5 Quick Hits on Day 2 of Blue Bombers training camp:
1. WANTED: A FEW GOOD MEN: The main positional battle/storyline through training camp will be the fight for the two vacant starting jobs in the secondary after CFL All-Star Winston Rose took his act to the Cincinnati Bengals and Marcus Sayles to the B.C. Lions.
The Bombers have brought in veteran Josh Johnson, who has 64 games of CFL experience over five seasons with B.C., Ottawa, Hamilton and Edmonton and — as much as it’s dangerous to read too much into this at the start of camp — he has been getting work at halfback with the returning starters. With Mike Jones and Nick Taylor on one side of the secondary, Brandon Alexander at the other and Mercy Maston as the dime back, the Bombers do have returnees in the secondary — although that crew really didn’t start working together until the 2019 regular-season finale.
Getting looks at the other cornerback spot on the weekend were Jhavonte Dean, who did spend time on the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster at the end of 2019 and was then drafted by the Seattle Dragons of the XFL. He was originally signed by the Cleveland Browns after his college days at Miami, and also had a look from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Don’t expect the starting lineup to be set in cement as soon as camp closes — remember in 2019 Taylor and Maston were added mid-season, Alexander wasn’t moved to safety until the fall and Jones wasn’t a starter. So, change is inevitable.
“I do believe there will be two new guys, guys that weren’t Bombers last year, playing in those spots,” said head coach Mike O’Shea after practice on Day 1. “Where they play, we’re not sure. We’re hoping we find four or five or whatever it is that can step in there and play those spots. Even though it is a shortened season it is a long go in terms of professional football.
“We know what we need to find and we want as much competition for those spots as possible.”
2. CAMP NUMBERS: There are now 99 players in camp, after Sunday’s release of DL Anree Saint-Amour.
The numbers, by position:
3. STANDING OUT: A good chunk of the first part of Sunday morning’s session was spent on special teams, especially on kick cover. Popping off the page were Bombers draft picks DL Nick Dheilly, LB Robbie Lowes, DB Noah Hallett along with RBs Kyle Borsa and Brady Oliveira… Catching eyes among new receivers were WRs Blake Jackson and Carlton Agudosi… Noticeable with interceptions on D were Willie Jefferson, Adam Bighill, Josh Johnson and Prince Robinson.
4. FAMILIARITY BREEDS… CONTENTMENT: The Bomber QBs — starter Zach Collaros, No. 2 man Sean McGuire and newcomers Dalton Sneed of the University of Montana and Dru Brown of Oklahoma State — were out running and warming up a good half hour before the start of Sunday’s session.
Collaros spoke after practice on Saturday about the benefits of having a full training camp for him this season.
“It’s going to be huge for me,” he said. “When I got here a year and a half ago really, I just had to memorize a game plan. It wasn’t Day 1, why do we run this play, why do we run this formation or this motion… it was just, ‘Hey this is what we’re doing, this is what Calgary, this is what Saskatchewan does and this is why we’re doing it.’ Now this, in my opinion, is a lot easier in starting from Day 1. I’m treating it like I’m a rookie or completely new to the team.
“There’s been a couple ‘light-bulb’ moments throughout the offseason and into these first 14 meetings that we’ve had here and even today on the field where it’s a light-bulb moment and it’s ‘Oh, OK… that makes sense now why we call it that.’ So, for me it’s starting from scratch.”
5. FYI: Due to health and safety protocols training camp is unfortunately closed to the public.