Case for the defence

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Sometimes it just depends who you ask.

For instance, Ginger or Mary Ann? Ford or Chevy? The Beatles or the Stones?

Here's another one: has the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence been good enough this season?

Greg Marshall, you get first dibs.

"Other than the two games, we've done a pretty good job," the Bombers defensive co-ordinator was saying yesterday. "Obviously we struggled in the Edmonton game (Week 1) and we didn't play very well in the Hamilton game (Week 6). I have no complaints with the other games ... they've done a good job, overall."

Over to you, Doug Berry.

"Well, let's look at the stats," the head coach began. "We want to get better in our pass coverage, more than anything."

The Bombers rank dead-last in the CFL in pass defence (giving up some 288 yards per game), second-last in pass completion percentage and second-last in first downs passing.

"Right now we're losing time of possession, by giving it up, giving it up," Berry continued. "And if we can get a little better in our pass coverage, complementing the way we feel we can get after the quarterback in terms of pass rush, I would expect us to be getting close to where we were playing defensively last year, in terms of just plain numbers. And that means giving up fewer passing yards and getting off the field a little sooner."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the boss.

It's true, the numbers aren't pretty, at least not compared to a year ago, when this was the second-best defence against the pass and No. 3 overall.

Marshall's response: stats are for losers, basically.

"The stat I look at is that we're 4-2-1," he said. "Hey, I'd like to shut everybody out. But if you look at it, we had a four-week stretch where we gave up three touchdowns. Nothing the matter with that. You can have all the yards you want -- how many points you get against us?"

Well, now that you ask, coach, the Bombers rank fifth in points against, with 175, well behind league-leaders Saskatchewan and Montreal, with 126, and well ahead of Calgary's 252.

So they're middle-of-the-road, through seven games.

We ask again: is it good enough?

Depends.

If Kevin Glenn and the offence continue to be hotter than a North End Porsche -- they top the CFL with 396 yards per game -- then it might be.

But a nick here, a scrape there, could bring this offence down a notch or two, much like injuries have taken the 'Peg's defence down a couple.

Marshall admits the revolving door in the secondary hasn't helped his group. Toss in the fact they've been breaking in two CFL rookies at linebacker, in Corey Jenkins and Cam Hall, and maybe some growing pains were to be expected.

"With all the shuffling around we've done and guys having to play different spots, it's been a challenge," Marshall said. "But so far, for the most part, guys have stepped up and met the challenge."

And now that he's getting some of his bodies back -- starters Anthony Malbrough and Robert Bean, for instance -- there's no reason why Marshall's dirty dozen shouldn't get a bit of its swagger back, too.

Let's face it, a year ago, these guys were significantly better. And it'll soon be the time of year when they'll have to be again.

Yesterday's chilly breeze was just a reminder of what's to come. There are two things you don't count on in October or November in the CFL: nice weather and fancy offence.

So Marshall's bottom line -- he's happy as long as his defence gives the Bombers a chance to win -- could be a moving bottom line.

Imagine if last year's defence had this year's offence to compliment it?

There's your target, lads. You're not a Grey Cup contender until you've hit it.


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