Just when local experts surmised that they had the annual ratio issue figured out, along came a rookie import to upset the Red River Cart.
After import Winnipeg offensive tackle Glenn January went down — and will be placed on the nine-game injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle — it was assumed that the Blue Bombers would employ just one import on the O-line this season. And it looked like ex-NFLer Kelly Butler had secured that lone spot.
But Andre Douglas has suddenly thrown himself into the mix. In fact, Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice is so impressed with the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Temple product that he even mentioned him in the same breath as Garrick Jones. That giant tackle used an outstanding season in 2002 to vault himself back into the NFL for four-plus years.
Douglas, 23, stood out during Sunday’s 38-20 pre-season loss to the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton.
“Athletically, he’s big, he moves real well, he’s explosive and he performed well in the game,” LaPolice said Tuesday. “Now, when the lights go on and it’s a 60-minute game, we’ll continue to evaluate those guys and see what the best situation is to start them, whether it’s two non-imports there or just one import.
“But Douglas certainly has good tools. He’s as good as a young rookie as I’ve seen in the last two or three years as a tackle.”
Starting two imports on the O-line would mean either starting a second Canadian receiver or a starting Canuck on defence, most likely the defensive line.
“We have two scenarios and we’re going to practise both,” LaPolice said. “Once we’re set in the direction we’re going, it’s going to be an ever-evaluating process to see how good we are and what makes us the best team.”
That will start when the Bombers return to practice at Rods Field on Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
SHELTON GONE: Wide receiver/kick returner Travis Shelton was one of seven players pared from the roster Tuesday. Shelton, who was hobbled by a hamstring injury during most of training camp, had a horrible outing against the Ticats. That included misplaying a punt return that Hamilton cashed in for a touchdown.
“Good kid and wish him the best of luck,” LaPolice said. “You know, it’s hard when you get injured and you don’t get a lot (of work). We would have liked to have gotten him two games for him to try to catch the punts. But we just felt we’d go with Jovon to do that.”
Jovon Johnson, a CFL all-star cornerback, was fourth in the CFL in punt returns with 65 for 593 yards and one touchdown, first in missed field goal returns with three for 203 yards and one TD and sixth in kickoff returns last season.
LaPolice, who had been reluctant to risk injury to a starting cornerback on kick returns, indicated that he plans to limit Johnson to punt returns. Johnson, however, seemed to thrive on all the work last season when he was named the club’s Most Outstanding Player.
MILD SURPRISE: The other players cut were linebackers Rian Wallace and SaMario Houston, defensive back Jason Tate and defensive lineman Jarrell Chandler, all imports, and offensive lineman John Hashem and linebacker Giancarlo Rapanaro, both non-imports.
The only mild surprise there might have been Wallace, who played in the NFL for a couple of years.
“The first thing people have to understand is, just because you’ve played in the NFL, it doesn’t translate to the Canadian Football League,” LaPolice said. “He was a linebacker and we tried to move him to the defensive end spot and he just wasn’t the end type we were looking for. Great kid and we loved his effort, but he wasn’t a dynamic defensive end. We felt he wasn’t going to be a (middle) linebacker for us so we tried him at defensive end so, unfortunately, that’s how it goes.”