Matthews has chance to make it count with Bombers

Blue Bombers wide receiver Chris Matthews during practice at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Man.,...

Blue Bombers wide receiver Chris Matthews during practice at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Man., June 11, 2012. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Hes knocked the socks off coaches and teammates in practice now its time to pull on a new Blue Bombers uniform and do it at home.

Receiver Chris Matthews has no doubt been the most impressive newbie at Camp LaPo 2012, a towering (6-foot-5) combination of speed, strength (229 pounds) and hands.

If he wasnt jumping over a defender to make a spectacular grab he was bringing the ball down with one hand.

But after a simply decent pre-season outing in Montreal last week, Matthews is still one step away from branding his name on the opening day roster.

Wednesday night, against Hamilton, No. 13 gets the hot iron in his hand, one last chance to make it count.

I dont think I have a job, the 22-year-old said, Tuesday, disregarding his place atop the depth chart. Im still working for one. Depth charts are set, but theyre not set in stone. They can be washed away at any moment.

And this last game is going to determine whos going to be staying, playing, or starting.

Theres little doubt Matthews is staying.

The rave reviews keep coming in, the latest from starting pivot Buck Pierce, Tuesday.

Everybody here has seen what he can do Pierce said. Physically, hes as good as Ive seen.

Thats high praise from a veteran of eight years in three-down football. Just high enough for a guy to have problems living up to.

If theres a question left for Matthews to answer, its if hes one of those players who drops jaws in practice but creates only blank stares in games.

I want to see Chris take his abilities that we know he has and just apply it to the football field, Pierce said. Hes a guy that poses great matchup advantages for us, with size and speed. Hes a smart kid. We throw a lot at our receivers. Chris is another guy that really has excelled with the learning curve of professional football and the CFL.

Were expecting big things out of him.

Its one thing to run all the right routes and pick up your blocking assignments.

But theres nothing like making one of those plays that pop off the field and make people notice.

Like the touchdown run by tailback Bloi-Dei Dorzon or the catch-and-run for a first down on a fake punt by Anthony Woodson last week.

Matthews didnt have one of those in Montreal.

Neither did running back/kick returner Chad Simpson, another training camp standout whod like nothing better than to treat the home fans to something special, Wednesday.

Of course, Simpson said. Coaches look for guys that are going to do their jobs. I want to do that, and more. I just want to have a great game this game.

If that opportunity arises, I will make that play. Im 100% sure I will make that play. If the opportunity is there, Im going to run with it.

Then theres punter Eric Wilbur, whose only flaw has been his U.S. passport.

Wilbur could kick the leather off the ball a second straight week and still find himself on a plane ticket out of town by the weekend.

I have no clue, Wilbur said of his chances, hitting the question as squarely as hes been hitting punts.

A host of other, lower-profile players will get another quarter or so to toil in the trenches or scurry about the secondary, but it wont necessarily be 15 minutes of fame.

Head coach Paul LaPolice acknowledged the final pre-season game can be make-or-break.

You dont just play well and all of a sudden youre a starter, LaPolice said. But it may put the confidence in the coaches and myself to say we need to keep this kid around.

Or do the opposite.

Absolutely, the coach said. Or play yourself off of whether we keep you around or not.


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