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Author Topic: Positional Preview: Offensive Line  (Read 674 times)
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« on: May 10, 2022, 01:15:23 PM »

Positional Preview: Offensive Line - Ed Tait

They have been the picture of stability for the better part of five seasons now, a rock-solid and sturdy group of pivot protectors and pile pushers.

So, let's be blunt here: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive line crew has essentially spoiled us dating back to 2016 when consistency in play and in personnel first became commonplace around these parts.

Consider this: over the last five seasons the Blue Bombers O-line has averaged six different starters per year - a remarkable number which speaks of both their durability and quality of play.

It's also no coincidence that over that span the club has posted five consecutive double-digit win seasons, has won back-to-back Grey Cup championships and has a combined record of 55-31.

Just to put that into perspective, from 2013-15 the club averaged 10 different starters up front, and the rumour at the time had equipment guru Brad Fotty attaching the jersey nameplates with Velcro, due to the constant turnover of personnel along the O-line. Not surprisingly, during that span the team missed the playoffs in each season and had a cumulative record of 15-39.

True to recent form, the Blue Bombers will open 2022 training camp with four of five starters returning from last year's Grey Cup team, with Drew Desjarlais having signed with the New England Patriots. That group of returnees includes CFL all-stars Stanley Bryant ? also named the league?s top O-lineman last year for a record third time - along with right guard Pat Neufeld, right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick and CFLPA all-star Michael Couture at centre.

Veteran Geoff Gray, who made 12 starts in 2019, is the leading candidate to replace Desjarlais at left guard, but the club does have other Canadian options including, possibly, 2021 first-round draft pick Liam Dobson who was in mini-camp with the Chicago Bears last weekend and is scheduled to attend the New Orleans Saints mini-camp this week, along with Chris Kolankowski, who dressed for the Grey Cup last year, and 2018 Ben Koczwara.

There is also an outside chance the club tweaks the ratio and plays a third import along the line with Drew Richmond, Eric Lofton and Leon Johnson - all with CFL starts to their name - the veteran candidates along with newcomers Pat Allen and Dennis Bardwell.

Regardless of who slides into that spot between Bryant and Couture the offensive line - so capably tutored by Marty Costello - will continue to be the engine that drives an offence that led the CFL in scoring and was deadly in its efficiency.

Continuity and chemistry mean everything up front. So, too, does talent.

TRAINING CAMP 2022 PREVIEW: A LOOK AT THE OFFENSIVE LINE

The Returnees:

Starters: LT Stanley Bryant, C Michael Couture*, RG Pat Neufeld*, RT Jermarcus Hardrick

Returning vets: Geoff Gray*, Chris Kolankowski*, Tomoya Machino (G), Drew Richmond (dressed for one game last year and was injured), Jalen Burks (was on the practice roster for a bit last season).

CFL vets: Eric Lofton (Ottawa/Edmonton), Leon Johnson (started one game with Calgary in ?21).

Departed: Drew Desjarlais* (New England), Tui Eli* (unsigned)

CFL Draft picks in camp:
Ben Koczwara (2018 CFL Draft pick, attended camp in Winnipeg in 2018-19 and was with Toronto for a portion of ?21).

CFL newcomers
: Pat Allen, Dennis Bardwell

IMPACT NEWCOMER: ERIC LOFTON


It's hard to crack into this group, given its longevity and its dominance. If Dobson arrives from his NFL mini camps he could be an option, but so, too, might Lofton. He has six CFL games to his name with Ottawa and Edmonton, as well as a stint with B.C. He was a First-Team All-American Athletic Conference all-star in his senior season with Temple.

X FACTOR: GEOFF GRAY

Gray, the University of Manitoba product and 2017 first-round draft pick by the Bombers, earned 12 starts in 2019 for an injured Neufeld and was the unit?s sixth-seventh OL for most of last year. He's strong and exceptionally mobile for a big man - if you recall, he ended his tryout for NFL scouts at the U of M a few years back by hoping on a unicycle - and now has more experience to his name. The right guard starting spot is probably his to lose.

