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Bombers' return man Washington in hunt for linebacker job

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The Canadian Press
6/4/2013 1:33:14 PM
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WINNIPEG -- A jack of all trades last season for the troubled Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Demond Washington is hoping to add even more to his resume in 2013.

"I played probably every position on the field last year," said Washington, who apart from helping out on defence also ranked third in the CFL in combined return yards.

The Auburn product wasn't signed until April 2012 but his return credentials were already solid after compiling 1,117 yards in his senior year, good for fourth in all of U.S. college football.

Now Washington is challenging for a starter's job on a defence that must get a lot better -- especially in the secondary.

"I told the first group of secondary people last night I wasn't happy with their performance and if they don't pick it up, they're going to be gone," Bombers head coach Tim Burke said Tuesday at training camp.

He says his defensive backs lack intensity and that's exactly what he sees in Washington.

"He's fast, he's quick, he's got really good hips and feet, and he plays with a lot of intensity," Burke said. "That's what I like about him."

Washington's combined 2,011 return yards last season could have been even higher if not for some dropped balls -- an issue he has said he has been working hard to correct.

"Last year was the most I had in my whole career combined so I've got to eliminate those things," he said.

Whether or not he gets the return job again as well is something that hasn't yet been determined, but Burke says he would have no problem with it if that's what special teams coach Craig Dickenson wants.

Washington is currently pencilled in at weak-side linebacker, a position usually occupied by a player strong enough to support the run but also athletic enough to drop into coverage

"I have Demond working the weak side of the coverage to put some pressure on some people," said Burke, who has also tried Washington at halfback in the secondary.

"This is my first time playing boundary halfback and I think it's coming along pretty good right now," Washington said after practice.

One member of the defence who isn't on Burke's naughty list is middle linebacker Henoc Muamba. The Bombers have been nothing but impressed with their first pick in the 2011 CFL draft.

Muamba says with all the newcomers, the competition is stiff for starting jobs.

"We've got a bunch of great athletes, great defensive players. That is only going to make our team better," he said. "The competition is very high at every position and I'm loving it."

One of those newcomers is brother Cauchy Muamba, who has moved to the Bombers from the B.C. Lions.

Henoc Muamba says his older (but not bigger) brother is fitting in well. The Bombers have him slated to start at safety.

"That's just a credit to how smart he is and how much he can pick up," Henoc Muamba said. "It's just a matter of being comfortable now and getting enough reps with each other at the position so we can react to each other very well and instinctively in games."

Henoc Muamba is also glad to see the return of Casey Creehan as defensive co-ordinator, who was linebacker coach when Muamba joined the team.

"I know how he coaches. I know what he expects of me," Muamba said. "He knows my game. He's always told me he's going to help me take my game to the next level."

Nickelback Johnny Sears has yet to return from off-season surgery and the Bombers secondary has also been hurt this season by the defection of linebacker Marcellus Bowman to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Cornerback Jovon Johnson, the CFL's outstanding defensive player in 2011, says Creehan's return should also help get some of that intensity back for the secondary.

A new diet and workout regime has seen Johnson gain 10 or 15 pounds of what looks to be pretty solid muscle. He says he now weighs in at around 190 and feels it can help his tackling ability.

"It made me slim down at first but then we started training a lot harder in the weight room and I put the weight back on," he said. "I think people want to see me tackle more ... so I need to decide to go out and do that."

Demond Washington (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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