

"Everyone's learning together because everyone's new to this defence," Carter suggested. "It's not like I'm playing alongside somebody that's never played ball up here before in this league. I'm playing around some good vets and we've just got to keep growing together as a defensive unit. Once that happens, everyone will have more confidence, then we'll start finishing the plays. It will come."

And yeah, that does sound strangely familiar.


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