It would be too simplistic to suggest that Greg Ellingson has come exactly as advertised for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Oh sure, seeing the veteran pass catcher ranked third in Canadian Football League receiving with 366 yards on 23 receptions, three of them for touchdowns, through just five weeks easily feeds into that narrative.
It’s just there’s so many layers to this beyond the veteran receiver rekindling an old chemistry he had with Zach Collaros during their days together with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2014. This is about film study, about grinding every day and the most important component of quarterback-receiver chemistry: trust.
“So much of it has a lot to do with your preparation, it has a lot to do with how you see the defence – knowing when it’s man and zone or it’s zero and they’re bringing pressure and how to make adjustments from that,” began Ellingson in a chat with bluebombers.com on Wednesday. “A big part of that ‘chemistry’ is simply knowing what you’re doing. Aside from that, a key part to building on knowing what you’re doing and what the other guy is thinking is the communication. If I know where Zach is going to put a ball based off what defence I’m seeing, then it’s going to help that chemistry look a lot better.
“If I’m consistent as a receiver and he knows I’m going to react the same way with certain leverages by DBs or certain coverages… if I react the same way in practice and consistently throughout the year then he’s going to start to trust that and he’s going to start to know where he wants to put the ball based on what I like to do.”
Bet Regal has the Blue Bombers favoured by 4 points for Friday’s home game against the Calgary Stampeders:
- Worth noting: the Blue Bombers were not favoured heading into last week’s 43-22 win in Vancouver over the B.C. Lions – a game in which they led 21-0 after the first quarter.
- The Blue Bombers are 7-12 against Calgary under Mike O’Shea, including playoffs, but are 4-2 in their last six with all four wins coming at home.
The Blue Bombers are -139 to score first on Friday:
- Winnipeg has scored first in four of its five games so far this season and in 13 of their last 22 dating back to last year, including the Grey Cup and Western Final.
- The Stampeders have scored first in two of their four games this year.
One of the intriguing side stories to the Blue Bombers’ 5-0 start has been the production of two of the newest faces in the receiving corps in Ellingson and rookie Dalton Schoen.
Ellingson was scooped up in free agency in February after Kenny Lawler signed with the Edmonton Elks – Ellingson’s old club – to complete a transaction the club had hoped to announce previously when they had chased his services. A five-time 1,000-yard receiver, he was coming off a year in which he had 687 yards in 10 games – a 1,236-yard pace in a full season – but had some wondering aloud about a decline.
And yet here is the 33-year-old Tampa product just as quick and elusive as ever and figuring to get even more dangerous as the season unfolds. The fit, right from Day 1, has been perfect.
“It’s been great,” Ellingson said. “It’s tough always to switch teams and there’s always a little bit of hesitancy when you have to do that, because getting familiar with a new team and proving yourself over and over again, I wouldn’t say it’s tiresome, but it’s nice to be comfortable with the city you’re in.”
“And as far as the football, you have to prove yourself every year. None of that’s new and there’s no surprise to that, but this organization is easy to fit in if you’re a team guy, you bond with your teammates and grind hard. It’s easy to do here.
“It definitely helps to have guys on this team I’ve known and played with before because you get a little comfort level in that. I just had to come out and prove myself every day in practice and in games… but the actual on-field stuff, it’s pretty easy to do here.”
Asked how long it took before he knew he and Collaros had something cooking, Ellingson grinned and added “Not long. Not long at all.
“He’s definitely playing like a two-time, back-to-back champion and MOP,” he said of Collaros. “It’s fun to watch him play and be on the other end of watching him do those things and catch the ball.
“The guys love him. He’s smart, he likes to communicate and he’s not always about doing everything the perfect way – he likes to freestyle a little bit which is fun for fans and for this football team.”
The Blue Bombers placed WR Brendan O’Leary-Orange on the six-game injured list on Wednesday. He joins a group that includes SB Nic Demski, safety Brandon Alexander, LB Kyrie Wilson, C Michael Couture, DB Noah Hallett, linebacker Jesse Briggs, dime back Mercy Maston, QB Dakota Prukop and OL Drew Richmond.