What has happened to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers? And doesn't it seem that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are getting better and better? Those were the two questions I was thinking about while leaving Studio 6 and heading home after Friday Night Football - Hamilton's most recent win and Winnipeg's most recent loss.
For the Bombers it has been a combination of things coming together at the most inappropriate moments in time. Quarterback, injuries, Canadian talent or depth and leadership are all issues. Trust me when I say being a Bomber is no fun right now in a city that embraces football the way Winnipeg does. While Buck Pierce will be getting another shot, I think Max Hall does deserve another opportunity. His negative plays came at a point in the game that he had to "press" to make plays. But playing the same team again could be beneficial to him and help him get into the flow quicker and gain confidence. His receivers have to step up and catch everything and the defensive backs for Winnipeg must use better technique as there are way too many pass interference penalties.
In the big picture, there is something wrong with the scouting system in Winnipeg. Five quarterbacks in 18 months of football and not one is close to dominant. Hamilton has two, Burris and LeFevour, Saskatchewan has two, Durant and Willy, Calgary has three, BC two, Toronto has Ray and Collaros and even Edmonton with Mike Reilly as No. 1 is going to continue to improve. Because with all the quarterbacks in North America, why can't the Bombers find one? Legitimate question.
With Hamilton, they are getting there. C.J. Gable and Chevon Walker are being used very intelligently by Kent Austin. Greg Ellingson as a receiver is an immense surprise. But No. 1 to me is the edges of protection for Henry Burris. Brian Simmons, U of 0klahoma. Great feet and technically sound with consistency of performance. Joel Figueroa, U of Miami. More of a mauler as a player but good and getting better. They still do miss Chris Williams and his returns with speed.
Speaking of speed on Saturday maybe there was too much of it. I was pretty must astonished when it came to the two games and injuries. Honestly, not much you can do. I don't remember any of the impact hits being dirty or illegal. Just brutal. And for Calvillo it has to be concerning. In 2010 he had a sternum injury that caused him breathing issues. In 2011 it was a Marcus Howard hit that I thought Calvillo would not recover from, remember that one? Last year a shoulder issue affected his play. And now a shot to the head that took him out of the game.
Anthony Calvillo is respected by everyone for that rare combination of ability, courage and class being at such extremely high levels. If he were to retire I would almost be relieved. He won't though. The Riders were fortunate to beat Montreal and now play Edmonton next. For a team at 6-1 they need to improve all of a sudden.
In BC, the uniform switch was magnificent. Looked good, played good, all good. Some of the players had an extra look of intimidation around them, almost an aura. My compliments to the Lions on an exceptional marketing move which was perfectly executed. All in football noticed and I hope it creates a solid revenue stream for the organization. And they won too!
There was Sunday night football to end Week 8, Edmonton at Toronto from the Rogers Centre and both quarterbacks put on a show. I guess we almost expect it from Ricky Ray but still to go 30-of-35 is an astonishing level of efficiency. It was brought to my attention that some of the throws were not that difficult in length and congestion but my response would be, well then why don't other quarterbacks have that type of completion percentage?
The answer is because they can't do it as well as Ray can. With Edmonton at 1-6 I realize any positive comment may sound ridiculous but Mike Reilly is getting better and better. He's more confident and completing more passes for greater distance. Actually it has been fun to watch, enjoyable to see an athlete improve as a season is moving forward. I hope Eskimo fans don't lose patience with the Kavis Reed regime. I do think he is the right man at the right time with the right people.
In an eight-team league there is a greater "grace period" to get it together because the playoffs are almost always possible come October. It just becomes disheartening when the team you follow does not have winning success yet sometimes look good while losing. Tough three games for Edmonton also with the Roughriders and then back-to-back with the Stampeders.
Week 8 is done moving into Week 9, almost mid-season. Teams know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and now have to maintain their strength, improve the weakness and ask the Gods of football if their team can stay healthy for three more months. Please.