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May 27, 2023

Game Recap | Preseason WPG 25 EDM 23

EDMONTON – There are no masterpieces painted in the Canadian Football League preseason, but there can be a few renderings in the dress rehearsals that serve as early eye candy.

Case in point: we give you the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 25-23 win over the Edmonton Elks on a perfect Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium in which there were just enough flashes from the visitors to leave fans in Bomberland hungry for more.

“We won and it’s always better to make corrections from the film with the scoreboard the way it is,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “We managed to see a lot of different guys out there. There were some good learning moments, me included (he bumped into an official coming onto the field after a missed field goal at the end of the game and was flagged for objectionable conduct) that we’ll have cut up and have the film ready for the guys tomorrow.

“Most importantly, we had the opportunity to be physical against a different coloured jersey.”

Saturday’s win came in the first of two preseason games before the opener and in the process the coaching/management staff now has some video evidence to help make the hard decisions about the final roster.

“The good thing about next week is we can dress everybody,” O’Shea said. “It’s too early to tell whether we will or not. When we get home Al (Couture, head athletic therapist) will take a look to see how everybody’s health is, we’ll get some practice time in to see what we need to get ready for the first week versus Hamilton. We’ll see what the health of guys are to make a few decisions.”

Here are some quicl takes from our perch in the press box…

5 THOUGHTS

1. The QBs – everybody focuses on the men behind centre and the Blue Bombers quarterbacks took turns doing their thing on Saturday. First and foremost was getting Zach Collaros work and getting him out of the game without any nicks. Mission accomplished as the CFL’s reigning MOP threw for a score and lead another scoring drive in his quarter and a bit of work. He finished 5-of-8 for 93 yards with one TD – a picturesque 67-yard strike to Kenny Lawler – before leaving in the second quarter.

“It was nice to get out there and throw the ball around a little bit and take some live reps,” he said. “It’s always hard to replicate game speed and so it was nice for all of us to get out there and play at game speed. Too many two-and-outs, but we were able to put together a couple of drives and put up some points so that was great.”

No. 2 man Dru Brown looked comfortable too, as he pieced together a solid drive in the final minute of the first half that led to a field goal. He went 3-of-5 for 35 yards yards.

Tyrrell Pigrome exploded off the page in his time at the controls, flashing both his howitzer of an arm and his lickedy-split speed in his first drive. The possession began with an errant snap out of the shotgun that resulted in a 17-yard loss, but he settled in immediately by hitting Jeremy Murphy for a 34-yard strike. Two plays later he broke out off right tackle and then hit turbo boost in a phenomenal 45-yard TD run, his second of the game after scoring early on a QB-sneak.

His skillset – featuring the big arm and the lighting speed – makes him an intriguing option for the short-yardage package the Blue Bombers have run so successfully over the last few years.

“It felt good to be out there,” said Pigrome. “I’m blessed to be here, blessed for the opportunity. I’m so thankful for it. Great team win. We’ve still got a lot to do, including me, so we’ve got to just keep progressing as a team and keep getting better day by day.

“It was definitely fun going out there and competing against somebody different, a different team. It was very different from practice… one thing for me was how fast the play call is. Twenty seconds goes by fast when you’ve got to call the play so I’ve got to get better at that. Everything else was fun and I was happy to be out there.”

Josh Jones entered the game with four minutes left and his first pass attempt was put on the ground by the receiver, but he did go 1-of-3 for 10 yards – the one completion to Murphy converting a second-and-eight with 1:27 left and keeping the offence on the field.

2. The Collaros-to-Lawler combo could be deadly again. Collaros opened the game with three straight incompletions but found his rhythm with the TD throw to his old big-play threat for the Blue Bombers’ first score. He also targeted Lawler on another deep toss that drew a pass interference penalty covering 29 yards to set up the second TD.

Lawler’s addition was the biggest splash made in free agency by the Blue Bombers and his return makes the receiving corps that much more deadly. His mere presence should also open even more space for the rest of the receiving corps. Worth noting: Dalton Schoen did not make the trip, with Brendan O’Leary-Orange starting in his place.

3. The kicking battle – one of the storylines in camp – became only further muddied by the three guys who came to Edmonton. Placekicker Chandler Staton connected on his lone field goal attempt – a 34 yarder – and averaged 67.8 yards on four kickoffs. Both Global punters, Jamieson Sheahan and Karl Schmitz, were excellent – Sheahan averaged 48.3 yards on four punts, Schmitz was 49.5 on four punts and the two showcased excellent hang time.

“Very good,” said O’Shea. “They’re a great group. It’s really interesting to have this many good players and good guys in that room.”

4. The Blue Bombers dressed over 60 guys on Saturday and the playing time was spread out all over. At first glance, here’s who we thought helped themselves, besides Pigrome and the kickers, mentioned above:

  • Jeremy Murphy, the club’s third-round draft pick earlier this month, finished with two catches for 44 yards – that yardage total second only to Lawler for the Blue Bombers.
  • Defensive tackles Caleb Thomas and Aaron Sterling both registered sacks.
  • Damian Jackson, the former Navy SEAL, played fullback, defensive end and also handled some long-snapping chores. That kind of versatility could be big when the roster is put together.

5. Evan Holm has had an outstanding camp and further backed that up on Saturday. He played both corner spots and took some snaps at halfback and has returned kicks in the past, although he didn’t against the Elks. The preseason stats aren’t always accurate, but his stat line from Saturday shines with four tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack and a pass knockdown.


NEXT: The Blue Bombers will be home for their second and final preseason game, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders visiting on Friday, June 2nd and a 7:30 p.m. start.