Bombers wasting Stoddard's talent

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

We begin today with an e-mail from a reader who identifies himself as a Blue Bomber fan since 1953.

I am so disgusted with the Blue Bombers, the e-mailer writes. I feel like throwing my season tickets back at them.

Yikes, Jim Daley's gang hasn't even played a game that counts, and already it has a revolt on its hands. Don't these things usually start after, say, a 1-4 start?

The cause of our reader's disdain was the Bomber receiving corps, one of the areas the team desperately needed to upgrade after last season.

I mean, when you have one receiver (Milt Stegall) in the CFL's top-25, you know you've got some recruiting to do.

So the Bombers spent the off-season turning over rocks, finding Vinny Sutherland, and dipping into the free agent pond, hooking ex-Stampeder Wane McGarity.

Assuming Kamau Peterson has washed away the grease that was on his hands, this crew should at least make defences sit up and notice, if not quake in their cleats.

Problem is, an injury has sidelined Sutherland for the time being, the fallout of which has our e-mailer seeing red.

You see, the Bombers picked up Edmonton discard Scott Cloman last week, and promptly auditioned the import in their pre-season finale, where he didn't so much as catch a single pass.

We can only assume he ran beautiful routes and was an absolute stud as a blocker, because Cloman will start the season-opener in Saskatchewan this Saturday.

Jamie Stoddard plays slotback or wide receiver, gets open, catches the ball and runs with it after the catch, our e-mailer continued. To start a receiver who has never caught a pass for the Bombers ahead of Stoddard is a disgrace. No, it's worse -- stupid coaching!

The man has a point, and we're going to expand on it.

If pre-season games are, in fact, job interviews, then Stoddard handled every question with ease last Thursday, leading his team with four catches for 45 yards.

Meanwhile, Cloman showed up for the interview -- under hurried circumstances, to be sure -- but didn't do much else.

The Bombers will tell you they want a receiver with more speed, and they drool over Cloman's 6-foot-3, 214-pound frame.

That sounds to me like an NFL mindset, basing a decision on a guy's size and time in the 40, not on the plays he makes.

The CFL has always been different. That's why people like Charles Roberts get a chance here.

Anyone remember homegrown receivers Joe Poplawski and Rick House? All they did was get open and catch the ball.

Kind of like Stoddard has done the last few years.

Notice how the Richmond, B.C., product always seems to be the Bombers' best receiver in the playoffs?

With four catches, 75 yards and two touchdowns, he was better than speedster Reggie Jones in the 2003 West Semifinal.

A year earlier, in two games, he caught twice as many passes (six) and scored more touchdowns (one) than Arland Bruce III.

Stoddard's career average per catch: 15.3 yards, more than a yard better than perennial West all-star, Terry Vaughn.

So why in the name of Ken Neilsen can't he get a starting job, particularly right now when there's no experienced receiver available?

"Jamie would be the first to tell you he had an average camp, at best," Daley said yesterday.

And Cloman's lit it up since he got here?

Actually, Stoddard isn't quite so down on himself. Sure, a sore leg slowed him down a little, but the guy still makes plays.

Last Thursday, it seemed to me he made his bid for the starting job.

A Canadian starter saves a very valuable import slot for more pressing needs, concluded Mr. Disgusted. Give your heads a shake, men!!

What he said.


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