5 Quick Hits on Day 8 of Blue Bombers training camp:
1. OPENING REMARKS: Just over a week into Blue Bombers training camp and here’s your ‘hot take’ for the day — based on what we’ve seen so far the squad that takes the field for the August 5th opener will look very familiar to fans.
Yeah, we know what some of you might be thinking… ‘Gee, thanks a ton for that, Captain Obvious.’
Look, it’s not at all surprising that it’s the veterans who have really popped off the page over the opening few days, especially with no rookie camp that would have allowed the fresh faces get a sense for the three-down game and/or life at the pro level. That doesn’t figure to change, either, with veterans only expected to get more reps going forward due to the absence of preseason games.
So, for those fans asking about the positional camp battles… well, there really aren’t many. As for those vacancies in the secondary after the departures of Winston Rose and Marcus Sayles, as we’ve noted previously, Jhavonte Dean opened camp working in the No. 1 secondary and with Mike Jones nicked up over the last couple of days, both Christian Angulo and DeAundre Alford are also getting long looks.
After that, the players you would expect to stand out because of their experience are doing just that — in the receiving corps, Kenny Lawler and Nic Demski have been sensational; Darvin Adams, Drew Wolitarsky and Rasheed Bailey have been excellent. The defensive front is dominated by the same names, and the O-line is doing it’s thing with Tui Eli getting a lot of work at centre along with Michael Couture.
The Bombers coaching/management side, I’m told, is concentrating more on culling the herd so to speak, than getting down to the nitty-gritty of deciding who makes the team or who goes where in the starting lineup. That’s simply the byproduct of having so many bodies in camp. Those battles will heat up in the coming days. Stay tuned.
2. DOG DAYS: The heat and the return to the grind took its toll on Saturday, with a bit of a dip in the energy level. Asked about that after practice, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said:
“We’ve only had the pads on for a portion of (camp), but I think there was a little sag today. But we started with a longer walk-through and then put the pads on and lightened things up and sometimes you lose a little focus when you do that. They’ve been reminded of the focus they need to have a successful practice.”
Later he was asked about how he might make them aware of the lull during practice.
“You make them aware that maybe what they just did wasn’t good enough and try and give them something to think about that might make it different the next time,” O’Shea said “But I don’t know that I’ve got all the answers for that kind of stuff. You just make them aware of the fact that practice has dragged a little bit at times. They all know. They all feel it.”
3. FYI/RANDOM OBSERVATIONS: Not participating on Saturday were RBs Andrew Harris and Johnny Augustine, LB Robbie Lowes, CB Mike Jones, OL Pat Neufeld, FB Mike Miller, LB Jesse Briggs and WR Cam Meredith. A number of players worked in the early portion of the session, but were not practising in the second part. Again, all part of keeping players healthy after the long layoff… WR/KR Charles Nelson met with the media after practice and said during the lost season he lived in Florida for awhile before returning to Oregon, where he went back to his old university to train while also working for Coca-Cola at a warehouse. Nelson injured his knee in the fourth game of 2019 and was lost for the season, but the club has hopes he could find his way into Buck Pierce’s offence as a multi-dimensional threat. “I’m a team player and whatever it is that the team needs done I want to get out and show them that I don’t just run routes,” he said. “I can play in the backfield, I can catch punts, I can cover, I can tackle. Whatever it is I just want to be out there to help the team so we can go and win another Grey Cup.”… This from veteran DT Jake Thomas on getting back into the groove and routine of football through camp: “I wouldn’t say conditioning was poor but, speaking for myself, football technique was very rusty. First couple of days things that I used to be able to do fluidly took a few reps to get back to normal. As camp goes on I find I’m becoming more and more like the player I used to be and feeling a lot more comfortable playing football. Obviously everyone is sore, but I think guys are enjoying that they’re starting to feel normal. You can run, you can work out but there’s no better way to get into football shape than playing football. I can’t go find two 300-pound men and ask them to run into me for an hour once a week.”… LB Shayne Gauthier on how many often he hears people reference his touchdown-saving special-teams tackle in the West Final: “A zillion times. It’s a great play I did, but it’s in the past now. I’ll always remember it as one of the best plays of my career, but we’ve got to move forward from that and get to 2021 now.”… Big-play offensive moments from Saturday: RB Devonte Williams made a spectacular, twisting turning TD catch on a throw from Dru Brown; Kelvin McKinlay on a TD grab from Sean McGuire; Janarion Grant from Dalton Sneed and McGuire to Carlton Agodusi for a long diving TD reception… And on defence credit CB Christian Angulo with an interception, Willie Jefferson, Hakeem Bailey and Jontrell Rocquemore with noticeable pass break-ups.
4. QB 1 STEPPTING UP: One of the best players over the last couple of days has been QB Zach Collaros. He makes quick decisions and puts the ball where he needs to and every once in awhile flashes the ad-lib brilliance that has been such a big part of his day.
“He’s good,” said O’Shea. “It’s a reminder to the receiving group of how they have to stay alive during scramble drill. Some pictures have come to mind of him in his first year in the CFL and his getting a chance… he’s being swarmed and grabbed at and somehow squirting out and making plays downfield. That hasn’t changed, right? He has great poise in the pocket, great feel for when guys are around him and a good understanding of when to escape and extend a play. That’s something that, right off the bat, adds to the workload of the offence — understanding scramble drills and always making sure you’re still alive.”
5. EYES ON…: New Bombers kicker Marc Liegghio had an inconsistent day in the field-goal department. Here’s O’Shea on Liegghio through a week of camp:
“He’s out there working like every kicker does. When the wind picks up he’s out there trying his kicks and still pushing the ball back and not satisfied with kicking from short distances. He understands if he strokes the ball he knows what it looks like and, just like Meddy (Justin Medlock) and all the good kickers, if you made good contact and the operation was good and it happens to go wide left or right you’re sticking to the process. THat’s what he’s doing. He’s working through his process, making sure he gets all his kicks in and evaluating it from there. It is just that, it’s a process everybody goes through.”