By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — Five workouts over three days wrapped up on Friday as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers completed their annual mini-camp at Investors Group Field. Team management, including head coach Mike O’Shea, have a busy weekend ahead, reviewing practice film and notes as the club needs to reduce their overall roster by at least 12 by May 1.
33 young hopefuls — as well as three veteran quarterbacks and free agent signing Kenny Stafford — took part in the camp that the head coach defined as purely for evaluation purposes.
“It’s not easy. You’ve got a bunch of guys who’ve never been on this size of field, and asking them to not only learn quite a bit of information… but we had the group we wanted to see so that taxes them physically,” said O’Shea. “But once camp rolls around it’s going to be even harder for them.”
Main training camp still a month away. Following a brief rookie camp for first-year CFLers, main camp begins May 28 and runs through, essentially, the entire month of June as the Bombers have a bye in Week 1 of the CFL season following their preseason games June 10 and 15. But all of that time doesn’t make the job any easier for general manager Kyle Walters and O’Shea.
“I think there’s some guys who stood out out there, and there’s some guys that have to keep working,” said O’Shea. “It’s never easy, but I think some of the decisions at this point, going from 80 — wherever we’re at — to 75 is maybe a little easier than going to the final 46.”
Generally speaking, the main camp competition resides at three positions on the Bombers depth chart; receiver, defensive back, and middle linebacker. The latter remains at the forefront following the offseason departure of linebacker Khalil Bass who signed as a free agent with the Ottawa RedBlacks following a 2016 season where he lead the Bombers in tackles.
“I think the group we have out there, I don’t know what the numbers might be, but there’s a lot of good competition,” said defensive coordinator Richie Hall. “I’m very impressed by the group of guys we have, even though it’s only been a few practices. They’re a lot farther along than I thought they’d be.”
While depth of talent plays a crucial role in fielding a successful team in pro football, it still all starts and finishes with the lynchpin position — quarterback. After signing the richest contract in team history, it is 100 per cent clear Matt Nichols will be Winnipeg’s starting quarterback come the regular season. But who will be the No. 2?
“I’m hungry to play,” said five-year veteran Dan LeFevour, who signed with Winnipeg in February. “Any quarterback up here (in the CFL) wants to play, and if you don’t, get out of here. Do something else. My goal is to play just like the other three (quarterbacks) that are in the room right now.”
“This year I’m even more confident that I can dominate a game rather than just trying to win it or trying to not lose it,” said Dominique Davis, who returns for a third season with the Blue Bombers. “This year I feel like if I go in I can really dominate and show that I’m a pretty good quarterback in this league.”
— Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming) April 28, 2017