Bombers still a work in progress

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:32 AM ET

MONTREAL - Paul LaPolice didn't sound like a guy whose football team had opened the CFL pre-season on a winning note.

The reason for that was plain and simple.

Despite coming away with a 22-10 victory over teh Montreal Alouettes before a crowd of 20,005 on a picture-perfect night at Percival Molson Stadium on Thursday night, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers showed that they're very much a work in progress.

For those hoping the installation of a well-respected new offensive co-ordinator (Gary Crowton) was going to turn the Blue Bombers offence into a well-oiled juggernaut overnight, think again.

While we're quick to understand that most of the offensive starters were back in Winnipeg and not on the field, the truth of the matter is that these things take time and countless repetitions.

"We only had one touchdown and it was on a big play so we have to execute better," said LaPolice. "We're a team that teaches protect the football and I didn't think we did that as well as we need too. I told the players we can't be happy with what we did. You have to sustain drives and stay on the field."

Having said that, the biggest problem the Blue Bombers had wasn't creating offensive opportunities, but rather making the catches or holding onto the ball afterward.

Drops plagued the Blue Bombers receiving corps, by our unofficial count there were at least six, possibly more depending on the grader.

What that meant was that Alex Brink and Joey Elliott's statistics (and to some degree Justin Goltz's) were penalized dramatically.

The Blue Bombers most productive players on this night were the kicking tandem of Justin Palardy, who finished 3-for-3, and Eric Wilbur, the punter who was 2-for-2 (including a blast from 47 yards).

The duo provided 16 (including a convert) of the Blue Bombers 22 points and Wilbur came up with a fake that led to a third-down conversion and subsequent 23-yard gain from Anthony Woodson.

"Oh man, I would say high school," said Wilbur, when asked when the last time he completed a pass in an actual game. "In college, on all my fakes, I ran. It's been a long time. I wasn't nervous at all. Once the game starts, the nerves are gone.

"Even though we're kickers, we're still football players and we understand the game and we're ready to do whatever we need to do to help the team win."

That was quite evident, as was the fact Wilbur is going to make Paul LaPolice's job extremely difficult when it comes to deciding who wins the punting job.

"We've got good competition and that's what you want," said LaPolice. "You want tough decisions."

The Blue Bombers lone major came on a dynamic run by Bloi-Dei Dorzon, who nimbly made his way through a host of players and into the end zone for a 38-yard scamper.

"It was pretty impressive," said Elliott. "I thought he was going down at one point, but he was able to stay up and score. Those are the type of plays you need from your tailback."

Not only did the receivers have an up-and-down day, Paul Hubbard, who was vying for a starting job was seen with a sling on his arm after the game and could be out indefinitely, pending a further medical review.

As for the offensive line, Steve Morley was the only returning starter who saw action and the centre battle between Chris Kowalczuk and Justin Sorenson was basically a draw.

Although LaPolice was quick to defend his hogs, the Blue Bombers did give up six sacks in the game, which has to at least be cause for some concern.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Blue Bombers were solid, with defensive back Demond Washington playing a starring role and doing what he can to force his way onto this team.

The talented defensive backs had three interceptions, while the defensive line had two sacks.

For now, the tape will be reviewed, a round of cuts will be made and then the Blue Bombers will quickly turn their attention to Wednesday's game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the final dress rehearsal before the curtain raises on June 29 against the B.C. Lions.

"There's a lot of work to be done. That's the biggest thing I'll take," said LaPolice.

After all, isn't that what the pre-season is for?

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/WiebeSunSports


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