With Saskatchewan running roughshod over everyone, and Winnipeg's opponents finding plenty of success running the ball against them, it will indeed be the run game at the forefront of the Blue Bombers' and Roughriders' annual Labour Day Classic at Mosaic in Regina.
Quarterback Drew Willy may have a sore finger on his throwing hand, but it's a pair of lineup changes in the Winnipeg trenches that could make a significant impact in the 51st Labour Day Weekend meeting between the prairie rivals.
After missing last week's 24-16 win over the Alouettes with a toe/foot injury, defensive end and promotional face of the franchise Jason Vega is a healthy omission from Winnipeg's 46-man roster.
"No, it will be Kashawn Fraser again," said head coach Mike O'Shea before boarding the bus with his team to Regina on Friday afternoon. "Kashawn played at a pretty high level in the last game - practiced at a high level all week."
"A player got hurt. Another player stepped in (and) did extremely well. He let him compete again during the practice week, and Jason Vega did extremely well also, but as we've done in the past it's hard to make changes to the roster when we're coming off a win, right? We have a lot of depth on defence."
It will be the rookie Fraser's fifth dress and third start on the Bombers' defensive line this season.
Another change Winnipeg will make - but in the case of have-to more than choose-to - is starting an International at right guard with Canadian Patrick Neufeld recovering from an injury to his left leg suffered in the fourth quarter against Montreal.
"The time that I did spend (on the practice roster), it was a humbling experience. I basically got better at what I can do. I basically got better in my technique," said Jarvis Jones, who comes off the PR to dress for his first game since starting Winnipeg's final seven games of 2013 at tackle. "It's a lot different than tackle. The footwork and stuff is different... It's just your angles are different, basically. The way you leave the line. The way you attack guys, that's a little different at guard than tackle."
Jones will be working to keep his quarterback protected from a fervent Roughriders pass rush that includes CFL sack-leader John Chick (12). But it was an incident in practice this week that startled many regarding the health of Drew Willy.
Late in practice Thursday, Winnipeg's first-year starter smacked his throwing hand on the helmet of defensive back Don Unamba and was in noticeable pain. The team took a walkthrough pace on Friday as Willy often squeezed his rarely-gloveless fist between infrequent short throws.
"I just really wanted to see the most pain I could feel in the finger," answered Willy when questioned why he went without his throwing glove the day after the incident. "I plan on being out there (on Sunday). That's really all I'm going to say about it."
"I was more frustrated about it because getting hurt in practice, you never want that to happen."
NOTES: Even with International Jarvis Jones in for National Patrick Neufeld, Winnipeg won't have to make any ratio adjustments. They have started eight Canadians for the latter half of their season, making the seven starters this week Matt Bucknor, Teague Sherman, and Jake Thomas on defence, and Rory Kohlert, Cory Watson, Chris Greaves, and Steve Morley on offence. ... Joining Neufeld on the sidelines at practice this week was Canadian rookie O-lineman Matthias Goossen. Mike O'Shea says he's just "banged up." ... Also off the 46 this week is running back Paris Cotton, and linebacker Abe Kromah who came in last week for the now-returning Ejiro Kuale (shoulder). ... Canadian Louie Richardson returns following a glute injury that kept him out the last two weeks. ... Offensive lineman Dan Knapp (various), linebacker/safety Johnny Sears (hamstring/quad), and cornerback Donovan Alexander (knee) all practiced this week but remain on the one-game injured list.