5 Quick Hits on Day 9 of Blue Bombers training camp:
1. CAMP BATTLEGROUND: We’ve reached that portion of training camp where players can start separating themselves from the competition simply by staying on the field and getting work. Reps matter. And so, too, does performance.
“It’s pretty factual, if you’re out there taking more reps and getting more opportunities to make plays — and if you’re making more plays — then obviously is going to stand up and take notice of that,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea after Sunday’s practice. “Yes, availability and durability are very important abilities.”
All of this rings especially true in the secondary where there are two starting vacancies and 27 defensive backs in camp. That’s a ton of bodies to evaluate and it’s not going to happen over the course of just a few days.
“We definitely need time,” O’Shea said of the decisions to be made in the secondary. “I don’t know if it’s ‘easier’ to make decisions, but what I do like and what was expected was from the first day they were on the field with pads there’s going to be growth and it’s going to look better every single day. It has. The defensive back spot, especially the inside positions when you’re facing the ‘Waggle’ is the toughest transition for any American to make; to come up and see all that motion and understand the width of the field, the depth of the routes and the route combinations and the nuances of the CFL passing game. More and more DBs are making contested plays on footballs and it’s looking better and better.
“What may not have looked pleasing the first day or so was certainly something that we expected and we expected them to get better and we expect them to compete. We’ve got a lot of time left to make the decisions we need to make so we’re going to keep letting them compete and see where that goes in terms of the roster and who’s good enough to play and help us win games.”
2. EYES ON ‘LEGS’: Cool scene early in the practice session as Marc Liegghio lined up for a series of field-goal attempts. The Bombers draft pick had a solid day in that department and as the attempts kept getting longer, he came up just a bit short on a 57-yard attempt. After asking for another, you could hear his teammates yelling, ‘C’mon, Legs’ before he crushed his second try and was swarmed by teammates before being hoisted up by Jermarcus Hardrick.
“He’s getting used to a new snapper, new holders — not just one — he’s working through the wind at this practice field we’re at. And he did have a better day today. It’s all part of the process of being a kicker where you just have to keep yourself focussed on swinging well and making good contact and then understanding what went wrong and what went right, then duplicating it or changing it depending on which side of the kick you were on.
“It was pleasing for him. It was pleasing for his teammates. They recognize that it is a long process for a younger guy, too. I was pretty happy for him. We’ll go back out there tomorrow and repeat the process.”
3. FYI/RANDOM OBSERVATIONS: All four quarterbacks in camp — Zach Collaros, Sean McGuire, Dalton Sneed and Dru Brown — continue to have their good moments. What stands out with Collaros is how comfortable he is moving around the pocket to keep plays alive — all skills that are critical in the CFL. Asked if he could put into words how comfortable it is to have a QB like Collaros at the controls, O’Shea said: “Can I put it into words? No, I don’t know if I can. It’s very comforting. Obviously, I think he’s a great fit for us. His competitiveness, his professionalism, his character, the type of guy he is… he’s a good fit. He’s a winner.”… DB Mercy Maston pulled up with an injury later in the morning and did not return to practice. O’Shea did not have an update on him immediately after. Not practising on Sunday were RBs Andrew Harris and Johnny Augustine, WRs Cam Meredith and Ardarius Stewart, LB Robbie Lowes, FB Mike Miller, WR Charles Nelson, CB Mike Jones, LB Jesse Briggs, OL Pat Neufeld, DBs Sam Williams and Raekwon Williams… Moments that popped out: Dru Brown hitting Montay Crockett for a TD, with Crockett later hooking up with Dalton Sneed for a long gain, LB Jontrell Rocquemore with an interception of Collaros and McGuire connecting with Blake Jackson for a TD… Many of the same receiver names keep jumping out, too, like Nic Demski, Drew Wolitarsky, Rasheed Bailey and Kenny Lawler. Lawler, in fact, has been incredible through camp. “He’s got unbelievable hands,” said O’Shea of Lawler. “When he first showed up here that was the thing that showed up the most — how good his hands were. Now he’s coupled that with great comfort in terms of the playbook and route-running and his craftiness on how to get open. He’s certainly got all that now for sure. He did manage to find the end zone quite a few times today.”
4. PERSPECTIVE MATTERS: Defensive back Deatrick Nichols was leading the XFL in interceptions in 2020 when the pandemic hit and the league closed up shop. But rather than wallow in misery, he’s soaking up this chance with the Bombers.
“I won’t say it was devastating,” said Nichols Sunday of the XFL going under. You’ve just got to keep pushing. Things happen. It’s all about how you answer your calls and be thankful for what you have. We still beat the odds. There’s many people at home that want to be here. I’m here and make the team or not I’ve had the opportunity to play football again and do what I love. I really can’t see anything wrong with where I’m at right now.”
5. ODDS: Presented without comment… the latest Grey Cup odds are out and the Bombers are listed as the third-best bet with 9-to-2 odds, along Calgary, behind Hamilton at 11-to-4 and Saskatchewan at 4-to-1 and ahead of Montreal at 5-to-1, Toronto at 15-to-2, B.C. at 8-to-1 and Edmonton and Ottawa at 10-to-1.