Bombers not making grade

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers should thank their lucky stars for the Toronto Argonauts.

If it weren't for the Boatmen, the Bombers would be staring at a boatload of failing grades on their mid-season report card today.

However, since an F is handed out to a specific unit of the team only if it is the worst in the CFL, the Bombers are safe in most instances.

That doesn't mean it's sunshine and lollipops for the Blue and Gold, who are sporting a 3-6 record at the midway point and would be on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today.

It's been a wild year so far -- on and off the field -- and their only saving grace is they play six of their last nine games at home.

There are many aspects of the team, though, that must improve if it is going to win those home contests.

Because right now, a lot of them are simply not good enough.

Here is the Bomber mid-season 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

F

The numbers don't lie. The Bombers have thrown five touchdown passes in nine games. Unacceptable. Their team efficiency rating is 56.2. Atrocious. Even Toronto's Cody Pickett and Kerry Joseph have looked better than the Stefan LeFors-Michael Bishop combo. Not a good sign. The Bombers are on pace for 10 passing touchdowns, which would be the worst mark in the CFL since at least 1986. Ick.

RUNNING BACKS

A

Fred Reid has a comfortable lead over Montreal's Avon Cobourne for the CFL's rushing lead, and he plays for a team that can't pass the ball. That's saying something. His backup, Yvenson Bernard, is a blocking machine and looks like he could be a special player, too, if he got to carry the ball on a regular basis.

RECEIVERS

D

It's remarkable that Terrence Edwards is in the top 10 in CFL receiving yards, because the offence and the quarterbacks he's had to work with haven't exactly helped his cause. It appears, however, to have affected Brock Ralph, Adarius Bowman and Romby Bryant, because they haven't done much. Then again, head coach Mike Kelly said the pass catchers haven't always been in the right spots.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C

They plow the road for the league's leading rusher, which gets them big bonus points. However, it seems like their own head coach has spent more time calling them out than praising them this season. And while they may be second in the CFL when it comes to sacks allowed, it's misleading because no team has thrown it as few times as the Bombers have.

DEFENSIVE LINE

C

Doug Brown continues to play solid football on the inside, and Gavin Walls, despite mustering only three sacks, is playing some inspired ball. The youngsters, Dorian Smith and Don Oramasionwu, have made contributions but need to keep improving. Overall, the line has played a role in allowing the third-fewest rushing yards, but their sack total of 18 is in the bottom half of the league.

LINEBACKERS

C

Siddeeq Shabazz is tied for the CFL lead with four interceptions he recorded as a linebacker (he's currently playing safety), and Barrin Simpson is second in tackles. Strong-side linebacker Ike Charlton is healthy and playing well, while Joe Lobendahn has battled the injury bug and missed significant time. While their overall tackling skills sometimes leaves something to be desired, the group has seven picks in nine games.

SECONDARY

B

The ball hawks have 13 interceptions -- a massive improvement over last season -- but they're still in the bottom half of the league when it comes to yardage and touchdowns allowed through the air. No team, however, has been thrown on more than the Bombers, so the secondary still gets a solid grade.

SPECIAL TEAMS

C

If we were handing out individual marks, placekicker Alexis Serna and his 86.4% field goal success rate would get a B+ for his impressive turnaround this season. Mike Renaud has been an excellent directional punter, but he could get his gross average up a bit. The cover teams have been stellar, but the return game has been nonexistent. Add it all up, and it's an average unit.

COACHING, PERSONNEL AND MANAGEMENT

D

If it weren't for Bart Andrus and his many questionable moves with the Argos, Mike Kelly and Co. would be getting an F. From not having an experienced CFL quarterback in camp to the questionable four-receiver set, way too many coaching and personnel decisions have raised way too many eyebrows. And the team's record will rest on president-CEO Lyle Bauer's shoulders now more than ever, considering he hired Kelly and has more input on the football decisions.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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