June 14, 2016

OTT 18, WPG 14 Game Recap

Chris Randle (8) and Derek Jones (41) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the pre-season game at TD Place in Ottawa, ON on Monday June 13, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

OTTAWA – Pass around the hard hats and bust out the ‘under construction’ signs – the Winnipeg Blue Bombers remain very much a work in progress.

The Bombers became the first Canadian Football League team to wrap up their 2016 preseason Monday night in the nation’s capital, dropping a 18-14 decision to the Ottawa REDBLACKS that leaves just as many questions as answers.

“When you don’t win, it stinks,” said Bombers Head Coach Mike O’Shea. “Even if it’s a preseason game it doesn’t feel good. So, it wasn’t good enough.”

The Bombers opened the game with all but one of their projected starters on offence – Weston Dressler was left at home to continue nursing a nagging injury – and the unit struggled to find a rhythm.

Dominique Davis (6), Drew Willy (5) and Matt Nichols (15) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the pre-season game at TD Place in Ottawa, ON on Monday June 13, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Drew Willy finished 11 of 15, but only for 87 yards and the club was stuffed on a couple of third-and-inches attempts that cut into the team’s time of possession. And in the preseason, when offences are looking to find their mojo even with vanilla attacks, that is a killer.

“We did some good things, but we put ourselves in some tough situations tonight,” said Willy. “Any time you are first or second and long a lot of teams are dropping nine and only rushing three guys so it’s tough to push the ball down the field.

“I felt good out there with my reads but obviously we need to put more points on the board and we need to be better on third-and-one situations.

“We do have a lot of work to do, but we do have 10-11 days here to get ready for a good Montreal team.”

That season opener, June 24th at home against the Alouettes, is eons away if measured by the training camp calendar.

First up are two cut-down dates: to 65 players by Tuesday night at 11:00 p.m. and to their final 46-man/10-player practice roster by Sunday.

“There’s a couple guys that did some pretty good things that certainly cemented their position,” said O’Shea, when asked if players separated themselves one way or another. “We’ve got to be down to 65 by (Tuesday) night and then we’ve got a significant amount of practice time before we’re down to our final number.

“So these guys are going to keep working and keep trying to earn spots.”



  • WR/KR Quincy McDuffie: Another solid night, returning four kickoffs for 112 yards (including a 59-yarder) and one punt for 11 yards while pulling in three passes for 28 yards. “I’m a big believer in the more you can do, the better,” said McDuffie. “Tonight I felt I showed my receiver capability. I just hope I did enough for the coaches to see when it comes around to making the finals cuts.”
  • Matt Nichols (15) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the pre-season against the Ottawa REDBLACKS game at TD Place in Ottawa, ON on Monday June 13, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)QB Matt Nichols: The Bombers’ No. 2 man completed six of nine attempts for 73 yards. But he was quick with his decision-making and got the ball out of his hands in a hurry. And on a night when the club surrendered five sacks, that was noticeable. “I’ve been in so many offences up here,” began Nichols, “and really this offence is a mash-up of two offences I’ve had in the past. There’s a lot of stuff I’m comfortable with and I think my experience last year in starting 14 games (with Edmonton and Winnipeg) has carried over for me. The game seemed slow and I felt like I was seeing it well.”
  • LB Tony Burnett: He led the Bombers in tackles with five and added another on special teams with a tackle on the opening kickoff.
  • Rec Gerrard Sheppard: Made a couple of tough grabs in traffic and led the Bombers with 45 receiving yards on three receptions.

Just like last week in the win over Montreal, it was the Bombers’ second and third stringers who were able to move the ball effectively on offence.

Asked afterward if he had any concerns about where his starting attack is at, Mike O’Shea was to the point.

“There’s no concern,” he said. “We have 11 days to work some more concepts in that we don’t have before the first regular season game. Our guys work extremely hard, they practice hard and they understand the idea of practicing at game speed. We’ve got a good amount of time before our first game.”

When quizzed about how comfortable he was with his squad at this point with the regular season approaching, the Bomber coach added:

“Hopefully, you never get comfortable because when you get comfortable you get punched in the face. Don’t get comfortable.”




LB Ian Wild looked to be banged up in the first half and did not finish the game, but O’Shea said the injury didn’t appear to be serious.

And after losing veteran OL Jeff Keeping to a knee injury a week ago, exiting Monday’s contest without a long injured list was massive – especially with the short turnaround between last Wednesday’s game and this one in Ottawa.


Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice, Dominique Davis (6), Julian Feoli-Gudino (83) during the pre-season game at TD Place in Ottawa, ON on Monday June 13, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)11: Days until the Bombers open their 2016 season for real, June 24th against the Alouettes

27:34: The Bombers time of possession – almost five minutes less than Ottawa

22-31: The combined passing totals for the four Bomber QBs, but for just 212 yards total.

75%: The field goal percentage for Sergio Castillo, who was two for three against Ottawa after going four for five last week. Castillo missed his first attempt of the preseason and his last – a 35-yard attempt with 2:45 remaining that could have brought the Bombers to within one point at 17-16.


The Bombers made a move in their personnel department on Monday, naming Craig Smith as the new National Scout. He replaces Drew Morris, who has left to join the New York Jets.

The Bombers had a sense this was coming as Morris was drawing a lot of interest from NFL teams. But in landing Smith, as highly respected as any personnel man in the league, they have found a solid replacement.

Smith was caught up in the Saskatchewan Roughriders purge last December, and had taken a job with Simon Fraser University as a receivers coach when the Bombers called.

“We encouraged him to go on interviews and this is something he wanted,” said Bombers GM Kyle Walters of Morris, prior to Monday’s game. “It shows what a great young mind he is and it’s impossible to deny him an opportunity like this with the New York Jets. We wished him the best of luck and then said, ‘What do we do now?’”

Morris will remain with the team through its final personnel meetings this week. But it won’t be long before Smith gets busy, as the club will need him to get out to scout NFL training camps.

“We wanted a guy with experience, we wanted a guy with NFL contacts,” said Walters. “Craig has all that. On top of that, he’s a great guy. First thing out of anyone’s mouth when you talk about him is he’s a quality man, he’s a good man, he works his tail off. He’s going to fit right in and he’s excited about the opportunity.

“He’s a worker. He’s done it all. He’s been doing it for so long he’s very well connected. He’ll be a nice asset to our organization.”

For the story of Smith’s return home – he is a Winnipeg native – head here.


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