A passing problem

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

Upon first blush, you're tempted to take a swipe at the hands team of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Something like, "Even if you wanted to toss them a compliment, they'd probably drop it."

This was supposed to be one of the strengths of the team this year. Yet, take a gander at the top pass-catchers in the CFL through six games and nobody in blue and gold is near the top-10.

Terrence Edwards and Romby Bryant, both 1000-yard men in '08, are on pace for 834 and 444 yards, respectively.

The Bomber offence has been a passing disaster, ranked so far below the rest of the league they'll have to send a rescue unit in pretty soon to see if there's any life left.

So you'd think the receivers would be part of the problem.

I'm not so sure.

Oh, there are problems. A lack of depth, for instance.

Where last season Edwards and Bryant had Derick Armstrong, Arjei Franklin and Milt Stegall running alongside, right now it seems to be Edwards and Bryant against the world.

Stegall retired, Armstrong was cut and Franklin's hurt.

But there's something other than the talent level at play, here.

Let's start with the obvious: they haven't really had a quarterback.

Under Stefan LeFors, the Bomber offence had all the effectiveness of a popgun.

In comes Michael Bishop and his rifle arm, but his sights are still being adjusted, and the receivers need time to adjust, too.

Then there's the system itself, the X's and O's, who's supposed to be where, and when.

Either it's fatally flawed or it's a serious work in progress.

I mean, how can Bryant, the Bombers' leading receiver last season with 65 grabs for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns, be so invisible?

Why, pray tell, was he that much more effective in Doug Berry's offence?

"I wasn't here last year, so I have no idea," head coach Mike Kelly offered yesterday. "I really don't know how to answer that. We've tried a lot of ways to get him the ball, and we will continue to do so."

You could blame Bryant, but but we're told there's not a harder worker in the receiving corps.

Monday, for instance, on a day off from practice, the guy was in early to watch some extra film.

Regardless, anyone wanting to get their licks in at No. 81 will have to go through No. 82.

"He's got a little criticism, but it's unjust," Terrence Edwards said.

"When you're only getting one or two balls a game, what can you do with that? If he's getting five to 10 attempts a game like a lot of receivers around the league and he's not producing, then he can get criticized. But one or two attempts? The best in the game can't do anything with that."

Agreed.

So we're back to the system, again.

Edwards says what the Bombers are running is "totally different" than last year. Completely different routes.

"It's the scheme that coach Kelly brought in," he said. "All of us gotta buy in and do our jobs. We're still thinking, instead of reacting. We've gotta make plays when our number's called.

"But we're a balanced offence. Our numbers are not going to be like they were. As long as we're winning, that's fine with all of us."

The last word goes to the coach.

"Making the routine catch routinely, we expect that," Kelly said. "But if you're getting paid to play... you need to make that spectacular play now and then. You need to make that tough catch. And we really have not done that for the most part this year."

I'm not sure they've had much of a chance.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.

"When you're only getting one or two balls a game, what can you do with that?"


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