Blue secondary up to challenge

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Different Ricky, different strategy and a different aspect of the defence needing to stand up and be counted.

A week ago, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers new and improved defence was asked to try and shut down former NFL All-Pro running back Ricky Williams of the Toronto Argonauts.

They passed that test with flying colours, but as the Edmonton Eskimos come to town for tomorrow's game at Canad Inns Stadium, the Blue and Gold secondary will be under the gun against quarterback Ricky Ray and the explosive set of receivers that includes speedsters Ed Hervey and Jason Tucker, along with the sure-handed Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell.

"It's like every other week in the CFL, you come into contact with a group of receivers that is more than capable of embarrassing you," said Blue Bombers cornerback Stanford Samuels. "We definitely embrace this challenge. We like to think of ourselves as a helluva unit as well. It's going to be fun to watch."

Middle linebacker Barrin Simpson believes the Eskimos boast the best combination of quarterback and receivers the Blue Bombers have faced so far.

"Our DBs have their work cut out but them guys are playing great," said Simpson. "This is going to be a test right here."

Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry wasn't ready to concede this is the biggest test his secondary has faced but offered plenty of platitudes for Ray, whom he considers one of the best pivots in the CFL.

"They bring a lot of weapons to the table," said Berry. "Ricky is a great quarterback and he seems to play better when it's money-crunch time. He's just an unbelievable competitor. I've gone against him in Grey Cups and I know his competitive nature and spirit and willingness to win.

"They have great receivers and it's no wonder that they throw the ball a lot."

Halfback Kelly Malveaux was actually becoming annoyed with the line of questioning.

"Is that the quote of the day? The challenge of facing Ricky Ray," said Malveaux. "He's a great quarterback and does a great job in the scheme of their offence. They don't have 100 plays they run, but the plays they do run, they run well. We have to be assignment-sound on defence. The only pressure on us is the pressure we put on ourselves to be great."

Being great is easier when you have a more stabilized unit that includes a veteran presence.

"We just have great leadership back there and we hold each of us accountable," said Malveaux. "When you have accountability to the man next to you, you want to step up big because you're going to be getting that dirty look (if you don't). We have great communication with one another."

It's no secret the secondary has been under fire the past few seasons, but there is no shortage of confidence with the current group.

"It's a whole new about-face, we've come a long way from last year," said Bombers halfback Anthony Malbrough, a late-season acquisition from the Calgary Stampeders in 2005. "It's totally different. Every guy out there is very athletic, guys are smart, guys are physical and guys believe in what we're doing. You don't want to get beat and that's what it's about."


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