CFL 2009 Season Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers
“Following the release of Kevin Glenn, Ryan Dinwiddie and Stefan Lefors appear to be the front runners for the starting quarterback job in Winnipeg. But will either of them be able to orchestrate the Bombers offense?”
It was crazy times in Winnipeg this off-season.
There has been a front office shuffling, a new head coach added to the team who has already generated controversy, and tantalizing discussion about a new stadium.
The Blue and Gold were also involved in a number of trades and said goodbye to some veteran playmakers on their team.
When all is said and done, a shakeup may have been need in Winnipeg.
For a team that was a supposed injury away from winning the Grey Cup in 2007, the Bombers looked anything but Grey Cup bound in 2008. The team started off the season with an atrocious 4 game losing streak, and never seemed to rebound from there. Winnipeg did manage to finish second place in a weak Eastern Division, but went on to lose to the Edmonton Eskimos, who had crossed over from the West.
So what does the future hold for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
What can a team that has recently experienced both highs (Grey Cup appearance) and lows (multiple losing streaks) expect this season.
The Eastern Division looks to be weak again this season, and Winnipeg has a lot of talent on their roster.
Let’s take a closer look at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers:
The Blue Bombers started the off-season by reshuffling their coaches and management. The team released fiery head coach Doug Berry, and general manager Brendan Taman resigned. To fill their vacant head coaching position, the Bombers turned to former offensive coordinator, Mike Kelly.
Kelly, who had success with the Bombers in the past, immediately stated his promise to turn the Bombers struggles around. It seems however, that he spent more time creating controversy through some of his comments. Kelly openly blasted the past Bombers management and also took a shot at the province of Saskatchewan. Needless to say, Kelly made things very interesting during the off-season.
By the time the free agency period had been concluded, the Bombers had made some good moves, but also lost some key players from their team.
The Bombers lost two solid offensive lineman, Alexandre Gauthier, and Dominic Picard to free agency. What perhaps made the moves harder to take was the fact that both players went to Eastern teams. Gauthier landed in Hamilton and Picard landed in Toronto. The Blue and Gold also traded away another solid lineman, Dan Goodspeed later in the off-season as part of a three way trade with both Hamilton and Saskatchewan.
To sure up their offensive line that took a bit of a beating, the Bombers acquired lineman Glen Janurary and Steve Morely from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and also picked up tackle Luke Fritz from the Alouettes and Kelly Bates from the Lions.
Through trades, Winnipeg also managed to pick up defensive ends Kai Ellis, Fred Perry and Riall Johnson, defensive back James Johnson, slot back Brock Ralph, and receiver Adarius Bowman
Soon after free agency, the Bombers also retired Milt Stegall. The illustrious receiver has had a record breaking in Winnipeg and his leadership will be missed.
In the CFL Draft, the Bombers didn’t have any significant picks to work with and didn’t have any notable picks.
Perhaps the biggest news of the off-season was the announcement that the Bombers will likely get a new stadium in 2011, which would help them in a future bid to host the Grey Cup.
The biggest issue heading into the season for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is who will be the starting quarterback?
Ok, I’m sure you’ve heard it already, but when the battle for the starting job is between a third string quarterback and an unproven backup, it is a point that will be continually hammered in until it is settled.
Stefan Lefors, a third string quarterback in Edmonton, was traded to the Bombers this season. Sitting behind Ricky Ray and Jason Maas in Edmonton, Lefors had a few chances to play, but did shine on occasion. We don’t really know a lot about Stefan Lefors, and the fact that he has thrown more interceptions then touchdowns in his career has to make one wonder if he will be able to be a consistent threat.
What is a Dinwiddie? A question many fans asked when Ryan Dinwiddie started the Grey Cup game in 2007 over the injured Kevin Glenn. While Dinwiddie didn’t play terrible in the game, he did throw three interceptions as the Bombers lost the game. In 2008, Diniwddie saw limited playing time. While he did show some flashes of excellence during the season, his inexperience is a huge question mark.
With two inexperienced quarterback’s fighting it out for the job, will it even matter which one wins it? The Bombers offense is talented on paper, with up and coming star Fred Reid running the ball and a talented receiving core, but if the Bombers don’t get solid play from their quarterback, it may not matter.
There are also huge question marks on the offensive line. The Bombers line was led last season by players like Alexander Gauthier and Dan Goodspeed. With both of these players gone plus Dominic Picard, the Bombers may in fact experience a drop off in 08. Are players like Glen January, Steve Morley, Kelly Bates and Luke Fritz, who were brought in via free agency, ample replacements?
I don’t think so. While Luke Fritz and Kelly Bates are fairly solid lineman, Glen January was inconsistent last season for the Riders and Steve Morley didn’t even play.
On the defensive side of things, the Bombers look to have a fairly solid front seven, but their defensive backfield may continue to be a weakness for them this season.
With player like Derrick Armstrong, Romby Bryant and Fred Reid on the offense, the Bombers have plenty of star power, but the question marks in both the quarterback position and the offensive line are too strong to ignore.
How much faith can the Bombers put in Stefan Lefors and Ryan Dinwiddie?
One has to wonder what the mood is going to be in the Bombers locker room with Mike Kelly running the show.
Kelly has talked like he has big plans for the team, but he been spending more time apologizing for his comments then improving the team this off-season.
Winnipeg took strides backwards last season, and since they really didn’t improve during the off-season, one has to think they will continue to slide this season.
Of course, in a weak Eastern Division, anything is possible.
But the outlook doesn’t look good for a team that was “one injury away” from winning the Grey Cup game.
My Prediction: Around five to eight wins, and a third place finish in the Eastern Division.
Outstanding Player of the Year: Fred Reid
Defensive Player of the Year: Barron Simpson
Canadian of the Year: Doug Brown
Lineman of the Year: Luke Fritz
Special Teams Player of the Year: Alexis Serna
Rookie of the Year: Mike Morris
Do you have a magic crystal ball that you can use to look ahead and see what will happen in the upcoming CFL Season? If not, stay tuned for my CFL Team Previews, coming out twice week, to see how each team will fair in the upcoming season
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