Bombers' season report card

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

The CFL playoffs begin today without the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the first time in four seasons.

Rookie coaching mistakes, player mutinies and atrocious quarterback play all contributed to Winnipeg's 7-11 record and third-place finish in the East Division that wasn't good enough to keep the B.C. Lions from crossing over from the West.

Therefore, the team's final report card is one that would be better off getting lost before the parents see it. There are several departments of the team that better study hard in the off-season if they're going to improve their grades -- or even be back -- in 2010.

Here is the Bombers' final report card for 2009:

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 Bomber quintet of Michael Bishop, Stefan LeFors, Casey Bramlet, Richie Williams and Bryan Randall combined to complete 47.8% of their passes this season.

The group threw for more touchdowns (17) than Toronto (14) but mustered only 200 passing yards per game compared to Toronto's 229.

Oh, and the Blue and Gold pivots threw 17 touchdowns against 28 interceptions.

Nuff said.

RUNNING BACKS -- C

This grade might seem a little harsh considering Fred Reid finished second in league rushing, but he managed only two 100-yard games all season. He didn't have any after his club-record 260-yard performance on Aug. 21.

In the end, there weren't many instances where Reid made you stand up and take notice.

Backup Yvenson Bernard showed some serious pluck, averaging 6.3 yards per on his 53 carries, but Winnipeg managed an average of 5.6 yards per carry, which put them right in the middle of the pack.

Therefore, an average grade.

RECEIVERS -- C

Let's face it: The receivers would have had much better numbers if it weren't for the quarterback woes.

Terrence Edwards, who battled turf toe and a serious concussion, had only 52 receptions for 816 yards and five touchdowns. Last year he had 76 catches for 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns.

He didn't get worse last off-season.

Adarius Bowman led the Bombers with 55 catches, 925 yards and six touchdowns, but his no-show in the regular-season finale proved he still has some growing to do.

Here's a startling fact: Titus Ryan played three games this season -- and finished with the fourth-most receiving yards (285) on the team.

OFFENSIVE LINE -- B-

The hogs can say they allowed the fewest sacks this season, but that's because the Bombers attempted the fewest passes this season. We don't need to explain why that was.

To be fair, though, the pass protection appeared to be quite solid. The quarterbacks ran for their lives only because they had to after defences read the Winnipeg offence like a book and clogged all avenues of attack.

The run blocking, however, wasn't the best. Fred Reid said so after Winnipeg's 48-13 loss in Montreal. He said it hadn't been good for a while.

The Bombers managed only two 100-yard rushing games this season, which falls on both the running backs and the O-line.

DEFENSIVE LINE -- B

As long as defensive tackle Doug Brown is there, this crew will always be better than most.

But Brown wasn't the only shining star on a D-line that helped allow an average of only 5.2 yards per carry, the third-best mark in the league.

Gavin Walls was having a fine campaign before blowing out his knee, and Fred Perry was just heating up when he shattered his arm.

Their young replacements, Odell Willis and Phillip Hunt, showed signs of great potential. Willis actually had 10 sacks in his first CFL season, which was split between Calgary and Winnipeg.

Another rookie, Dorian Smith, had eight sacks, which is pretty impressive for his first foray in the pro ranks.

LINEBACKERS -- B

Barrin Simpson, Joe Lobendahn, Siddeeq Shabazz and Ike Charlton had conservative roles in Mark Nelson's defence, waiting for the running backs to come to them instead of getting after the quarterback.

Simpson was the only non-defensive lineman to register a sack this season (he had two), and the four primary linebackers combined to make 282 tackles.

They, along with the D-line, played a role in the opponent getting only 5.2 yards per rush, and they also chipped in with eight interceptions.

SECONDARY -- A

Yes, they gave up the second-most passing yards per game, but there are reasons why the ball hawks are being labelled as the CFL's best.

For starters, no team had more passes thrown against them than the Bombers. That's because their defence was on the field all the time. You know why that was.

Second, the Bombers had a league-leading 31 interceptions, with 24 courtesy of the secondary. They returned two of those picks for touchdowns.

Considering how tired they had to have been and how much they got thrown on, the fact that they were in the middle of the pack when it came to the opposition's completion percentage and touchdown total says something.

SPECIAL TEAMS -- B

Jovon Johnson single-handedly brought this grade up with his 118-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown and his 79-yard punt runback for a score.

The returner problem was solved once they gave the full-time duties to him seven games into the season.

Alexis Serna had the best field goal percentage in team history at 81.6%, and the punting duo of Mike Renaud and Troy Westwood was solid.

Shawn Gallant had 30 special teams tackles, good for third in the league.

The cover teams were wet blankets for the most part, with Larry Taylor's 115-yard missed field goal return for a score the only blemish.

COACHING, PERSONNEL AND MANAGEMENT -- D

If it weren't for the disaster in Toronto, this mark would be a big, fat F.

Kevin Glenn, the quarterback that new head coach Mike Kelly dumped in March, came back to knock the Bombers out of playoff contention in the final week of the season.

Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who was passed over in favour of Kelly, had two of his players pick off passes and score touchdowns to knock the Bombers out of playoff contention in the final week of the season.

Kelly alienated many Blue and Gold supporters by calling them schizophrenic and then not taking their calls on the coach's call-in show. He released a potential 1,000-yard receiver in Derick Armstrong, his offence was one of the worst in team history, and he banished his top-tackling linebacker, Barrin Simpson, for several weeks.

It was a rough first year for Kelly.

On the other hand, the team's biggest in-season trade, the Romby Bryant deal with Calgary in September, paid dividends in Odell Willis and Titus Ryan, and it could pay even more if Jabari Arthur is as good as advertised.

The brass also found East Division rookie of the year Jonathan Hefney, and it traded for Lenny Walls and Adarius Bowman.

Because he hired Kelly, president and CEO Lyle Bauer deserves some of the blame for the team's 7-11 record. He's sticking with his coach, and both better hope the grades improve in 2010.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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