Bombers have tools to go all the way

TED WYMAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

Doug Berry knows exactly what it will take for his Winnipeg Blue Bombers to get back to the Grey Cup this season.

"Stay healthy."

That simple, confident two-word answer pretty much sums it up for a team that was a bad injury to quarterback Kevin Glenn away from winning the CFL championship a year ago.

Sure, Saskatchewan has the Cup and there's no taking it away from the Riders and their fans, but does anyone really believe the championship game would have gone the same way if the East Division's most outstanding player had been in the lineup?

There's no telling for sure, but the Bombers would have been a better team with Glenn at the controls instead of a quarterback - Ryan Dinwiddie - starting his first career professional game. They only lost by four points so you can see how many people suggest Glenn would have made the difference.

This season, the Bombers have considerably more depth at the quarterback position, mostly because Dinwiddie is more seasoned and has looked sharp in two pre-season appearances. Our guess is he will get more time at the helm during the season than he did last year, even if Glenn isn't on the limp.

Hopefully, third stringer Bryan Randall will see some action as well, even if it's just running the ball in third-and-short situations. It worked for Jarious Jackson in B.C. as he was learning the game, so why not do it here?

Of course, injuries are an equal-opportunity occurrence in the CFL and can happen at any position. And with a salary management system and a player ratio to consider, it's not possible to have depth at every spot in the lineup.

So, as the coach suggested, the Bombers have to stay healthy if they want to win. That's simply how it works in the CFL. There are always going to be bumps and bruises and even the occasional season-ending injury, but if the team as a whole is in relative good health it can perform at its highest level.

The more important part about Berry's statement is in what it says about the coach's faith in his team this season. On paper, the Bombers look very strong and Berry knows it.

If everyone were to stay healthy this team would be the favourite to win the Grey Cup. If only potential injuries stand in the way of success, that's a pretty good sign.

Mind you, that kind of talk also raises the already lofty expectations of the fans and that's where things could get a little more complicated for Berry.

He expects them to win this year, as does GM Brendan Taman, president Lyle Bauer, owner-in-waiting David Asper and everyone from my barber to my border collie.

There's not going to be a lot of room for error with this team. People can see for themselves that the quarterback, running backs and receivers are all top-notch in terms of CFL talent. They can see an offensive line that has depth and talent and a defensive line that returns intact after dominating a year ago. The linebackers are solid and the defensive backs have promise despite being one of the bigger question marks (aren't they always?).

The kicking game is a huge concern after the team released 17-year veteran Troy Westwood and replaced him with American newcomer Alexis Serna at placekicker and the controversial Duncan O'Mahony at punter. That could be an Achilles heel for the Bombers, but they have an entire season to get it straight and had better hope they have something consistent going by playoff time.

All this adds up to pressure on the coaching staff to get the job done. If you give them the tools -- and right now Berry's got more than Black and Decker -- these coaches should be able to produce results.

Now the question is whether Berry will construct a championship team or build on a legacy of Grey Cup futility which has dogged the city for 17 years.


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