Bombers are worse than sum of their parts

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:37 PM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2010 were a team that was worse than the sum of its parts.

They had good players at many positions, yet new GM Joe Mack and rookie head coach Paul LaPolice couldn’t figure out a way to put it all together.

Where does the blame lie? Good question. There are no shortage of areas at which to toss the accountability. None would be wrong.

Overall, the Blue and Gold get a big, fat F for finishing with the league’s worst record of 4-14. Position by position, though, it’s not as ugly.

Here is the team’s final report card from the season of close losses.

A — Top of the league

B — Better than most

C — Average

D — Hit the books

F — Worst in the CFL

QUARTERBACKS — C

Buck Pierce looked great for the first few weeks and then got hurt, which was not unexpected.

Steven Jyles had the second-best passer rating in the league, but he treated the football like a hand grenade, losing five fumbles and finishing with a record of 3-9 as the QB of record.

Alex Brink looked out of his league in his only start, while fourth-stringer Joey Elliott didn’t look terrible in his two contests.

The quarterbacks’ efficiency rating was in the middle of the CFL pack, they threw 27 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, and they were superb running with the ball.

Since other options are limited, bring back Pierce and Jyles. Make Pierce the No. 1 gun again and hope he lasts a little longer than two full games.

RUNNING BACKS — B

The Bombers had the league’s second-best ground attack thanks in large part to rushing king Fred Reid, who should have gotten the ball even more this season — if not on the ground, then at least through the air.

Chris Garrett showed in the regular-season finale that he has some moves, and the fullback department did its job well for the most part.

RECEIVERS — C

Terrence Edwards gets an A, but the rest of the crew brings the grade down big time.

Edwards had 1,372 receiving yards. Adarius Bowman, who had a forgettable season full of ill-timed drops before getting cut in mid-October, finished second with 691!

Edwards had 12 touchdowns. The rest of the team had 15.

The Bombers always started two Canadian pass catchers, but no one made a mark. That must change, or it’s time to change the ratio.

Cory Watson appears to have a bright future.

OFFENSIVE LINE — C

Simply put, the hogs this year were fine. Not good, not bad. Just fine.

They paved the way for the league’s rushing leader, so they get bonus points for that. They gave up a whopping 47 sacks — their second-biggest total in the last 14 seasons — so they lose points there.

Since the Bombers went with Americans Andre Douglas and Kelly Butler at the tackle positions, the line should have garnered a better grade.

DEFENSIVE LINE — A

Every time the Bombers travelled this year, the story the local media did most was about Winnipeg’s dangerous defensive line.

Phillip Hunt was a star in his first full season, leading the league with 16 sacks, and Canadian Doug Brown, who turned 36 in September, was exceptional once again.

Odell Willis had penalty problems, but still collected 11 sacks, and Dorian Smith had a very quiet six QB drops.

There’s no way Brown calls it a career, Hunt and Willis are long shots to land in the NFL, and signing the free agent Smith would be a wise move to keep this fearsome foursome together.

LINEBACKERS — F

To be fair, Clint Kent was a great find at strong-side linebacker and is definitely a keeper. Too bad it took the coaching staff half a season to figure that out — and they did so only because Bernard Hicks got hurt.

The man in the middle, Joe Lobendahn, just wasn’t the same hard-hitting missile he had been in spot duty behind Barrin Simpson, and his time with the Blue and Gold could be over considering he’s a free agent.

Marcellus Bowman is a physical specimen who finished with 51 tackles and got a two-year contract extension last week, but he just didn’t stand out enough in his rookie campaign.

Will the players waiting in the wings, like Merrill Johnson or Rico McCoy, ride to the rescue?

SECONDARY — B

The Bombers gave up the fewest yards through the air, but they were at the bottom of the barrel when it came to passing touchdowns allowed.

They didn’t have the whopping 31 interceptions like last year, but they still plucked a solid 17 balls out of the air.

Jovon Johnson wasn’t as dominant as he was in 2009, but he still led the team with four picks while bouncing between halfback and the corner. Safety Ian Logan had his best campaign, and rookies Alex Suber and Deon Beasley didn’t get beat too often.

Getting free agent Jonathan Hefney back in Blue and Gold should be an off-season priority.

SPECIAL TEAMS — D

This category encompasses many aspects, so bear with me.

The cover teams get an F. They were decent in the middle of the season, but allowing six return touchdowns was downright putrid.

The return teams were only a little better. Jovon Johnson took a pair of punts to the house, but it seemed like the return unit was allowing first downs on fakes every other time the opposition lined up to punt.

The kickers, on the other hand, were outstanding. Unheralded placekicker Justin Palardy rode to the rescue in mid-August and proceeded to make 26 of 30 attempts to shatter the franchise record. And one of his misses, a 51-yarder into the wind against Toronto, should not have been tried.

Punter Mike Renaud rebounded brilliantly from knee surgery, finishing with 42.9-yard gross and 35.4-yard net averages.

Add it all up, and it’s a D.

THE BRASS — F

GM Joe Mack went too young, too quickly. He dumped too many veteran players that might not have been necessarily better than their replacements, but experience goes a long way on the field and in the locker-room.

Head coach Paul LaPolice looked like a rookie head coach too often and cost his team a couple of games. Among the eyebrow-raising moves: bringing back Buck Pierce too early from injury, the Andre Sadeghian handoff, the 51-yard field goal into the wind that was returned for a touchdown and benching Steven Jyles in favour of Alex Brink.

Special teams co-ordinator Kyle Walters, meanwhile, is the assistant on the hottest seat heading into the off-season.

Next season Mack needs his young talent to bloom and LaPolice must show he learned from his mistakes.

Otherwise … well, they better hope there isn’t an otherwise.


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