Where has Bombers' swagger gone?

Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke. (QMI Agency file photo)

Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke. (QMI Agency file photo)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Tim Burke is a straight shooter, and the Bombers defensive co-ordinator was firing plenty of bullets on Monday.

Burke was none too pleased with his defence’s performance in Friday’s 41-30 loss to the Montreal Alouettes. Anthony Calvillo and his band of merry point producers dropped 551 net yards on Winnipeg’s lap, which were the most the Bombers have given up in nearly seven years.

Burke said there was a reason for the pitiful display, and he let his players know it.

“You tell them the truth: We’re not playing as well as we did last year,” Burke said. “You don’t see the passion and the swagger and the things that it’s going to take for us to be a great defence. We’ve got good enough players to be a great defence, but right now we’re last in the league in almost every category.”

It’s interesting Burke would say the team is missing its swagger considering he was the driving force in getting rid of the mayor of Swaggerville himself, Odell Willis. Say what you will about Willis’ run-stopping talents, which aren’t exactly good, but if there’s one thing that wacky ball of energy brought to the field, it was plenty of swagger.

But that ship has sailed, and now Willis is getting pressure on quarterbacks who are facing the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Yes, he took a bad penalty on Sunday night, but that comes with the territory when you swag, swag, swag. Getting rid of Willis was a mistake, but there’s nothing the Bombers can do about it now.

So Burke must now dig deep and figure a way to get his team out of the basement of several of the CFL’s defensive statistical categories. His linebackers were eaten up and spit out by running back Brandon Whitaker, who abused them through the air and on the ground. Pierre-Luc Labbe, Dustin Doe and Henoc Muamba will want the game film burned.

“I didn’t think it was very good,” Burke said of the linebacker play. “They were very poor in coverage. Some of that was because of broken assignments, not doing their techniques properly. When they popped those two runs on us, it was a combination of D-line and linebacker corps.”

The defensive line also got no pressure. The Bombers have three sacks in two games, and Bryant Turner has all of them. Winnipeg used to be the kings of quarterback pressure. Not anymore. Or, if Burke can fix things, not yet.

Making matters worse is the fact Burke’s new strong-side linebacker, Brandon Stewart, and underrated halfback, Alex Suber, won’t play on Friday night in Edmonton because of injuries sustained against the Alouettes.

So Jonathan Hefney is moving up to strong-side linebacker, a position he doesn’t like to play, Darrell Pasco is taking over for Suber, Johnny Sears is going over to fill Hefney’s spot, and Deon Beasley will make his season debut after being a healthy scratch last week. The new guys not only need to know their assignments, but they have to bring the swag back as well.

The good news is this week the Bombers are facing the Eskimos, who are worse offensively than the Bombers were defensively on Friday night.


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