Secondary still prime concern

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' new assistant coaching staff has been on the job for three days.

The five newcomers and two returnees have been watching film from the team's dismal 2005 season, and not one of them has run screaming for the airport.

March is a time for optimism, and the new coaching staff -- specifically those on defence -- were oozing it yesterday during its introductory session with the media.

"We're going to try to put in a good, solid foundation and be fundamentally sound," said new defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall. "One of the things I believe is: Make the offence hit singles, not a lot of home runs."

As all Bomber fans know, last year's defence not only surrendered home runs; it allowed grand slam after grand slam. That doesn't mean, however, that the new coaching staff is about to blow up the bullpen.

"There's some guys that have some talent there," Marshall said. "... At the same time, we're hoping to add some new life, some new talent, anywhere on the defence."

The Bomber secondary had its fair share of trouble last season, allowing the most passing yards in CFL history, but defensive backs coach Gregg Butler isn't scared off by that fact.

"I left Montreal and went to Morgan State University, where they hadn't had a winning season in 23 years," Butler said. "We ended up tied for first. I go after every challenge. I'm not really affected by pressure.

"... If they don't perform well, you point the finger at me. I'm not the one who's doing the job."

On paper, the club's secondary didn't look like it should have been as bad as it was last season. Omar Evans is a solid cornerback, while Brad Franklin and Stanford Samuels look like they're going to be capable halfbacks.

As a group, however, it surrendered more than 351 passing yards per game.

Marshall admits that the secondary will be his focus, but he feels a major overhaul isn't needed.

"There's some guys that have some good abilities back there," Marshall said. "It's just they went through a lot of changes and a lot of injuries. Stability's the key back there."

Head coach Doug Berry echoed Marshall's belief that there are solid players in the secondary, and he believes the improvement will be an issue of mind over matter.

"I want to make sure that these guys know that we're gonna re-establish an attitude," he said. "It's going to be as much that as it is the scheme that we run or the players that we're trying to do it with."

Elsewhere on defence, the linebacking corps improved greatly with last month's signing of free agent Barrin Simpson, and new defensive line coach Richard Harris inherited arguably the team's most talented group of players.

"Up front played fairly solid, but not sound," Harris said. "I want to get them sound and solid."


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