October 1, 2019

Need to Know | October 1

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #37 Brandon Alexander during practice at IG Field October 1, 2019.

The details seem lost now, with so much time having passed. But just to rewind, it was on a scorching day back in August in Guelph that Brandon Alexander was last on the field for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, oh about…

“I can tell you… it’s been eight weeks,” began the Bombers defensive back after returning to practice on Tuesday for the first time since a stretch on the six-game injured list. “It’s been hard. I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t hard being on the sidelines and literally do just this (stand) all day.

“But I embraced it. I won’t say I took on a coaching role, but just being able to relay to guys more often and being able to speak to them a lot more… now I can see the full picture between the boundary and the field side (of the defence). Now I can understand why people do things on certain sides of the ball.”

Alexander’s return is massive for a Bombers air defence that has been bombarded over the last two games, as Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr. and Dane Evans of Hamilton combined to complete 69.3 percent of their passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.

He was working in Jeff Hecht’s spot at safety on Tuesday, with Marcus Rios lining up in Anthony Gaitor’s place (he didn’t practice) and Nick Taylor at halfback for Rios. Alexander is a master communicator both on and off the field and having him back could be a bonus for a late-season push.

“We’re at the back stretch where every game is like a playoff game and we can’t have those mental errors anymore,” Alexander said. “The biggest thing in the back end is communication. Coaches always say ‘When the D-line messes up they give up five yards. When the linebackers mess up, they give up 10. When the DBs mess up – regardless of if it’s an open-field tackle or a missed coverage or something – it’s a touchdown every single time. We’re definitely going to put a stop to that.”

Alexander hasn’t lined up at safety since 2013-14 and his days at the University of Central Florida, but was cautious to confirm he would be playing there on Saturday adding, “There’s nothing set in stone right now. We’ll see at the end of the week.”

The Bombers are now entering the meatiest – and most important – chunk of their regular season, one which will determine where they finish in the West Division.

The club, 9-5 after consecutive losses, is now third in the West behind the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, both 9-4. The potentially good news? A win in Regina this Saturday would give Winnipeg the season series against the Riders, while they are up 1-0 in their three-game set with the Stamps, with a home-and-home series coming up later this month to round out the regular season after next week’s home date with Montreal.

In other words, a home playoff game is still very much a possibility.

So, too, is fourth place with Edmonton, 7-7, also still in the equation.

Asked to weigh in on the team’s psyche after the consecutive defeats, Alexander offered this:

“We don’t have any choice but to keep going. This game is a very important game. We’re split with Saskatchewan 1-1 and this is definitely part of the seeding. We all understand that and you can’t hang your head or you’re going to find yourself in the back end.

“B.C. is getting better and winning every single week now and then you’ve got Edmonton, who is not that far behind us. If we’re looking back at what we’re doing as far as our last couple of games and the losses, we’re going to mess around and find ourselves in the fourth seed and we don’t want that to happen at all.

“We can’t have that in our mind and we don’t have that in our mind.”

The Bombers returned to the practice field for the first time since last Friday’s loss to Hamilton. Here are some other notes and quotes from their first day back in this week’s NEED TO KNOW…


Bombers RB Andrew Harris was asked about the two-game skid after practice Tuesday, and whether it constituted a ‘mini-crisis or a slump.’

“I wouldn’t call it a mini crisis or a slump,” he said. “It’s been a bad two games. These things happen. We still control our own destiny and we’ve got four big games coming up, so we’ve got to focus on that. It’s upsetting.

“But when you look at the film it’s never as good or as bad as it seems. For us, fortunately the mistakes are self-inflicted and we obviously played two solid teams and didn’t match their intensity and made too many mistakes.

“These things are fixable and we have good enough players to compete and win games. That’s not a question.”


Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea lamented the work of the Bombers on second down, in particular, in the second quarter of last week’s loss to Hamilton.

“They converted on four second-and-10s in the second quarter alone, three in one drive and three of them on the one drive probably added up to 60 yards on second-and-10,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got to get off the field. We were doing a great job on first down in putting them in second-and-long situations, which is where every defence wants to be. Now we’ve got to capitalize on that.”

Here’s the math to back up the coach: Hamilton converted three second-and-longs on their second drive in the quarter – including a second-and-20 – for a total of 67 yards. That drive led to a Dane Evans-to-Brandon Banks TD. Evans also hit Marcus Tucker for a 52-yard gain on a second-and-10 that led to another Ticats score in the quarter.


WR Drew Wolitarsky, LB/DB Anthony Gaitor and LB Kyrie Wilson did not practice on Tuesday, while defensive coordinator Richie Hall and WR Darvin Adams were away for personal reasons.


O’Shea said Sean McGuire will not be used in certain situations the way Chris Streveler was in short-yardage last year in his rookie campaign because Streveler needs the reps.

Here’s Andrew Harris on whether the shoulder surgery Matt Nichols underwent last week provides some clarity at the position and for the offence.

“Maybe for (Streveler) personally. He understands he’s going to be in here for the long haul and not just filling in. How we gameplan and how he’s developed and flourished in these situations, he’s definitely growing and showing there’s growth there. He’s going to keep on showing he’s getting better and better as he plays as he gets more comfortable with the playbook and being out there with us.”

Streveler was also asked if he needs to slide even more now, knowing he is the starter for the rest of the season and with McGuire the No. 2, but without having thrown a single regular season pass.

“My mentality this whole time has been get out of bounds and get down when I can,” said Streveler. “But based on game situations that’s going to change. If it’s not a crucial situation where maybe I don’t need to take a hit then maybe it’s wise for me to get down. But part of my game is being physical and running hard and doing those things, and just getting yards for the offence. It’s about moving the ball and getting yards however way we can.

“So, if it requires me to stick my nose in there like everyone else does, then I’m more than willing to do that. It doesn’t change anything now that Matt is out, but there was always that element of be smart, get down and get out of bounds just because taking all those hits does add up after time.”