Bombers top picks making progress at training camp

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Jade Etienne pulls in a pass during Sunday's training camp...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Jade Etienne pulls in a pass during Sunday's training camp session. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 PM ET

They are a trio that some observers believe will be forever linked.

Thanks to an interesting set of circumstances, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had an opportunity to essentially come away with three first round draft picks in 2011.

The first, linebacker Henoc Muamba, was the first overall selection with a pick the Blue Bombers received for finishing dead last at 4-14 last season.

The second, wide receiver Jade Etienne, went fourth overall with a pick the Blue and Gold received in the trade of backup quarterback Steven Jyles to the Toronto Argonauts.

Lastly, receiver Kito Poblah became Bomber property during the supplemental draft after a lengthy process that finally saw the Central Michigan product eventually produce the paperwork required for him to be considered a non-import.

Through eight days of main training camp, the talented trio has had a varying level of success, with Etienne serving as a lightning rod in the early going.

While he has plenty of upside, Etienne is the rawest of the three, which makes sense since he was a kicker at the University of Saskatchewan two years ago and has only one season as a starting receiver in the CIS under his belt.

Etienne’s play has been up-and-down through camp — mixing outstanding catches with a few too many drops — and his rookie camp was forgettable.

“It’s been an experience,” said Etienne. “The rookie camp was pretty rough, but I’m starting to get the hang of things. It’s all about knowing the playbook.”

Etienne, 21, is starting to feel more comfortable and Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice is noticing progress.

“Jade gets better every day,” said LaPolice. “I think he’s going to be OK.”

It’s not yet known whether Etienne will do enough to stick around with the Bombers this season or return for another year with the Huskies.

Either way, it’s far too early to dismiss his talent and call him a draft-day bust.

Poblah, 23, was basically a bonus pick. Despite missing the past two days of workouts with an Achilles tendon problem, he’s turning heads and there have been plenty of whispers he might have a shot to be a non-import starter at receiver along with Cory Watson come opening day against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 1.

“Kito has shown intelligence,” said LaPolice. “He can do things quickly and he can move to different positions. If you can make plays to the wide side of the field and to the boundary, that’s a good thing. We’re very pleased.”

Poblah, who missed rookie camp while the details of his contract were being worked out, is expected to be back on the field Monday and all he’s concerned about is getting better.

“I’m out here working and I’m going to just come out here and play every day,” said Poblah. “If I get that (starting) spot, I get that spot. If I’ve got to back up somebody and contribute that way, I’ll do that.”

Muamba, 22, came in with the most fanfare and to this point has been living up to the hype.

“He just has to keep playing,” said LaPolice. “He’s going to be able to run, he’s going to be able to hit. He’s physical.”

Muamba, a star at St. Francis Xavier, sees a bright future for the class of 2011.

“It’s nice to have a good draft class come in and to see the evolution of the group,” said Muamba, who is likely to make his largest impact on special teams as a rookie. “As long as you’re helping the team, that’s all that matters.”

FIRST FOREMOST: Winnipeg Blue Bombers first rounders in 2011

  • LB Henoc Muamba, St. Francis Xavier University, 1st overall
  • WR Jade Etienne, University of Saskatchewan, 4th overall (pick acquired in trade with Toronto for QB Steven Jyles)
  • WR Kito Poblah, Central Michigan University, 1st round in supplemental draft (cost Blue Bombers their first round choice in 2012 CFL Draft)

Photos