Blue Bombers preview: Key additions/subtractions, players to watch, biggest storylines of '23 season
Coach: Mike O’Shea
GM: Kyle Walters
2022 record: 15-3; lost 109th Grey Cup to Toronto Argonauts
Opening game: June 9 vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
A blocked field goal shy of a potential three-peat, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gear up for another season with Grey Cup expectations.
Mike O’Shea settles in for his ninth season as head coach of the Bombers after being inked to a three-year extension. O’Shea led the Bombers to a franchise-record 15-win season and third consecutive Grey Cup berth in 2022.
Familiar faces in offensive coordinator Buck Pierce and defensive coordinator Richie Hall accompany O’Shea in their quest for a fourth Grey Cup game and third title in four seasons.
Key additions and subtractions
Two-time Grey Cup champion Kenny Lawler is the lone external addition to the 2023 Blue Bombers as he returns to the fold after spending the 2022 season with the Edmonton Elks.
The Bombers will have to wait to slot Lawler into the offence as the team announced on June 1 that Lawler has been transferred to the suspended list pending resolution of matters related to his 2021 off-field incident
Lawler caught 64 passes from quarterback Zach Collaros for 1,014 yards and six touchdowns the last time the two collaborated on the football field with Winnipeg in 2021.
What they gained in Lawler, they lost in 2016 Grey Cup champion and three-time East Division All-Star Greg Ellingson, who joined the Montreal Alouettes. Offensive lineman Michael Couture also departs as he signed with the BC Lions.
On the defensive side of the ball, interior defensive lineman Casey Sayles trades his blue and gold for black and gold. After beating them in back-to-back Grey Cups, Sayles joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in free agency.
Most of the Bombers’ free-agent class of 2022 returns as wide receiver Rasheed Bailey inked a deal to remain a Bomber.
The Bombers also extended linebackers Jesse Briggs and Alden Darby; wide receivers Nic Demski and Janarion Grant, along with decorated offensive lineman Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick.
Player to watch
Entering his second year on the heels of a Most Outstanding Rookie-winning season, Kansas State product Dalton Schoen has cemented himself as an imposing talent at the wide receiver position.
The Overland Park, Kan., native led the Canadian Football League in his first season north of the border, amassing 1,441 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“The Blue Bombers have kept the band together again, and why not after a 2022 season that differed from the previous two only in that it didn’t produce a championship. Quarterback Zach Collaros turns 35 this season, but has stayed healthy of late and is playing the best football of his life. And he’ll be throwing this season to the past two CFL leaders in receiving yards in Kenny Lawler and Dalton Schoen. But with so many key players moving into the latter stages of their careers, the clock may be ticking on this group.” – TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor
Week 1 – The Tiger-Cats head to IG Field to take on the Blue Bombers in a rematch of the 107th and 108th Grey Cup games.
Week 2 – The Bombers head to Regina to take on Trevor Harris and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Week 3 – The BC Lions come to town in a rubber match of the 2022 Western Final.
Week 13 – The Riders host the Blue Bombers for the Labour Day Classic.
Week 14 – Collaros and the Blue Bombers look to capture their fourth straight Banjo Bowl title against the Roughriders.
Week 17 – The Argonauts and Bombers meet in a rematch of the 109th Grey Cup.