Ready to take next step

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

It's fitting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are embarking on the second half of their CFL season in Hamilton tonight.

What better place for head coach Jim Daley to launch Phase 2 of his rebuilding effort than in Steeltown, where the beams and girders for so many construction projects have been produced over the years?

It's true, the toothless Tiger-Cats don't provide the ultimate stress test, but when you're 0-4 on the road, you have to start somewhere.

For the Bombers, it all starts at spruced up Ivor Wynne Stadium, where the Tabbies hand out flowers to the ladies and, invariably, two points to the visitors.

To expect Hamilton's hard-luck crew to simply present Winnipeg with the victory bouquet would be a mistake, though.

Ever tried to stroke a threatened cat? You're likely to come away with some missing skin.

Attempt to drill yet another hole into the Ticats drowning playoff chances, as the Bombers will, and you should expect to see the claws and fangs of a desperate animal.

That's why tonight's game will be a test for the 3-6 Bombers, despite the futile, 0-8 tab hanging from the collars of the worst team in the CFL.

"There's no question, we are at a crucial point," Daley was saying the other day. "They're going to be in a hornets nest. They'll have a (near) sellout, their starting quarterback is back, the return of (Tim) Cheatwood at end, and they've made a few releases, which, as in our case, causes the people still around to take notice."

To be sure, Daley has shuffled his deck enough to get everyone's attention early this season.

Three of tonight's starters on the offensive line, for instance -- import tackles Dan Goodspeed and John Feugill, plus centre Aaron Fiacconi -- weren't in Winnipeg for the start of training camp.

COSMETIC

And three of four starting receivers -- Chris Brazzell, Gilles Colon and Darnell McDonald -- weren't starters three weeks ago.

From this vantage point, though, the influx has been more than cosmetic, the effect greater than psychological. The Bombers have more skill than they did going into camp, and that's no easy feat, improving your talent base, mid-stream.

Unlike four or five weeks ago, Daley now seems to be comfortable with the team he's assembled. Barring injuries, what you see is what you're likely to get for the second half.

"We're a better team," Daley said. "We've added seven players since training camp. But the seven we've added are big. We've rebuilt an O-line that is now a pretty good O-line. Our receiving corps ... it's a very interesting group. They catch the ball in traffic, and we have a bit of a deep threat. We have the makings of a good receiving corps.

"So our team is changing, and it's changing in an aggressive, urgent manner. And it's a physical team. I like that."

Then there's the development of Kevin Glenn.

It wasn't long ago the public appetite for a quarterback change was ravenous.

Check out what Glenn has stuffed down his critics' throats over the last two weeks, though: 38 completions in 55 attempts, 731 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.

Overall, an efficiency rating of 100.1 makes Glenn the third-rated passer in the CFL, ahead of Montreal's Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray in Edmonton.

Chew on that for a while.

It's true the Bombers still have a daunting road ahead. With their lack of depth at so many positions, an injury could easily create another hot-spot.

But it seems they've gone from rebuilding to improving, which has me sticking to my pre-season prediction that this team will finish 8-10.

To that end, tonight's game isn't really a mid-point at all. More of a beginning, really.


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