Blue O-line earns mixed reviews from head coach

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:45 PM ET

Winnipeg’s new-look offensive line got a lukewarm performance review from head coach Paul LaPolice over the week.

The line, featuring first-year import CFLers Kelly Butler and Andre Douglas at the tackles along with Brendon LaBatte, Obby Khan and Steve Morley in the middle, allowed four sacks in the win over Hamilton but paved the way for 211 rushing yards.

“They took turns being really good,” LaPolice said. “On one of our runs you see Kelly Butler 40 yards down field. Halfway down he knocks the (middle linebacker) down, then he recovers and knocks the (weak-side linebacker) down.

“Their ends are really good, so they got behind us once or twice. I think we held the ball on one of our sacks too long, but all in all for the first game they did some good things.

“There’s a lot of things we gotta improve on, but it’s a good start.”

FEELING GROOVY: Speaking of offensive linemen, the veteran Khan said his rookie head coach has installed a great vibe in the locker-room this season.

“Honestly, it’s a whole different atmosphere in here,” said Khan, one of the most vocal critics of former boss Mike Kelly. “It’s week by week, it’s play by play, it’s point by point. Everyone has a role on the team.

“I’ve never been around a team like this, where it’s just so in the moment. And it’s a good feeling.”

FAN SUPPORT: Friday’s home-opener was about 3,000 spectators short of a sellout, but LaPolice was pleased with those who showed up.

“I want to compliment the fans, because (the players) fed off the fans,” he said. “They were loud, and we got a couple of (Hamilton) penalties. They helped us in the game.”

A Bomber official reported Saturday that ticket sales for Friday’s home game against Toronto were brisk in the wake of Friday’s victory.

ROSTER WATCH: Winnipeg’s coaching staff might have to do some juggling this week, as offensive lineman Ryan Donnelly, receiver Jabari Arthur and defensive back Clint Kent are all eligible to come off the one-game injured list.

Elsewhere, the team might be losing Keyuo Craver to a knee injury, perhaps for an extended period of time. His status will be updated on Monday, when the Bombers return to the practice field.

STATS ARE FOR … WINNERS? The Bombers won their season-opener on Friday for the 20th time since the CFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1952.

That’s an opening night success rate of only 35%.

The somewhat interesting — or perhaps quirky — statistic is that in the other 19 years that the Bombers have won their first game, only once have they failed to qualify for the playoffs. That happened in 1967, when they started 2-0 but missed the post-season with a 4-12 mark.

On the other hand, Winnipeg has missed the playoffs 13 of the 36 years that they’ve started the season with a loss.

Winnipeg has started with a 2-0 record 14 times since 1952, and they’ve made it to the Grey Cup in six of those instances, winning three of them.

Even if the Bombers lose to the Argos on Friday, there will be no need for fans to panic. In the 23 instances the Bombers have started a season 1-1, they’ve qualified for the playoffs 20 times.

All that does is support the theory that it’s basically impossible to miss the playoffs in the CFL.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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