July 11, 2017

48-Hour Primer | TOR vs WPG

Jermarcus Hardrick is an engaging, emotional sort who is quick with a grin when things are rolling.

And when they’re not?

Well, let’s just say the mammoth Winnipeg Blue Bombers right tackle can fire out a laser-like stare that would put Superman to shame.

So there was Hardrick, in the Bombers locker room earlier this week, when he was approached for his take on the play of the offensive line through two games.

And the man who loves to hoist his teammates up on his shoulders in celebration – whether it’s in the critical moments of a close game or a practice rep on a Tuesday morning – gathered himself by taking a couple of extra large depth breaths.

His look, meanwhile, could have sliced holes through a supertanker’s hull.

“We have given up sacks and don’t want to give up any,” Hardrick began. “That’s an automatic reason for us to be mad. I just feel like we can play better. We’ve got a lot of guys who take a lot of pride in what we do. We’ve got some things we’ve got to clean up. We’ll be better. We’ll be better for our coaches, we’ll be better for all of us.

“Matt (Nichols) has been hit a couple of times and it just doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t sleep at night when the quarterback gets hit like that.”

“It’s the little things,” he added. “I’m not trying to take any credit away from anybody, but we’re doing a lot of things that aren’t helping ourselves. I just feel like we’re one inch away from it being right, so close.

“But we can’t talk about it anymore. We’ve got to get it done out there on the field and put it on film. We just need to play and play well.”

The Bombers have given up seven sacks in two games this year and are averaging 72 yards rushing, down from 88.6 a year ago. Those are early numbers, sure, but they still have Hardrick and the O-line doing some serious self-examination.

And the rest of the offence as well.

“I need to be better in the run game,” said Bombers running back Andrew Harris. “I haven’t been performing like I should be. I need to step my game up and be better with the reads I’ve been making and be more consistent. That’s going to help with the whole offence. Right now, teams are dropping out and not respecting our run game like they should.

“Our O-line has been playing great. I need to be better. Those guys care so much. Any time we have a bad game or give up a sack or rush for minimal yards, it rubs everyone the wrong way. It rubs me the wrong way. We expect greatness right now. It’s crucial that game-in, game-out we’re playing great games and getting better, not regressing. Any time we regress guys get upset.

“Now it’s how we respond to it.”

Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice said the attack had a 68-32 percent pass-to-run ratio last year. What he wants is for the club to be more efficient in the run game than it has in the two games this season.

“A lot of our runs have been on second and medium and second and short,” he said. “We want to be more 10-plus yard runs when we get those opportunities and make sure we protect the ball. When you turn the ball over four times, you’re not going to be successful in any league no matter who you play.

“Everybody blames a sack on the O-line… one of them the quarterback is running out and (is tackled) behind the line of scrimmage. Another time it was one of our add-in protector guys (who missed his assignment).

“They’ve got improvements to do, just like the receivers do, just like the running backs and the quarterback have to do. We’ve got two games under our belt. We’ve got to get better this week.”

BOMBER REPORT – July 11, 2017

The Blue Bombers wrapped up their final full practice in advance of Thursday’s home date with the Toronto Argonauts.

Here are three things you should know as the club completed its final workout before Wednesday’s walk-through…

NEXT BACKER UP: Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has confirmed that linebacker Ian Wild will be out for at least six weeks with an arm injury. Kyle Knox has been working a lot in that spot in Wild’s absence. But so too have Jesse Briggs and Jovan Santos-Knox.

In short, the coach isn’t tipping his hand as to who will get the most reps there in advance of Thursday’s tilt with the Argos.

“We have lots of options there,” said O’Shea. “I thought Jesse Briggs went in and played extremely well. I think Sam Hurl could play WILL (weak-side) linebacker (Wild’s spot). I think Jovan Santos-Knox, if that’s the way we go with the roster, he’s played WILL before also.

“What we have is the ability to mix things up and do a lot of different things.”

AND ANOTHER CHANGE TO THE D?: The Bombers could also be without defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo. He has not practiced the last two days, but did a ton of running during Tuesday’s practice.

“We’ll give him another day,” said O’Shea. “He’ll see the trainer right now and we’ll make a decision tomorrow.”

Asked about Jeffcoat, the son of former Dallas Cowboys star Jim Jeffcoat, O’Shea said:

“He’s a very effective pass rusher. He seems to be a high football IQ; he’s a smart football player. We like him.”

ABOUT THAT HOME RECORD: Last week’s loss dropped the Bombers all-time record at Investors Group Field to 11-26. It’s an issue we touched on here in the build-up to last week’s home opener and will continue to be broached until the Bombers begin to reverse this trend.

“Our fans are so important to this team,” said Andrew Harris. “We want to keep them happy and give them a good show. The support we have from them, regardless of win or lose, rain or shine… look at last year when we had the rain delay and some of those fans stuck around. It just goes to show you how supportive they are.

“Last year, I know our home record wasn’t great (4-5). But at the end of the day, it’s just got to get better and we’ve got to perform better at home.”

“It’s important to win every game, it really is,” added O’Shea. “We’ve talked about it before: We’ve got great fans and you want to play well in front of them. But the bottom line is you want to win every game. Even if you’re playing in front of somebody else’s fans you want to win, too. That’s how I answer that one: you want to win every game.”