Bomber breakdown

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

At least a dozen new faces will be among the starters when the Blue Bombers hit the field to take on the Alouettes in Montreal tomorrow.

And the Winnipeg club will be guided by new head coach Doug Berry, with new assistants and new offensive and defensive schemes.

Yet, the current crop will tell you they are ready to win right now as it heads into the 2006 CFL season, a world still unknown to too many of them.

But here is our analysis of this year's edition of the Blue Bombers, position by position:

QUARTERBACKS

Kevin Glenn, the incumbent is the only returnee from last year as Spergon Wynn was dealt to Toronto, Russ Michna was cut and Tee Martin suspended for failing to report. Mike Quinn and Brad Banks, obtained in the Ottawa dispersal draft, are the new backups but it will be up to Glenn to lead the Bombers back to the Promised Land under Berry's new offensive scheme. Glenn completed 231 of 403 passes (57.3%) for 3,571 yards and 27 TDs and 17 picks last year, his first as the No. 1 gun and he is only 27.

RUNNING BACKS

Charles Roberts enters the 2006 season as the reigning rushing leader from 2005 -- 1,624 yards on 290 carries (5.6-yard average) and there is little reason to believe he cannot repeat, especially with an improved offensive line. And yes, he will carry the ball plenty in the new offensive system. Henri Childs, when healthy, could add an unexpected element to the offence. He is, after all, the one who beat out ex-NFL tailback Onterrio Smith. Fullbacks Scott Regimbald and Graeme Bell will be used sparingly and mostly in blocking roles.

RECEIVERS

Veteran slotback Milt Stegall looks as good as always and the Bombers will have wide receiver Chris Brazzell, who looked great in training camp, for an entire season. Ol' reliable, Jamie Stoddard, is back and so is Scott Robinson, who joined the club late last season. The Bombers have added ex-NFL receivers Andrae Thurman and Quentin McCord, speedsters who could do some damage once they establish themselves in this strange new league. Draftee Arjei Franklin also made the club as a receiver while Darryl Ray and Chad Rempel, also Canucks, are also still kicking around.

Alfred Johnson III will add another dimension to the attack when he is not returning kicks. So will Roberts, who caught 49 passes for 474 yards ut of the backfield last year.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Bombers acquired non-imports Obby Khan and Val St. Germain in the Ottawa dispersal draft and both will start, Khan at centre. Matt Sheridan, the club's top O-lineman last year, Mike Abou-Mechrek and import Dan Goodspeed have also returned, relegating Aaron Fiacconi to backup status this year. And Jermese Jones, another import capable of starting, is still around.

The revamped offensive system will rely heavily on the O-line to do its job, especially as pass blockers. But then, this may be the strongest corps of Hogs the club has boasted in two decades.

DEFENSIVE LINE

There was some concern when veteran defensive tackle Joe Fleming -- one of the club's locker-room leaders -- retired on the eve of training camp. But Ron Warner returned from the NFL, was converted to tackle from defensive end and is looking more and more comfortable at the position. Should he falter, Cameron Legault, a non-import, has started in the CFL before. This promises to be Winnipeg's strongest unit as Doug Brown is back. So are defensive ends Gavin Walls, the CFL's 2005 rookie of the year, and Tom Canada, Winnipeg's nominee for the same honour the year before. Both Walls and Canada were also pushed by Stevie Baggs in camp and Jon Oosterhuis remains one of the best swing men on the front four.

LINEBACKERS

The Bombers were dealt two blows here before training camp even started. Sean Woodson retired unexpectedly, then Kyries Hebert decided to go to arbitration instead of training camp after being claimed on waivers. And that was after the club had sent Lamar McGriggs and Ryland Wickman packing. But the Bombers signed free agent Barrin Simpson, a major move that has been overlooked with other goings-on in camp. They have also converted defensive back Ike Charlton to outside linebacker and have moved non-import safety Donnavan Carter to weak-side linebacker, where he is solid if unspectacular. Import Joe Tuipala has also stuck around.

Neil McKinlay remains the most promising Canadian backup linebacker in the land and Adrian Baird, another Canuck, was one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp. And it looks like non-import safety John Sullivan has been converted to linebacker.

SECONDARY

This is, by far, the most improved unit over the 2005 season but then again, it couldn't have gotten much worse. Only cornerback Omar Evans remains from that backfield while Stanford Samuels, the dime back, will start at the other corner, replacing veteran William Fields -- for now. Veterans Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux will start at defensive half, the club's most troublesome spot throughout the entire 2005 campaign. And it looks like Gabriel Fulbright, a speedster, will be the dime back this year.

The Bombers, however, spent the entire training camp seeking a starting safety and finally settled on converted import linebacker Ron Ockimey. Ian Logan and Shawn Gallant are the backups.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Bombers are still seeking a punter to replace the booming kicks that Jon Ryan (NFL) launched last season. Looks like Brian Claybourn will start the season there but placekicker Troy Westwood still wants to do double duty. Westwood's field-goal kicking was much improved this training camp.

The Bombers also welcomed the ever-popular Albert Johnson III back from the NFL to replace Keith Stokes (Toronto), who had a better year as a receiver than as a kick returner last season. Johnson has already shown the old moves that got him an NFL audition in the first place. He should get help from Fulbright, McCord, Thurman and maybe even Franklin this season. And Roberts is still capable.

PREDICTION

Battle for third in the CFL East.


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