Jyles makes his case

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

HAMILTON, Ont. -- Sometimes a mistake-filled loss in the pre-season is a good thing. It makes things a little more clear for the coaching staff.

If that is indeed the case, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a decent pre-season game on Sunday afternoon against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

There were a few solid performances from the Bomber hopefuls, but there were plenty of sub-par ones as well. The bottom line was a 38-20 victory for the host Ticats, who played most of their starters in front of an announced crowd of 19,645 spectators.

The Bombers left close to a dozen projected starters in Winnipeg.

"We'll have lots of tape to evaluate people," head coach Paul LaPolice said. "In some ways you can see some things on the field, but the film will tell (on Monday)."

Winnipeg, as with every CFL team, must cut to 46 players and a seven-member practice roster by Thursday at 2 p.m., but LaPolice said there's a chance he will make cuts before Thursday.

The Bombers' season-opener is on Friday, July 2, at Canad Inns Stadium against the Tiger-Cats.

The race for Winnipeg's starting quarterback spot, which many believe Buck Pierce has already won despite LaPolice's insistence that he hasn't, got a little closer on Sunday. Pierce completed two of three passes for only 16 yards and had just one first down in his quarter-plus of action.

Steven Jyles, meanwhile, looked much better than Pierce in his quarter and a bit. He was good on nine of 14 attempts for 152 yards and a touchdown, and he also had two carries for 24 yards.

Both quarterbacks played with most of Winnipeg's starting offensive line.

Jyles isn't sure where he stacks up against Pierce, but he's ready for whatever the coaches decide.

"It's up to these guys who they want to start," Jyles said. "Like I told them earlier: Regardless of what the role is, I'm going to play. I truly believe within this year I'm going to play. So to start off the season would be great, to be able to start from the beginning.

"I just want them to be confident in me and know that I can play."

Alex Brink, battling Adam DiMichele for the No. 3 job, saw plenty of action as well in the second half, completing five of eight passes for 86 yards and an eight-yard touchdown throw to Canadian rookie Cory Watson. He would have also had a 40-yard touchdown toss in the fourth quarter, but Willie Foster couldn't hold on to the ball.

"I felt like I played well in practice and made plays in practice, and I translated that on the field today," Brink said. "But I got a lot of help today. Cory Watson made a great catch in the end zone."

DiMichele mopped up and was 0-for-2.

"All four guys managed to move our team in different ways, so that's always a positive," was as far as LaPolice would go in praising his pivots.

Some of the other top rookie performers were receiver Terence Jeffers-Harris (three catches for 79 yards and a TD), linebacker Marty Bowman (only two tackles but was all over the field) and Adam Bestard (solidly replaced an injured Chris Cvetkovic as long snapper).

One first-year hopeful who probably wished he could do it all over again was kick returner Travis Shelton, who struggled in his first appearance since rookie camp thanks to a hamstring injury that he said had him at only 80% health on Sunday.

The former Temple star had four punt returns for minus-9 yards, and his mistake handling a punt resulted in a Hamilton touchdown.

Shelton came racing up to play the ball, but didn't get there in time to set himself. The ball hit him (Shelton said it missed him) and bounced into the hands of Hamilton's William Heyward, who strolled 30 yards into the end zone.

"Coach told me to just keep working," said Shelton, who had nearly a 20-yard average on four kickoff returns. "He said I did some good things out there as far as making good decisions, like when to let the ball go and when to catch the ball.

"He said I fielded some kicks pretty well. He told me to keep working, and that's what I'm gonna do."

He'll find out this week if he's going to get more time to do just that.


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