WINNIPEG - Ever have one of those report cards you didnít want your parents to see?
This would be one of them.
The sad-sack Bombers have reached the midway point of the season, and they have a grand total of two wins to show for it after Sundayís embarrassing 52-0 obliteration at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 50th Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium.
We thought the season wouldnít be good after the off-season the team management had, but we didnít think it would be this bad.
So without further ado, here is the Bombersí mid-season report card:
A: Top of the league
B: Better than most
D: Hit the books
F: Worst in the CFL
The foot injury to Buck Pierce hasnít helped, but itís not like he was lighting it up before he got hurt. Joey Elliott has shown flashes, passing for 406 yards against Hamilton in Week 7, but Alex Brink has not. The Bombers are seventh when it comes to passing yards, and they are last in efficiency rating and touchdown percentage. The pivots just arenít giving the Bombers a chance to win, and thatís death in the CFL.
RUNNING BACKS: C
As it is with the quarterbacks, Chris Garrettís torn Achilles tendon three days before the start of the season was a killer. He was an experienced tailback who wouldíve given the offence a calming presence. Bloi-Dei Dorzon was in way over his head, and Chad Simpson has been dealing with an injured foot. Despite that, the Bombers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to yards per carry. The only problem with that is the Bombers hardly run the ball.
Only the Argos pass more than the Bombers, which isnít a good thing when you consider how Winnipegís quarterbacks are playing. Then again, the Bombers have found a gem in big rookie Chris Matthews, who has four 100-yard games. Terrence Edwards continues to produce, but Cory Watson, who missed the start of the season due to injury, Kito Poblah and Clarence Denmark have been underachieving. Add it all up, and itís an average group.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F
The start was awful, but at least itís gotten a little better. Still, the loss of Brendon LaBatte, the retirement of Obby Khan and the season-ending surgery for Andre Douglas have hampered the hogs. The Bombers have given up the most sacks, which could be attributed to how much they pass, but their average yards per carry, which is in the top half of the league, shows they have something to build upon in the second half. This group should continue to get better.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D
The talent appears to be there, but this group just canít put it together on a consistent basis. Alex Hall is great one game and invisible the next. Bryant Turner started off the season with a bang but doesnít have a sack in his last five outings. Either he or Brandon Collier needs to get going, because the opposition canít double team them both. The D-line finished the first half with a thud, allowing the Roughriders to have their first 100-yard rusher (Kory Sheets) in 41 games. Yuck.
The decision to put a Canadian at middle linebacker, the release of Clint Kent and the injuries to Marcellus Bowman and Brandon Stewart have led to trouble. This groupís struggles were never on display more than Week 2 in Montreal, where Brandon Whitaker made Pierre-Luc Labbe and Dustin Doe look like amateurs. Labbe doesnít start anymore, and Doe was cut. Henoc Muamba will only improve, and Stewart is still learning the SAM spot.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: D
This was the strength of the team a year ago, but this season is a different story. The Blue and Gold are allowing the most passing yards, and stalwarts Jovon Johnson and Jonathan Hefney are not on top of their games. There have been plenty of different combinations due to injuries, which wasnít the case last year, and a lack of pressure up front hurts the secondary as well. Still, like every area of the squad, it needs to improve.
RETURN TEAMS: D
Winnipegís kickoff and punt return teams, when you figure in yards gathered combined with penalties, are near the basement in both categories. Primary returner Demond Washington has had trouble holding on to the ball lately, but he at least has a return touchdown this season, so weíll give him that. The two kickoff errors on Sunday were atrocious.
COVER TEAMS: C
Once again, when you examine overall field position gained by the opposition, the Bombers are sixth when it comes to covering both punts and kickoffs. Thatís what happens when you cut and trade two of your top two special teams tacklers, which Winnipeg did in the off-season. At least they brought back James Green.
The grade would be worse if it werenít for Justin Palardyís impressive 86.4% success rate in the field goal department. Hey, at least somebodyís taking care of the scoring. On the other hand, Palardyís kickoff average is the worst in the CFL, while Mike Renaudís gross punting mark is near the bottom.
When the coach gets fired just eight games into the season, it makes the grading easy. Paul LaPolice got his walking papers last weekend, which was still a move that had to be made ó regardless of what happened on Sunday. For whatever reason, he just couldnít get the team over the hump. Offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton guides the leagueís worst offence, and the defence is among the leagueís worst as well. Other than that, itís all good.
GM Joe Mackís off-season missteps have been well documented. Too much talent walked out the door, and he didnít even try to replace it with any veteran CFL talent. The locker-room doesnít have a veteran presence, and now it appears the players, not to mention the fan base, have lost confidence in management. Basically, thereís nowhere to go but up in the second half. At least, thatís what the Bombers better hope is the case.