August 7, 2023

“The numbers beside your team name mean nothing”

It certainly looks – from the outside, at least – exactly like a giant animal trap just waiting for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to accidently step foot in and be gobbled up whole.

The Edmonton Elks, after all, are stumbling along at 0-for-the-season through the first nine weeks of the Canadian Football League schedule, seemingly haven’t won a home game since Moses was a preschooler and are now starting the talented but still raw Tre Ford at quarterback.

And that spells potential danger for a Blue Bombers side that is coming off an emotionally charged 50-14 spanking of the B.C. Lions and has found its way back to the top of the West Division.

“We look at it as the Edmonton Elks as a football team. We would never consider the record,” said head coach Mike O’Shea as the club returned to practice Monday. “It just doesn’t come up in conversation. There’s nothing about it to even consider because you’re not beating their record, you’re looking at the players and the systems and you’re one on one matchups and how it all fits together. How you plan to attack them, how they’re going to attack us. That’s all really that you’re looking at.

“The numbers beside your team name mean nothing… and our record means nothing to them. I promise you that.”

The Blue Bombers have opened as 12-point road favourites for Thursday’s game in Edmonton and will face a squad struggling to find any kind of traction, especially offensively. Over their bye week – following a 27-0 loss to the Lions – the Elks made a change to Jarious Jackson as their new offensive coordinator and he subsequently named Ford, the talented Canadian prospect, as their starter. Taylor Cornelius started the previous meeting between the two clubs, a 28-14 Bombers win back on July 20th. He’s now third string, behind Ford and Jarrett Doege.

“He’s a terrific athlete. He’s as fast as anyone is going to be on the field,” said O’Shea of Ford. “He can make you miss and he’s certainly strong enough to throw the ball wherever and make a bunch of throws.

“When you talk about containing him, it’s certainly not a one-man job. All guys have to be on point. One of the things about rushing a good running quarterback is making sure you’re correct in your rush lanes and when you are about to get washed out of it, it’s making sure you get back on track. You can’t take the easy way out against guys like that because when they decide to make you pay there are a lot of yards chewed up quickly.”

The Blue Bombers are obviously aware of the dangers of a running QB, having been ripped up by Ottawa’s Dustin Crum for two TDs and 74 yards on eight carries in the 31-28 loss to the RedBlacks back on July 15th. And in the win over Edmonton a week later, Cornelius rushed for times for 57 yards.

That only further fuelled the characterization of the Blue Bombers defence as being vulnerable to QBs who tuck the ball and run at the first sign of pressure.

“We’ve shown that,” said defensive coordinator Richie Hall. “When we played (Edmonton) last time, we lost containment a couple of times or (Cornelius) got loose a couple times and made some plays. That’s going to happen during the course of the game – what you want to do is minimize it. If they scramble out and get eight yards or 10 yards, that’s one thing. It’s when they get 25-30 yards that you want to minimize.

“(Ford) is a tremendous athlete who can make plays. We have to be very disciplined. We have to get after him, win first down. Do we do anything different? Yeah, we’ll have some little wrinkles in there, but you need to do what we do.

“It’s a reminder that when the see it, see that we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, then we become vulnerable. Then it’s about, ‘Why did we become vulnerable? And how can we learn from our experiences?’ When you take chances and you become a riverboat gambler it’s good when you win, but when you lose, this is what happens.”

More on the Blue Bombers first practice day of the week in NEED TO KNOW


Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Buck Pierce spoke Monday about the club cranking out almost 600 yards offence and six offensive TDs against the Lions as compared to what unfolded in a 30-6 loss to B.C. back in June:

“It comes down to execution, it comes down to focus, it comes down to being able to do a lot of things that we do well out of some different looks. It was a big thing for us to improve on that going into that second game and continue to work throughout the season to be better in all aspects.

“The guys up front, Brady (Oliveira), the receivers, the quarterback… just playing faster was the biggest thing for us. They’re the reason. The ball’s out of his hand sooner and the guys up front really taking it upon themselves to be dominant and they did a great job.”

One more from Pierce who was asked about the rapport Zach Collaros has with receiver Kenny Lawler, who pulled in seven passes for 200 yards and a TD.

“They have a good trust. There’s teachable moments in every game, in every read, but Kenny’s a dynamic football player. He makes players around him better just by his presence and what he can do on the football field. He’s aggressive, he’s tough, he’s everything you want in a receiver at this level.

“He plays with one speed. You see him out here at practice every day – he plays with one speed. It’s pretty easy to develop that kind of relationship with a quarterback when you’ve got a guy that practises like he practises because it looks that way in a game.”

There was praise for Pierce, too.

“Like I said afterwards, Buck called a really good game, did a great job mixing it up with different personnel, different run-pass stuff,” said Collaros Monday. “He really kept them off balance and our offensive line did an excellent job of identifying what fronts they were in and the highest probability of blitzes that were coming from them and after that they were picking them up. For me to understand and the receivers to understand what they were playing behind it, spacing the field properly and executing the plays.

“It took all 12 guys and it’s a lot of fun when you’re able to play at a high level like that.”


Cornerback Desmond Lawrence was back practising with the club today as the club continues to get healthier.

Still on the six-game injured list and not yet practising are: KR/WR Janarion Grant, LBs Shayne Gauthier, Malik Clements, and Jared Beeksma, DEs Celestin Haba and Thiadric Hansen and FB Mike Miller.

And speaking of injuries and unfortunate circumstances, this news from the New York Jets camp:


O’Shea on the return of LB Kyrie Wilson and CB Winston Rose in the win over the Lions, with both players starting and making their first appearances of 2023: “They played well. They don’t get an opportunity to step on the field without Al (Couture) and Brayden (Miller) and Chris (Mikolajek), Olivia (Orman) and Taylor (Grant) doing all the work they do for them. And the players themselves putting in all that work – they don’t get on the field until they’re ready to go.

“It looked like we thought it would look. They knocked off some rust in practice prior to that and I thought they did they well.”