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CFL

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Division: EastGM: Joe MackHead Coach: Tim Burke
2012: 6-12 (3rd in East)vs. division 5-5
Points20.9 (8th)
Yards337.2 (8th)
Pass Yards250.6 (8th)
Rush Yards106.8 (4th)

Will Bombers find consistency at QB position in 2013?

Health Concerns

Buck Pierce needs to stay healthy and off the bench to give Bombers a better chance at success in 2013

Four quarterbacks saw time under centre for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, two of which are no longer with the team, and one – presumed 2013 starter Buck Pierce – has one of the most extensive injury histories in the league.

Joey Elliott and Alex Brink finished 2012 as the team’s top two passers in terms of yards and touchdowns. Now Elliott is in BC and Brink a free agent, their roster spots taken by rookies Chase Clement and Max Hall.

None of this matters of course, if Pierce can stay healthy and string together 18 games playing at the high level he’s shown in stints in the past. History suggests however, that won’t be the case and Clement, Hall, or fourth-year man Justin Goltz will probably be called on to start a game or two.

“Our whole training camp will be based on developing our quarterbacks, in addition to, you know, everybody else on the team,” coach Tim Burke told The Canadian Press ahead of training camp.

Pierce missed 11 games to injury last season and 26 over his three-year tenure with the Blue Bombers and while he knows his durability is on everyone’s mind, he insists it’s not so much on his.

“My answer is talk to me after this year," Pierce told reporters at the start of camp. "There's nothing I can do or say, there's no answer. All the negatives, I look at them and try and learn from them. That's all I can do. I don't dwell on it as much as people want me to.”

Everyone is hoping Pierce can string together 18 games without incident, but in a quarterback driven league it’s always good to have a Plan B; if the team can find some consistency behind centre, their chances improve dramatically.

“Normally you go into a season and say, ‘Here's our No. 1 guy; our No. 2 guy; our No. 3 guy’ and you proportion your reps accordingly,” Burked continued. “In this camp, we're going to try to get everybody a lot of reps so we can see which will be the No. 2, 3 and 4 guys.”

Burke should be more comfortable after dropping interim tag

The other big change isn’t so much of a change at all as Tim Burke moves from interim head coach to the position full-time.

After dropping the first three contests as man in charge, Burke guided the Bombers to a 4-3 finish to the season, sparking some hope for the future – at least enough to earn the head coaching gig full time.

Burke was also saddled with the QB carousel problem the second half of last season as Pierce, Elliott, and Brink all started games for the interim coach down the stretch.

Burke’s track record as a defensive coordinator prior to the interim gig suggests he’s ready for the full-time challenge as well. The veteran coach overlooked Winnipeg’s vaunted “Swaggerville” defence in 2011 after three years as defensive coordinator in Montreal, helping the Alouettes to three straight Grey Cup appearances and two wins.

In another move aimed at bringing back the Swagger of two seasons ago, Burke hired Casey Creehan as defensive coordinator. Prior to his one-year stint as DC in Hamilton last year, Creehan was in charge of Winnipeg’s defensive line during their impressive 2011 season. The year previous Creehan oversaw the Bombers linebackers during another strong campaign – something he’ll once again be charged with this season.

Not to be understated too is the added benefit of a full off-season of preparation for Burke heading into his 2013 stint.

“I feel a lot more ready to be a head coach than I did last year. I've had the off-season to think about how to approach the team from a mental aspect,” Burke said during his season preview teleconference. Burke also has the off-season to think about a QB plan should he need one.

Andy Mulumba

Analysis: The Blue Bombers caught some bad luck when second round pick (11th overall) Kris Robertson was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The Concordia defensive back will have to wait until 2014 to make an impact in Winnipeg.

Third-round fullback Carl Fitzgerald, fourth-round receiver Michael DiCroce, and seventh-round kicker Billy Pavlopoulos all signed and attended training camp looking to make the Blue Bombers final roster.

Winnipeg's first-round draft pick Andy Mulumba, a defensive lineman from Eastern Michigan who grew up in Congo and didn't play football until high school in Canada, signed as an undrafted free agent with the NFL's Green Bay Packers, meaning his debut with the Bombers too will be delayed.

Rd. Pick Player Pos School
1 2nd overall Andy Mulumba DE Eastern Michigan
2 11th overall Kristopher Robertson DB Concordia
3 21st overall Carl Fitzgerald WR St. Mary's
4 29th overall Michael DiCroce WR McMaster
6 47th overall Stephen Alli WR Florida
7 56th overall Billy Pavlopoulos K UBC

Room for improvement in 2013

The rest of the roster is a little easier to figure out; however for a team coming off a 6-12 season, there is still lots of room for improvement.

