Fight for Bombers jobs begins

Kirk Penton, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:45 AM ET

The entire starting offence is back, and all but one starter on defence has returned.

The kickers are the same, and the returners haven’t changed.

While on paper this team might appear to be the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, it is in fact the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

It is the same Bombers who finished dead last in 2010 with a 4-14 record.

And while it appears the only starting job up for grabs would be the defensive end spot vacated by CFL sack king Phillip Hunt, who left for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, it is difficult to see that being the case.

Many returning starters have only one CFL season under their belts, and the Bombers believe they have recruited some topnotch young talent.

In other words, there should be position battles aplenty.

Here is a position-by-position look at the Bombers going into their 2011 training camp, which begins Sunday morning at Canad Inns Stadium:

 

QUARTERBACK

STILL HERE: Buck Pierce, Joey Elliott, Alex Brink, Justin Goltz

NEW ARRIVALS: None

ADIOS: Steven Jyles (traded to Toronto), Zac Champion (released), Frank Wilczynski (released)

THE SKINNY: The injury-prone Pierce is the No. 1 gun. While Elliott goes into camp as the backup, it looks like Brink will have something to say about that. Goltz, who signed late last season, will try to learn as much as he can as quickly as he can.

 

RUNNING BACK/FULLBACK

STILL HERE: Fred Reid, Chris Garrett, James Green, Scott McHenry

NEW ARRIVALS: Alex Henderson, Carl Volny

ADIOS: Yvenson Bernard (signed in Montreal), Andre Sadeghian (released), Daryl Stephenson (signed in Hamilton), Jon Oosterhuis (released)

THE SKINNY: Reid returns as the reigning CFL rushing king, which should be enough for him to keep his job. Green, a former safety, and McHenry, a receiver, will get reps at fullback.

RECEIVER

STILL HERE: Terrence Edwards, Terence Jeffers-Harris, Greg Carr, Cory Watson, Aaron Hargreaves, Joel Bishop

NEW ARRIVALS: Perry Floyd, Tim Brown, Damian Sherman, Greg Betterson, Liam Mahoney, Kito Poblah, David McKoy, Jade Etienne, Clarence Denmark

ADIOS: Chris Davis (released), Brock Ralph (released), Markus Howell (retired), Jamayel Smith (released)

THE SKINNY: Edwards, Jeffers-Harris and Carr are virtual locks for the three starting import spots, so impressive newcomers like Sherman and Betterson are probably battling for backup roles. There are seven Canucks vying for two starting positions, including draft picks Etienne, Poblah and Mahoney. None of the returning Canadian pass catchers are entrenched incumbents, so that will be a good battle to watch.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

STILL HERE: Brendon LaBatte, Obby Khan, Steve Morley, Andre Douglas, Kelly Butler, Glenn January, Chris Greaves, Matt Morencie, Marlon Winn, Chris Kowalczuk

NEW ARRIVALS: Brendan Dunn, Paul Swiston

ADIOS: Luke Fritz (released), Ryan Donnelly (released)

THE SKINNY: The big question here is whether January, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, gets back into the starting lineup ahead of Douglas or Butler.

 

SPECIALISTS

STILL HERE: Chris Cvetkovic, Mike Renaud, Justin Palardy

NEW ARRIVALS: Rene Paredes

ADIOS: Taylor Inglis (traded to Edmonton)

THE SKINNY: Cvetkovic returns to his long snapping duties after missing all of 2010 with a knee injury, while Renaud and Palardy will handle the punting and placekicking, respectively.

 

KICK RETURNERS

STILL HERE: Jovon Johnson, Deon Beasley, Chris Garrett, Johnny Sears

NEW ARRIVALS: Tim Brown, Perry Floyd, Leslie Majors, Clarence Denmark, Alex Henderson

ADIOS: Markus Howell

THE SKINNY: Everyone keeps asking Johnson when he’s going to lose the punt returning duties, and he never does. Beasley returned the most kickoffs last season, but anyone who can catch and run with the football will get a shot.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

STILL HERE: Doug Brown, Odell Willis, Dorian Smith, Remond Willis, Fernand Kashama, Don Oramasionwu, Deji Oduwole, Moton Hopkins

NEW ARRIVALS: Kenny Mainor, Shawn Mayne, Bryant Turner, Dashawn Cassell, Jason Vega, Andre Caroll

ADIOS: Phillip Hunt (signed with Philadelphia Eagles)

THE SKINNY: The rock-solid Brown returns for his 11th and final CFL season, Willis should be the starting “jack” — a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, and Smith is the other incumbent tackle. The battle to replace Hunt, who will be missed dearly, is wide open.

 

LINEBACKER

STILL HERE: Joe Lobendahn, Marcellus Bowman, Clint Kent, Pierre-Luc Labbe, Merrill Johnson, Rico McCoy

NEW ARRIVALS: Henoc Muamba, John Surla

ADIOS: Courtney Smith (released)

THE SKINNY: The three starters — Lobendahn, Bowman and Kent — are back, but McCoy is expected to take a serious run at Lobendahn’s job. Muamba, the first overall draft pick, will start his career on special teams.

 

SECONDARY

STILL HERE: Jovon Johnson, Jonathan Hefney, Ian Logan, Alex Suber, Deon Beasley, Johnny Sears, Brandon Stewart, Brady Browne, Chris Smith, Jerry-Ralph Jules

NEW ARRIVALS: Arrington Hicks, Chayce Elliott, C.J. James, Leslie Majors, Giancarlo Rapanaro

ADIOS: Keyuo Craver (released), Shawn Gallant (retired), LaVar Glover (traded to Edmonton)

THE SKINNY: All five starters from last season — Johnson, Hefney, Logan, Suber and Beasley — return, but Stewart and Sears appear ready to make a couple of them fight hard for their jobs.

 


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