The best and the rest

Blue Bombers' Keith Stokes stretches for another yard during Grey Cup action last month. SUN MEDIA...

Blue Bombers' Keith Stokes stretches for another yard during Grey Cup action last month. SUN MEDIA FILE/Dave Abel

KIRK PENTON and JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:00 PM ET

The fans had their say about the 2007 Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the annual You Be The Boss poll.

Now it's our turn.

Two weeks have passed since Winnipeg's 23-19 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 95th Grey Cup. That's enough time to digest and evaluate the season that was.

All in all, it was the Blue and Gold's best season in six years. There was a 10-7-1 record, solid attendance, Milt Stegall's touchdown record and, of course, a trip to the Grey Cup.

The title drought continues, however, so there are pieces of the puzzle that still need to be added.

Without further ado, here is the Sun's annual Bombers report card:

THE MARKS

A: Top of the league

B: Better than most

C: Average

D: Hit the books

F: Worst in the CFL

QUARTERBACKS: B+

Kevin Glenn was the East Division's most outstanding player, and he led the league with 5,114 yards. His arrow is still pointed towards the sky, even though he got hurt -- again -- at the worst possible time.

Backup Ryan Dinwiddie in the Grey Cup game didn't look like most CFL backups. Yes, he tossed three picks in his first pro start, but he did better than most. The kid has potential, and the Bombers should re-sign him.

As for the third-stringer, we'll take Zac Taylor over Kliff Kingsbury.

RUNNING BACKS: B

It was a roller-coaster year for Charles Roberts, who can be the best running back in the league when he wants to be.

Blink put the team on his back and guided it to victory several times, but there were forgettable moments, too. His six-carry-seven-yard performance in Toronto was just plain weird, and he got hurt for only the second time in his career, missing two games.

The Grey Cup wasn't one of his best moments, either, although he can't be faulted for rushing for only 47 yards. It was the three dropped passes out in the flats that will make the off-season just a little bit longer for Roberts.

Backup tailback Fred Reid is a keeper, and Gilles Lezi hardly heard his name mentioned, which is a good thing when you're a blocking fullback.

RECEIVERS: A

Simply put, Winnipeg's pass catchers were the cream of the CFL crop.

Terrence Edwards was an absolute steal from Montreal, Derick (Big Country) Armstrong covered a lot of turf, and Milt was Milt. In the end, they occupied three of the top seven spots on the league's receiving yards list.

Arjei Franklin, meanwhile, has hands made of glue and should be played more. O'Neil Wilson needs to borrow some of Franklin's glue.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A

The numbers back up the claim that this was the league's top group of hogs.

The Bombers attempted the second-most passes (645) yet allowed the fewest sacks (27).

Not only that, but Dan Goodspeed and Co. paved the way for the loop's second-leading rusher, Charles Roberts.

DEFENSIVE LINE: A

This group was the main reason why the Bombers boasted one of the league's top defences.

Tom Canada was hot and cold but still led the team with 12 sacks, nose tackle Doug Brown was better than he's ever been, and Jerome Haywood was a spitfire.

The Blue and Gold finished third in the league with 50 sacks, which was up from 43 in 2006.

LINEBACKERS: C+

This position was in a state of flux for the first half of the season, but it improved with the arrival of outside linebacker Ike Charlton in early September.

Middle linebacker Barrin Simpson was his usual self, finishing second in the league with 112 tackles, while rookie of the year Cam Hall, at the outside spot, will only get better.

There were still too many missed tackles and too many big runs allowed. There's room for improvement.

SECONDARY: C

The Bombers had the fewest interceptions, with 10, and only seven of those were courtesy of defensive backs. In fact, starters Robert Bean and Anthony Malbrough (who was hurt for half the year) failed to record a single pick.

A bright spot for the Bombers secondary was the fact that it allowed the second-fewest passing yards (254 per game), but their 27 passing touchdowns against was in the middle of the pack.

Many feel the Winnipeg defensive backs play too far off the receivers. They might be right.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

Missed field goals, blown kickoff returns, fumbles, blocked punts, penalties, high snaps, poor punting placement, few return yards and touchdown returns against ... it was a well-documented season of disaster.

Remarkably, the special teams saved their best for last, performing admirably in the playoffs and Grey Cup.

Troy Westwood did enough at the end of the year to be invited back for an 18th season, and he will even have a chance at doing both the placekicking and punting next season.

Returner Keith Stokes, who joined the team in late October, even returned a punt for a touchdown in the playoffs. Sign the man to a long-term contract.

COACHING, PERSONNEL AND MANAGEMENT: B+

GM Brendan Taman should have brought in an experienced backup quarterback before the season began, but he signed receiver Terrence Edwards, so that's a wash.

Head coach Doug Berry took a lot of criticism for the way he handled the Westwood situation, but, other than the odd eyebrow-raising game decision, he showed that he knows how to coach -- even if he does blow his top too much on the sideline.

And in a season when there could have been uncertainty regarding the potential sale of the team, president and CEO Lyle Bauer did a tremendous job, before the season began, of not allowing it to become a distraction.

In fact, it hardly came up at all on the football side of the operation.


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