Save for perhaps the quarterbacks, Winnipeg’s offence should have a familiar look to it in 2013.

Frontrunner

The Bombers hope Simpson can continue his impressive play from his rookie season

Chad Simpson returns after an impressive rookie campaign where the 27-year-old surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in just 14 games. The team will have impressive depth at the running back position after GM Joe Mack re-signed Chris Garrett and Carl Volny ahead of free agency this off-season. Both players have shown exciting ability in between injury spells during their tenures in Winnipeg.

Terrence Edwards will once again lead the receiving corps – a good thing – while the Bombers hope Chris Matthews can build on a strong rookie campaign. Matthews cooled off some after a blistering start to the season but still led the team in receiving yards – and was sixth in the league – and corralled seven touchdowns. Reliable veterans Clarence Denmark and Cory Watson also return while the hope is former high draft pick Kito Poblah carries his steady progression into his third season.

A QB’s best friend is often a dependable cast of pass catchers; whoever is behind centre for the Bombers should consistently be afforded that.

The defensive side of the ball won’t see a ton of changes either.

There was some good news/bad news on the defensive line. The team lost DE Jason Vega, he of the five sacks and 40 tackles variety, to the New England Patriots of the NFL; but managed to retain DT Bryant Turner, another player feared to be heading south in the off-season.

08
Winnipeg enters 2013 with some old questions still to be answered.

In a lot of ways Turner was the defensive equivalent of Matthews last season: a red-hot start followed by a cooling down period the rest of the way, but someone who is certainly an asset moving forward for Winnipeg.

The secondary has familiar faces returning in Alex Suber, and Jovon Johnson. Johnny Sears will also be back in the fold once he's fully recovered from a knee injury that shouldn’t keep him from the team’s season opener. That being said, question marks remain for a unit that failed to duplicate its 2011 success a year ago.

“I’m not happy with the first secondary, how they’re performing,” Burke said early in training camp, adding everyone else was performing well at that point in his eyes.

“I told the secondary last night I wasn’t happy with their performance and if they don’t pick it up they’re going to be gone.”

There is talent on the Bombers roster but Burke has made it clear some of their 2012 performances won’t cut it again in 2013.

The Blue Bombers have new digs for 2013, but after having to wait an extra year for it, it may not be enough to keep fans happy all year long if the team repeats its substandard performance from a year ago.

DEPTH CHARTS

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

T.Pencer

LG

B.Dunn

C

J.Sorensen

RG

C.Kowalczuk

RT

S.Boatman
A.Douglas
A.Simmons

WR1

T.Kennedy

SB1

Q.McCree

SB2

K.Adams

WR2

D.Pierce

QB

J.Goltz
M.Hall
C.Clement

RB

C.Garrett
C.Volny
A.Woodson

SB3

J.Etienne
B.Carter

Special Teams: P/K (J.Palardy, M.Renaud, B.Pavlopoulos), LS (C.Cvetkovic),

Depth Chart is for pre-season game against Hamilton (6/20)

Expert Analysis
Chris Schultz: New stadium should help Blue Bombers in 2013

I sure get the vibe that Investors Group Field will be a great home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Will it assist them in winning games? Tough to say, but it sure can't hurt. The building will be a great addition to athletics, both professional and college, and something people in Manitoba should be proud of.

Matt Dunigan: Blue Bombers are going all in with Pierce

All in for Tim Burke on Buck Pierce. Window or Isle Mr. Brink? Mr. Elliott, here's your apple and a road map! Mr. Goltz I know we have ignored you the last three years (14 total passing attempts) but we are going to elevate you to the No. 2 spot and you are now one play away from being our guy!

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 vs June 27, 9pm et/6pm pt 11 vs Sep 8, 4pm et/1pm pt
2 @ July 4, 7pm et/4pm pt 12 @ Sep 14, 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt
3 @ July 13, 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt 13 vs Sep 20, 8pm et/5pm pt
4 vs July 19, 8pm et/5pm pt 14 @ Sep 27, 8pm et/5pm pt
5 vs July 26, 8pm et/5pm pt 15 @ Oct 5, 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt
6 @ Aug 5, 7pm et/4pm pt 16 @ Oct 14, 1pm et/10am pt
7 BYE WEEK 17 vs Oct 19, 3:30pm et/12:30pm pt
8 vs Aug 16, 8pm et/5pm pt 18 @ Oct 24, 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt
9 @ Aug 24, 1pm et/10am pt 19 vs Nov 2, 2pm et/11am pt
10 @ Sep 1, 4pm et/1pm pt      

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