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August 15, 2017

48-Hour Primer | EDM vs WPG

Maurice Leggett (31) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

This is how it works in professional football: a guy stands out on film over a small sample size and the opposition studying his game often simply refers to him by his number.

As in, ‘that #13 for Edmonton is pretty good.’

And when that same player keeps popping up on film over and over and over again, year after year, then the ultimate level of respect comes when the opposition starts referring to him by his name; first and last.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Mike Reilly – quarterback, Edmonton Eskimos and wearing #13 in green, yellow and white Thursday night against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.

“Mike Reilly… I’ve been playing against him since I came into the CFL and he’s very consistent,” said Bombers linebacker Maurice Leggett. “He’s a top quarterback that extends plays. Very explosive.

“It doesn’t matter what happens, he’s always going to compete until the clock hits zero. I respect his game a lot.”

“Great quarterback,” added T.J. Heath. “Mike Reilly’s been doing it for a while now, he’s very consistent and he throws very few picks. He’s smart with the ball and he has some good receivers.

“It’s one of those things where you really have to pay attention to detail because he can change things up each week. He’s definitely a great quarterback and in my eyes one of the best in the league. We’ll definitely be on our Ps and Qs this week.”

Those kind of scouting reports on the Eskimo QB were universal Tuesday in the Bombers locker room after the club’s final full practice in advance of Thursday’s West-Division showdown.

Now it’s not like Reilly is on pace to smash records this year. He’s completing passes at a rate of 72.7 percent – tops in the Canadian Football League – and his yardage, 2,329, is third overall, behind Ottawa’s Trevor Harris and Toronto’s Ricky Ray.

But what has made the veteran pivot the early front-runner for the Most Outstanding Player Award is how he is getting it done with a revolving door at running back because of injury and with a receiving corps missing two of his favourite targets in Adarius Bowman and Brandon Zylstra. It has been said through the Eskimos unbeaten start that Reilly isn’t just leading them to victory, but willing them as well.

Asked for a scouting report on Reilly, Bombers coach Mike O’Shea offered this:

“It wouldn’t be long. He’s got a lot of attributes, but I don’t think you need to list them all. He’s a good leader and a winner.

“I respect him as a competitor, regardless of how their roster looks. I truly believe – and we went through this last year – that everybody in the building is quite capable of playing and is going to step up when they get out there and help the team win and be successful.

“You respect Mike Reilly because of the way he plays and how he wins games. I don’t think it matters who’s around him.”

Stopping Reilly & Co. will be one of the many storylines when these two rivals meet. But all of this isn’t to suggest the Bombers will be quivering in their cleats when Reilly and the Esks take the field Thursday. They are big, after all, on the old mantra ‘respect all, fear none.’

“You have to respect him,” said Heath. “And we do respect him. But, at the same time, he’s going to have to respect us, too. Helluva quarterback. But he’s going to have to come in here and prove it again.”


BOMBER REPORT – August 15, 2017

The Bombers completed their final full practice Tuesday in advance of Thursday’s showdown with the unbeaten Edmonton Eskimos. Here are three things you should know…

NO SECRETS REVEALED

The Bombers practice was closed to the media on Tuesday and head coach Mike O’Shea wasn’t tipping his hand as to any possible lineup changes. Asked if he was a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ type when it comes to his roster, O’Shea said:

“No, I’m a ‘what’s it take to win this week.’ I think our roster is good right now.”

Working on a shorter week – they played Saturday in Hamilton and the charter home didn’t arrive until after 2 a.m. Sunday – the Bombers opted to have a walk-thru type practice on Monday before Tuesday’s session.

The thinking here being that it’s more conducive to have the team as fresh as possible for kickoff Thursday than worn out from a ton of work.

“A week like this, there’s really a lot more work being done in the meeting rooms and even with the guys post-practice, making sure they’re taking care of their bodies and making sure they’re talking a little more football with their teammates,” O’Shea said. “It’s creating more time for the playbook and a little bit of film.”

HERE FOR A GOOD TIME, NOT A LONG TIME

The meeting with the Esks on Thursday is the lone Bombers home game in August. The Bombers were on the road for visits to Ottawa and Hamilton to open the month and are in Montreal next Thursday.

Winnipeg will then be in Regina for the annual Labour Day Classic matchup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and isn’t home again until the Banjo Bowl on September 9th.

“It’s always good (to be home),” said O’Shea. “Our fans are unbelievable. They’re intelligent fans, they certainly try and fire up our players and they try and bug the opposition.”

YOUNG GUN(S)

We told you about Brian Walker in a piece earlier this week and O’Shea raved about the young defensive back on Tuesday.

“He’s 21 years old… holy jumpin’,” said O’Shea said with a grin. “He’s a smart kid, that’s one thing you do note. He seems very mature for his age. He seems very focused when he’s in the meeting rooms and seems to be picking up all the stuff, obviously. We think he’s playing at a pretty high level and in order to do that, you have to know what you’re doing out there.

“Along with that maturity what’s interesting is I think he communicates better than you would think for a young rookie. He’s a good kid, he’s been a nice addition.”

O’Shea was then asked a follow-up question about the rarity of a 21-year-old making such an impact.

“We’ve had our share of young guys,” he said. “You look at Jake Thomas… he’s played five years, he’s 26. Goose (Matthias Goossen)… how old’s Goose? He’s been here three years and he’s probably only 19. It just so happens we’ve had a little bit of a run on them.

“What’s interesting with Walk is for the position he’s at, it’s a different brand of football, seeing the ‘Waggle’ and being as calm as he is that’s an interesting combination for it to work like that.”