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May 19, 2024

Game Preview | Pre-season WPG at SSK

Preseason 1: Blue Bombers at Roughriders

The Basics

Kickoff: Monday, May 20th, 3 p.m. CDT; Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Sk.
TV/Streaming: CFL+
Radio: 680 CJOB

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Terrell Bonds has been around pro football long enough to know this: the scores in preseason might not matter officially, but they sure as hell put the coaching staff in a better mood when scouring the game film afterward and making roster decisions.

“The goal for Monday’s game? For sure, to win,” said the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back as the team completed final preparations for Monday’s preseason game in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. “That’s the name of the game, any game: to win.
“We’re all playing together, all trying to make this team. This is like a job interview, not just for here but for all teams that are watching as well. If we win, it helps the coaches, too.

“This is also my first game in Canada, so I’m excited. I want to see how this game’s played.”

A Tennessee State product, Bonds has bounced around pro football for the last five seasons trying to find a place to put down roots. He turned pro with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football in 2019 before the league folded and was then signed by the Baltimore Ravens, suiting up for four games that year.

Since then he’s had opportunities with the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Maulers, Tennessee Titans, San Antonio Brahmas and Birmingham Stallions before signing with the Blue Bombers in March.

The connection to the Blue Bombers, it turns out, runs deep – Bonds has been friends with defensive back Deatrick Nichols since their days playing with the Northwest Boys and Girls Club in Miami and then at Miami Central High School.

“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Bonds said with a smile. “It’s a friendship that goes back two decades and we were keeping in touch daily, even before I was here, and worked out together in the offseason. We’re pretty close.

“He was one of main reasons I decided to give it a shot, because he’s here and has had great success. He’s like a big brother to me and he told me he’s had a great experience here and is enjoying it. I’m really glad I came.”

 

3 THINGS TO WATCH

1. Jobs to be won

The Blue Bomber roster has been the picture of stability for eons now – advancing to four consecutive Grey Cups and posting a league-best record of 51-17 over that span helps. Yet, one of the storylines through the first 10 days of practices has been the fight for starting positions which opened up over the winter and through the start of training camp.

The club has starter openings at the following positions:

Right tackle (Jermarcus Hardrick)
Left guard (Geoff Gray)
Receiver (Rasheed Bailey)
Defensive end (Jackson Jeffcoat)
Defensive tackle (Ricky Walker)
Cornerback (Demerio Houston)

Further adding to the list have been camp injuries to middle linebacker Adam Bighill and cornerback Jamal Parker, putting two more starting gigs into play.

The practices have already eliminated some with two cut-down dates having already come and gone and yet nothing serves as a real evaluator as real games.

2. QB Watch

Zach Collaros will not dress for Monday’s game, meaning Chris Streveler will take the first snap from centre with Terry Wilson and Eric Barriere also expected to see work. Streveler is a lock at No. 2 and it’s unlikely the club will tease too much of what wrinkles the offence undoubtedly has planned with him back in the arsenal. Still, it will be interesting to watch how he leads the squad in his turns at the helm.

What will also be intriguing to track is the work of Wilson and Barriere in the fight for the No. 3 gig. Barriere has gaudy credentials as a Walter Payton Award winner during his days at Eastern Washington, but Wilson has had a tremendous camp. Asked specifically about him on Saturday, head coach Mike O’Shea offered this:

“Terry’s done well. I like his work rate and the extra work he does. He seems to be concise with it – he has a plan, it seems like, at the beginning of practice of what he wants to work on that day. He gets it done, gets it done efficiently and goes about his business. He’s been good.”

3. Replacing a special specialist

Janarion Grant is the Blue Bombers all-time leader in kick-return touchdowns. He’s also not in the CFL after being caught in the salary cap squeeze this offseason, of being 30 in a young man’s game and after missing 10 games last year due to injury.

Yet, a number to consider as the club searches for his replacement: in 2022 when Grant was named to the CFL All-Star Team he had over 100 touches when combining his punt and kickoff returns with his receptions. That’s a lot of work for a potential newcomer and no job needs game action to be most-effectively evaluated in the CFL than kick returner.

A half dozen different candidates could return kicks against the Roughriders, each hoping to flash a little of the brilliance of Grant.

THE LAST WORD

“I remember being out here for my first preseason game and how exciting that is. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of guys and I hope we can all take advantage. Ultimately, whether it’s your first preseason game or your 10th, it’s still football – just have fun with it. You’re playing in a game, so enjoy it.” – Chris Streveler