WINNIPEG - What in the name of Gerald Wilcox is going on here?
A Canadian leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in receiving? A Canadian on pace for more than 1,000 yards? And a second-year player, no less?
“It’s OK, I guess. It’s all right,” Cory Watson said Wednesday, not exactly sounding impressed by his feat. “I would rather be number one in the league.”
Well, sure, who wouldn’t want to be No. 1? But when you look at the list of Winnipeg’s leading Canadian receivers over the years, the Montreal native’s start to the 2011 season looks like the beginning of something special.
It’s been 15 years since a non-import had more than 1,000 yards for the Blue and Gold, and no one has even come close since Wilcox racked up 1,024 in 1995.
Watson is quickly becoming Buck Pierce’s go-to guy, and receivers coach Chris Wiesehan believes the 27-year-old’s ability to make cuts and beat press coverage is a big reason why he’s enjoying success.
“The top ends of his routes have improved dramatically,” Wiesehan said. “When you jump out of your routes on the top end, there’s going to be a trust factor between he and the quarterback.”
Wiesehan also points to Watson’s improving his pass catching fundamentals and his film-watching skills as reasons for the vast improvement in his game. Watson also brings something you can’t measure until you see it.
“He’s tough. He’s a great kid,” Wiesehan said. “To play through the injuries he’s played through and show up every day and be a warrior, I love him.”
Watson said better fundamentals go hand-in-hand with his confidence, which is soaring these days after a rookie season that was naturally plagued by uncertainty, not to mention a knee injury that forced him to miss three games and to lose his starting job.
“Last year coming in I was nervous,” Watson said. “I was worried about getting my plays right and making sure I belonged with all these other guys on the field. Right now I’m getting a few catches in, and I’m feeling very comfortable.”
Watson’s play is one of the reasons why injured receiver Greg Carr is going to have to play his way back on to the roster. Watson moved over to Carr’s weak-side wideout spot and has flourished, making it difficult for the Florida State product to get back in the mix.
“Cory Watson’s played (weak-side wideout) for a number of games and played pretty well,” head coach Paul LaPolice said. “Does Greg go to (weak-side wideout) and Cory go somewhere else?”
Wiesehan said Carr, who on Wednesday completed his first full week of practice since injuring a quadriceps in Week 1, will get back in the lineup when he proves he’s among the top five receivers on the roster.
“We want to get him ready, and he can contribute, but he’s going to have to earn his spot,” Wiesehan said. “There’s five steaks on the table. Whoever’s hungriest is going to eat.”
Carr’s tummy is rumbling.
“Nobody’s hungrier than me,” he said. “If I have to take all five steaks to show that, then I gotta do that. I’m going to go get my steak and whatever’s left over.”