Bombers’ invisible man

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 PM ET

VANCOUVER — Expectations were high for Brock Ralph going into this season.

Just listen to what head coach Paul LaPolice had to say back on June 17.

“We’re hoping he has the best year of his career,” LaPolice said during training camp. “We’re going to try to put him in a position to be successful.

“… He could be somebody who really has a deep threat ability for us.”

LaPolice added there was no reason why Ralph couldn’t collect 1,000 receiving yards.

The 30-year-old Raymond, Alta., product is going to fall well short of that number. Ralph has just 28 catches for 336 yards, putting him on pace for 504. That would be only his fourth-best season total in his eight-year CFL career.

He had 559 receiving yards last year — and 135 along the ground thanks to the “Jet” package — in Mike Kelly’s unique offence, and his production was supposed to improve under LaPolice.

What stands out the most about Ralph’s rough year is the fact he has been nowhere near a deep threat, registering just one catch longer than 30 yards. If there’s one bright spot, it’s that he’s caught a pass in 26 consecutive games.

“There’s always things to improve on, but I feel like I can’t gauge as much on how many balls I’m catching or how many yards I’m getting, because that starts to take into account things that are out of your control,” Ralph said.

Translation: He’s not getting the ball enough.

“You’re never getting the ball enough, right?” Ralph said. “… I believe the ball’s going where the coaches and quarterbacks feel it should go. In the meantime, I’ll just hang out and be me and do what they ask of me.

“If that’s to take the top off a coverage, I take a lot of pride in other things I can do other than just putting up numbers and catches.”

Ralph is one of the fastest Canadian receivers around, he has one of the best set of mitts, and he always looks great in practice. When the game comes around, though, he seems to become invisible.

Offensive co-ordinator Jamie Barresi said Ralph is running great routes in games, but he pointed out that even Ralph’s own quarterbacks have trouble seeing him on the field sometimes.

“In the last game we had a situation where he was 20 yards behind (coverage), and I feel badly that our quarterback didn’t get the ball to him. And that’s the type of thing that has happened,” Barresi said. “I feel a little frustrated about it, because we haven’t tapped into it and we’re still trying.”

Ralph isn’t sure how to sum up his season, but he doesn’t want to say he’s frustrated.

“Frustrated can mean that you’re not happy or that you’re pissed off, so I wouldn’t necessarily use that word,” he said. “There’s almost a level of impatience, and it’s not just about me personally. It’s about us being 3-9 and wanting to win and really, at the end of the day, wanting to feel like these guys trust me, they believe in me.”

Ralph is hopeful he’ll make his mark on the home stretch of the season, which kicks off Saturday night in B.C.

“I feel like I can make a difference in the outcome of the game with big plays and the things I do,” he said. “It’s always trying regardless, and it is again this year, but I’m just trying to put the blinkers on and just look forward and not worry too much about that.

“I know — at least I think I know — that we’re going to need me down the stretch. I am healthy, and I feel like there are some things that I can offer and some things that are starting to show up on film, and then hopefully I gain the trust of our quarterbacks and coaches.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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