Bombers bringing marks up

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Warning: This is going to look a lot worse than it actually is right now.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have reached the halfway point of their season, so it's time to grade their position-by-position performance.

After a horrendous 0-4 start to the season, the Blue and Gold have now won two games in a row -- and three of their last five -- to remain well within striking distance of a West Division playoff spot at 3-6.

Their star is definitely on the rise, but don't forget that their record is still the second-worst mark in the league.

There were times during the first few weeks of the campaign when certain departments of the Bombers would have received an F, which, by our standards, would make them the worst in the league.

Luckily for the Bombers, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are still around.

Without further adieu, here are the Bomber grades after nine games of the 2005 CFL season:

HOW THEY STACK UP

A: Top of the league

B: Better than most

C: Average

D: Hit the books

F: Worst in the CFL

QUARTERBACKS: D

This area has been hurt by Kevin Glenn's ankle and thumb injuries, but it's improving.

Overall, however, Tee Martin's struggles bring the grade down.

Glenn -- and the rest of the team -- was dreadful in the season-opening loss to Saskatchewan, and Martin could not get anything going in three consecutive starts after Glenn got hurt in Regina.

A surging Glenn has completed 95 of 152 passes (62.5%) for 1,394 yards and 11 touchdowns, while tossing six interceptions. His efficiency rating is among the best in the league.

Backup Russ Michna, who has many believers around here, has been solid in two relief appearances, completing 12 of 19 passes for two touchdowns.

RUNNING BACKS: A

News flash: Charles Roberts is still the best running back in the league.

The 5-foot-6, 171-pound water bug continues to dazzle fans and leave defenders wondering "Where did he go?"

The ridiculously durable Roberts has only two 100-yard games so far, but he still leads the loop with 701 yards on 132 carries for a decent 5.3-yard average.

Roberts had just 647 yards at the midway point last season, and he finished with 1,522, so perhaps his goal of 2,000 yards isn't out of the question.

Fullbacks Scott Regimbald, who has two touchdowns, and Wade Miller have provided efficient blocking as well.

RECEIVERS: D

A severe case of the dropsies, the quarterback woes and the fact Winnipeg is dead last in receiving yards bring this grade down.

The future, however, is bright.

The early-season woes led to the release of star free-agent signing Wane McGarity and the trade of Kamau Peterson.

The newest receiver set has played only two games together, but it will get top-notch billing at season's end if it continues to haul in the ball like it has been doing.

Milt Stegall is Milt Stegall, and the rest of them -- Keith Stokes, Chris Brazzell, Gilles Colon and Jamie Stoddard -- look like they won't be leaving the starting lineup any time soon.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B-

This unit struggled mightily in the early going, which O-line coach Mike Gibson said it would given the time it takes to get on the same page.

The additions of tackles Dan Goodspeed and John Feugill, along with the acquisition of centre Aaron Fiacconi, have turned everything around for the much-maligned hogs.

The line, which also includes guards Matt Sheridan and Mike Abou-Mechrek, has been giving its quarterbacks ample time to throw the ball, it has allowed only five sacks in its last five games, and it opens holes for the league's leading rusher.

DEFENSIVE LINE: C

The front four, which features veteran tackles Joe Fleming and Doug Brown and youngsters Tom Canada and Gavin Walls on the ends, have been good but can be better at containing quarterbacks.

With backup tackle Jon Oosterhuis rotating in and out, the D-line has been getting more pressure on the quarterback this season, as their 23 sacks prove, and they're in the middle of the pack against the run.

Canada leads the way with six sacks, while the rookie Walls, with four, has had both good games and bad as he learns the CFL game.

LINEBACKERS: D

Sean Woodson is one of the league's top tacklers, and, as we mentioned, the Bombers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to stopping the run.

However, this veteran group, also featuring Ryland Wickman and Lamar McGriggs, needs to make a few more big plays.

The 'backers also have had some tackling troubles and have received some of the blame for opposing receivers finding gaping holes.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: D

Horrible start, but getting better.

That seems to be the theme with this team, but the secondary is still allowing the league's most passing yards per game -- by a mile. It should be noted, however, that they're not giving up the most passing touchdowns.

Cornerbacks Omar Evans and William Fields, with a combined seven interceptions, have been good, and safety Wes Lysack has been solid.

The halfback spots are usually a big concern, and they were again this season, with a carousel of players assuming the roles early on.

However, rookie Stanford Samuels is showing gobs of promise and talent, and sophomore Justin Coleman has three picks.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Jon Ryan gets an A-plus for being the best punter in the league.

Troy Westwood gets a C for struggling when it comes to field goals.

And Keith Stokes gets a B for a few stellar punt and kick returns, only one of which he has taken to the house.

Ryan has had three punts blocked, and the kickoff cover unit allowed a touchdown on the first play of the season.

Overall, the cover teams have done a good job of keeping dangerous returners in check, but their return units need to get Stokes sprung.

COACHING, PERSONNEL AND MANAGEMENT: C

Daley, despite driving fans crazy with his "rebuilding" talk, has stuck to his plan, and two straight wins give him some credibility.

The coach said his team was going to need some time to get going. Now they're going.

General manager Brendan Taman has been on the hot seat, especially since he cut Wane McGarity -- his big free-agent signing last winter -- just six weeks into the season. He gets kudos, however, for bringing in Goodspeed and Feugill, and for arranging the trades that brought in Fiacconi and Brazzell.

Upper management has laid relatively low this season, giving Daley and Co. the time and space to try to turn this thing around, which is a good move.

News flash: Charles Roberts is still the best running back in the league.


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