Blue in hog heaven

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Before training camp started, the Winnipeg offensive line was shrouded in uncertainty.

Would Dan Goodspeed recover well enough from knee surgery to return to form?

Would Matt Sheridan rebound from an injury-plagued season? Was Andrew Greene too old at 37? Would Alexandre Gauthier fit in?

Gauthier then missed most of camp with injury while sophomore Dominic Picard was pressed into action when Obby Khan -- the team's top hog last season -- suffered an illness that is still keeping him out of action.

Well, just three games into the 2007 CFL season, the Blue Bombers lead the league in allowing the fewest quarterback sacks -- three -- and still boast the CFL's top rusher, Charles Roberts (247 yards and five touchdowns on 51 carries) and most yards passing (1,008).

"We're definitely proud of that," Goodspeed said on the eve of playing the Alouettes in Montreal, a team that used to ravage Bomber O-lines on a regular basis. "That's where we want to be -- giving up the least number of sacks and the No. 1 rusher. That's our goal for the year. The more we keep (quarterback) Kevin (Glenn) upright, the more we'll win games."

But with all the attention focused on veteran slotback Milt Stegall and his record pursuit and other goings-on, the line play has been almost overlooked.

"We're the no-names and the guys who get the work done," said Goodspeed, who has had no ill effects from the surgery. "We came together pretty fast. Now, we've just got to show it on the field and I think we have."

The biggest surprise, of course, has been the play of Picard -- a "project" who dressed for one game last season.

"I don't know who that guy was (last year), I just know he's playing well for us now," said new offensive line coach Bob Wylie.

"Dominic's done a great job out there for a kid who was thrown into the fire," Goodspeed said. "He's played well, for the most part, and my hat's off to him for being the young guy pretty much responsible for all the line calls and everything."

The 6-foot-6, 320-pound ex-NFLer simply loves playing alongside Greene, who came to Winnipeg from Saskatchewan.

"Obviously, I didn't know what he was going to be like," said Goodspeed, 30.

"He plays with intensity. That's why I like playing next to him -- because he's always fired up and ready to go."

Aaron Fiacconni, the backup, has also filled in admirably when called upon.

But it must have been a challenge for Wylie, a veteran mentor who had never coached in the CFL before.

"There's no secret, just hard work," Wylie said. "There's no secret at the other level either ... Really, up front, there's not much difference. I find the differences in the coverages in the perimeter of the game. The inside game is the same.

"We're a zone-running football team. Down in the States, I always put my line as far back as they could get so, we created the yard between the defence. Here, they create it for us so we just need to be on the wall so, it's really no difference."

But he shrugged off the impressive stats thus far.

"It's early," Wylie said. "I don't even look at the stats, to be honest with ya. I tell them, 'Don't look at the score, don't look at the stats, don't read the newspapers. All you care about is the next football play.'

"I always tell them, 'Be poised, be physical and finish everything you do.'"


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