VANCOUVER -- Can the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive line do what it takes to keep their quarterback upright?
It's a recurring question, but has taken on more importance as the Blue Bombers revamped offensive line opens the 2012 CFL season against the B.C. Lions on Friday night at B.C. Place with only two returning starters along the O-line and just one of them is playing the same position as last year.
Some might call that a recipe for disaster, since playing as a five-man unit generally requires an abundance of reps in practice and in games for guys to get used to playing alongside one another.
"We're going to do what we have to do with the guys we have here," said Blue Bombers right guard Steve Morley. "These guys are competitors."
Morley is the only guy hog starting the season where he ended off 2011, while Glenn January moves over to left tackle from right.
"We've been preparing as a unit for quite a while now and we've got a good group of guys," said January. "We're younger, we don't have the experience we've had in the past but that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes, some youth and energy can be a good addition to the offensive line.
"Right now, we have a young, fresh group that are really fighting hard to really prove their worth."
Centre Chris Kowalczuk is about to make his first CFL start and will be directing traffic as the centre, while Chris Greaves takes over the left guard spot after making three starts late last season.
"You have to do everything in unison," said Greaves. "I'm going to do my part to help the unit function as one."
Andre Douglas should move from left to right tackle once his hip injury heals but there's no guarantee he'll be ready for next week, leaving fellow import Jordan Taormina to play right tackle for the time being.
"I think they'll be fine. I'm confident in the guys and I'm excited to see them play," said Pierce.
Even with some important departures over the past two seasons, the Lions front four provides a formidable task for the Blue Bombers young line.
"They're a great unit and they've been good for a long time," said January. "I can't remember walking through the doors of this stadium and facing an easy defensive line. Gone are the days of Cameron Wake (now with Miami Dolphins of the NFL) and Brent Johnson (retired), but the guys they have out there are really good. Facing these guys is a true test and a good sign of where we are so far. We're all excited about going out there and facing the defending Grey Cup champions."
"They've had plenty of opportunities to learn and get better, now with the lights on, we'll see how we hold up," added Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. "They've got a test, because this will be one of the best (defensive) fronts they'll see all year."
The Lions plan on bringing the heat against the offensive line and doing what they can to put pressure on Pierce.
"I rub my hands (thinking) about every offensive line, it doesn't matter, it's about getting to the quarterback and putting him on his back," said Lions head coach Mike Benevides, sounding like the former defensive co-ordinator he is. "You have to impact the money-maker, you have to impact the biggest player in the game and the guy who touches the ball every play.
"We'll be looking for Buck for sure."