January 7, 2021

Taylor, Maston return to the secondary

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Nick Taylor reacts to the crowd during the second half of the 107th Grey Cup against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, November 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Nick Taylor learned long ago to stop trying to figure out how all the machinations of the professional football work.

But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back — who officially signed a one-year contract extension this week — does know this: every once in a while the stars and moons align just right.

Take, for example, his arrival in Winnipeg in the summer of 2019 and how just a few months later he was starting in the club’s Grey Cup victory.

“The whole thing… sometimes I think about it and it really is just wild,” said Taylor when reached at his offseason base in Miami by “Me and Mercy had played the year before in Edmonton and so we were friends. And, actually, when Mercy got hurt in Winnipeg I called my agent to see if Winnipeg was interested in me and they said they were.

“That’s just how it happens sometimes.”

Let’s backtrack for a moment here to relive how this all unfolded…

With injuries piling up in the secondary in August of 2019, the Bombers added Maston as a free agent. And when he was then injured in practice not long after they put the call in for Taylor, who arrived two weeks later.

Later in the season the secondary underwent more changes, as Maston slid into the SAM linebacker spot and Taylor moved to halfback when Brandon Alexander was shifted to safety. As well, rookie Mike Jones was getting more work at one of the cornerback spots.

That marked four changes to the air defence as the playoffs neared.

“I’m pretty sure everybody was saying, ‘Well, count those guys out because there’s a lot of things going on in their secondary. It’s in flux right now,’” said Taylor. “But BA (Alexander) brought us all together and had us studying film and really putting in the extra work.

“The boundary side (Winston Rose and Marcus Sayles) had been rolling all season, but the rest of us hadn’t really played together before, then you were throwing Mike in there and BA was playing a different position… I mean, I didn’t even know all the plays, really, and how the signals looked. BA and Coach JY (defensive backs coach Jordan Younger) really got on us and made sure we knew what we were doing. They tried to keep it simple and let us play to our natural abilities.”

The combination worked. Big time. Maston had an interception in the Western Semifinal win over the Calgary Stampeders and then posted 11 tackles in the Western Final and Grey Cup.

Taylor, meanwhile, also had a pick in the win over Calgary and chipped in with a critical play on a goal-line stand in the Western Final victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders and had seven tackles in the final two games of the season.

“It was like a match made in heaven after I was solidified at the halfback position and Mercy settled into the SAM position,” said Taylor. “That’s made for him because he’s so physical and can do so many things. He can hit you, he can be around the box, he can be nasty there. It worked out perfectly for us near the end of the season.

“That’s why a lot of us our excited. We really haven’t played much together yet. We have a set amount of people we are comfortable with and if we can bring in a few other pieces to round it out I think we could be an amazing secondary.”

The signings of Taylor and Maston continue what has been a busy week for the Bombers in crossing names off their prospective free-agent list. Since the end of 2020 the team has re-signed or extended the contracts of Jermarcus Hardrick, Sean McGuire, Jake Thomas, Nic Demski, Thiadric Hansen, Mike Miller and now these two cogs in the secondary.

“I knew where I wanted to be and it was in Winnipeg,” said Taylor. “I thought there might be options (if he went to free agency), but we had such a good thing going and I just wanted to run it back.

“I really think we have a chance to run it back and win another championship.”