5 Quick Hits on Day 5 of Blue Bombers training camp:
1. PADS A POPPIN’: The Bombers donned shoulder pads and got into one-one-ones at practice on Wednesday and the level of intensity cranked up by a zillion. A year without contact for many of the players led to some pent-up physicality and it was obvious in the first session in special teams, even before the offence vs. defence session.
An example: WR Darvin Adams and DB Mazzi Wilkins had a heated exchange near the end of the session and, as the drill was ending, asked for one more rep to go mano-a-mano. This was that rep, and it just oozes intensity.
“Guys have been dying to put the pads on and smack each other,” said defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. “Maybe somebody’s talking a little smack and somebody wants to get after him… who knows? It just felt good. We’re football players so it good to get out and play football. It’s hard to emulate anything without the pads. During the season we go without pads, but it’s really hard to get the same feel so it’s always good to get these pads on and get our feel right before it’s time to go.”
Yes, with the pads on and the intensity up, the smack-talk level reached an early camp high on Wednesday.
“I might not be known as a smack-talker, but I was talking a little bit to Yoshi (Jermarcus Hardrick) and Stanley (Bryant) on the field because those are my guys and we always want tor raise the bar even higher,” said Jeffcoat. “The smack-talk is going to be there. It’s fun. We love each other, we’re going to work each other and get each other better every day.”
2. RANDOM OBSERVATIONS: With 100 players on the field and drills running simultaneously at both ends of the field it’s impossible to see everything. But, at first glance, here are some quick takes on what we saw Wednesday:
-Mercy Maston had a good day in the secondary. The veteran savvy of defensive backs like Maston, Nick Taylor, Josh Johnson is obvious. Other DBs who stood out with plays were Prince Robinson, Demerio Houston and Jhavonte Dean.
-Brendan O’Leary-Orange, a Bombers 2020 draft pick, runs solid routes. He had a good morning.
-Again, it’s impossible to see everything, but Sean McGuire did hook up with Drew Wolitarsky and Kelvin McKnight for long TDs. Also jumping out were Nic Demski with his downfield blocking, ArDarius Stewart and C.J. Worton with receiving TDs.
-DT Steven Richardson was a force in the middle of the D-line during the inside run portion. And with Andrew Harris and Johnny Augustine on the mend, both Kyle Borsa and Brady Oliveira continue to get reps, as is new RB Devonte Williams.
-The speed both Charles Nelson and Janarion Grant could bring to the offence is impressive. Both have been primarily returners in their days as Bombers, but could be factors in the attack.
3. EVALUATING TWIST: We told you on Tuesday of the 10-11 players who took turns returning punts from the Jugs machine before practice. Evaluating returners without preseason will be… different. Head coach Mike O’Shea on how that evaluation will happen:
“Just by watching them catch you can tell a lot in terms of their proficiency and how comfortable they are catching footballs. We don’t always give them easy footballs to catch. You can catch a lot of information from that.
“And then the way we run special teams here, (Special teams coordinator Paul Boudreau) is going to have some pretty intense periods where the returners will get a lot of action. We will see what they can do. They’ll never be tackled to the ground — we’ll never do that — but we’ll get a pretty good handle on what kind of vision they have and how slick they are.”
4. QUOTABLE: Here’s Nic Demski when asked if he was worried about RB Andrew Harris being kept out of practice for the next few weeks and if he’ll be ready to go for the season opener on August 5th:
“I’m not concerned. I know Andrew. Andrew’s a dawg, man. He’s going to come back in. He has something to prove, as well. We all do. We’re all working hard. We all want to get that Grey Cup trophy back in Winnipeg. I know when push comes to shove we’re all going to be there for each other. I’m not worried at all.”
5. OUCH REPORT: Not practising on Wednesday were: RB Andrew Harris, C Michael Couture, RB Johnny Augustine, WR Cam Meredith. During practice LB Robbie Lowes began hobbling and did not finish the session.
O’Shea said Augustine should be back in a week while Couture is ready to go.