June 27, 2024

48-Hour Primer | WPG at CAL

Brady Oliveira putting in the work this week at practice -- photos by Cameron Bartlett

It is an attack suddenly lacking serious known firepower, but with some deadly weapons still in the arsenal.

So for some the dots are easy to connect here: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gameplan in Calgary this weekend against the Stampeders should be straightforward: feed Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky and then complement that with some heavy does of Brady Oliveira.

And by ‘heavy doses’ it’s been suggested the playbook be sliced down to: Brady runs right, Brady runs left, Brady runs up the middle with some passes sprinkled in to Demski and Wolitarsky.

Sounds good on paper, given the circumstances.

Yet, football doesn’t always work that way. The Stamps, after all, know that the Blue Bombers depth chart is without Dalton Schoen, Kenny Lawler and Keric Wheatfall in the receiving corps and that Oliveira — the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Canadian a year ago and runner-up for the Most Outstanding Player Award — came off the bench in the loss to the B.C. Lions and rushed nine times for 64 yards after missing a week due to injury.

All that isn’t to say Oliveira won’t be busy, but if we’re expecting him to have 30+ touches Saturday night, well, let’s be realistic here.

Offensive coordinator Buck Pierce

“The way we’ve worked for the last pile of years is pretty simple: it’s whatever the game dictates,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “We go in with a big call sheet that covers off every situation, scenario, and what defences are going to bring. And then as the game unfolds sometimes no matter what you absolutely want to do it’s 180 degrees from what you’re doing because the game dictates it.

“Yup, we want to dictate to the defence and pound the ball but if some team is going to load the box up completely we’re not going to forfeit a win because our plan said, ‘Here’s what we want to do.’ Buck (Pierce, offensive coordinator) has been awesome at having that understanding of what it’s going to take and from the planning being able to put the ego aside and being able to shift how he’s going to call the game that week.”

Oliveira, of course, wants his workload doubled, tripled, quadrupled. The club has been cautious with their No. 1 back for most of this month after he missed virtually all of training camp and was limited to 38 yards on 11 carries in the season-opening loss to the Montreal Alouettes. Johnny Augustine started the game a week later in Ottawa with Oliveira out and then against B.C. before the starter entered the game and cranked out some trademark runs — including a 28-yard gallop that featured him delivering a serious stiff arm.

That play helped set up one of Chris Streveler’s three touchdown runs and has everyone in Bomberland clamouring for more.

Including Oliveira.

“Obviously we’re off to a start we weren’t expecting, but we’re going to turn it around,” he said. “I’ve only been out of the lineup one week, only missed one game. We’ll get back to it. I’m not worried about what this team can accomplish. We’ve got the right guys in the locker room. Obviously guys are banged up, guys are down now. We’ve got to count on guys in this locker room that we’ve had here for a reason – to step up and fill that role.

“It’s going to be different this year. It already has been different. But we’re going to find a way to get back on track, play our style of football, stick to our strengths and you saw a glimpse of it last week – committed to the run game and sticking to it and wearing out defences. We’ll continue to build on that, get more opportunities and get back to our style of football.

“I’ve always said the more touches I get the better I go and this team feels that. At the end of the day, whatever I need to do to help this team win I’m willing to do but I do think I need some carries, I need to get back to that workload. You can rely on me. I’m build for this. I’m built to get 15-20 touches a game or more if needed.”

An interesting, but not surprising number as it relates to Oliveira and his workload: he had seven 100-yard rushing games a year ago, including three times in which he had 20 carries or more. Dating back to 2021 each time he has had 20 carries or more he has rushed for over 100 yards, indicating the workload is worthwhile.

And here’s the hammer to the Brady-should-be-busy narrative: in his 10 career games rushing for 100 yards or more the Blue Bombers are 10-0.

“I feel like me not being there for my teammates, I’m letting them down,” he said. “All I want to do is help this team win football games. I’ve said that countless times. Yeah, I’m hungry, I’m motivated. I want to get back out there and get back to our style of play which is what everyone wants to see which is pounding guys in the run game. We did that so many times last season and I know we can do it this year. We have so many great guys in this locker room that have been a part of that we can get the job done.

“I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of showing my teammates, my coaches. I’ve shown the league what I can do. I personally think when I step on that field I bring a spark to this team, I bring a spark to my teammates. I made that known last week. Knowing I bring that energy and that spark and that different dynamic to the team… I want to be there for my guys.”