NOTABLE NUMBER: 16


The Blue Bombers surrendered just 16 sacks in 14 regular-season games last year, fewest in the CFL. That's an average of 1.14 per game.

How relevant is that? Think about this: in 2015 the club saw its quarterbacks dropped a whopping 71 times, or 3.94 per game.

https://www.bluebombers.com/2022/05/09/positional-preview-offensive-line-6/
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2022, 02:10:48 PM »

What's with the comment that the Bombers might use 3 imports on the OL? Even though they said it was an outside chance, where did that idea come from? We are bringing in more than usual import OL but I attribute that to losing a few Canadian OL in free agency.
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2022, 03:12:43 PM »

The only way we start 3 IMPs on OL is if there's an injury and the NAT backups are shown to be lacking.  Or if there's some weird force-ratio-on-D all of a sudden; which seems highly unlikely at this point.  I think at this point before camp we always have 2-3 extra IMP OL for looks and fodder.

Maybe this year is a bit different because we're looking at the tail end of both Bryant and Yoshi's careers and we need to be prepared if/when one gets injured or retires.  We do need to spot the next Bryant/Yoshi before we lose one.

edit: BinBC is right, Bryant not Grant; too early in the morning for me
« Last Edit: May 10, 2022, 03:46:52 PM by TecnoGenius » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2022, 03:29:08 PM »

The only way we start 3 IMPs on OL is if there's an injury and the NAT backups are shown to be lacking.  Or if there's some weird force-ratio-on-D all of a sudden; which seems highly unlikely at this point.  I think at this point before camp we always have 2-3 extra IMP OL for looks and fodder.

Maybe this year is a bit different because we're looking at the tail end of both Grant and Yoshi's careers and we need to be prepared if/when one gets injured or retires.  We do need to spot the next Grant/Yoshi before we lose one.


Bryant not Grant.
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Jesse
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2022, 03:40:07 PM »

What's with the comment that the Bombers might use 3 imports on the OL? Even though they said it was an outside chance, where did that idea come from? We are bringing in more than usual import OL but I attribute that to losing a few Canadian OL in free agency.

We have a couple of unknowns.

Grey starting on the OL

Harris gone

Thomas the only DL.

New CBA with ratio being discussed.

And of course, injuries.

There is an outside chance of any one of those things causing us to change our ratio.
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2022, 03:48:55 PM »

New CBA with ratio being discussed.

The only thing I've seen reported by CFL/3dn is the idea of dropping the ratio completely.  Still haven't seen any official source mention a forced-D ratio... if anyone has a link...

P.S. Dropping the ratio completely is as drastic, and insane, a measure as going 4-down.  IMHO
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2022, 03:53:47 PM »

The only thing I've seen reported by CFL/3dn is the idea of dropping the ratio completely.  Still haven't seen any official source mention a forced-D ratio... if anyone has a link...

P.S. Dropping the ratio completely is as drastic, and insane, a measure as going 4-down.  IMHO


It's obviously not going to be dropped completely.

But there's an outside chance it's reduced by one.
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2022, 04:17:15 PM »

We have a couple of unknowns.

Grey starting on the OL

Harris gone

Thomas the only DL.

New CBA with ratio being discussed.

And of course, injuries.

There is an outside chance of any one of those things causing us to change our ratio.

We've added Canadian DL acquiring Lawson from the Als and we drafted a couple of Canadians on the DL.

Talk has constantly been that we'd likely start Hallett at safety until Alexander was healthy.

Losing Harris and his blocking skills combined with Gray now replacing Desjarlais might be a factor.

The team may be covering all bases on the OL but it seems an outside chance of 3 import OL.  Doesn't bode well for the back up Canadian OL if a rookie import beats them out??

Greater chance that the ratio drops starting Canadians down to 6.


« Last Edit: May 10, 2022, 05:33:11 PM by Blue In BC » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2022, 04:41:17 PM »

The only thing I've seen reported by CFL/3dn is the idea of dropping the ratio completely.  Still haven't seen any official source mention a forced-D ratio... if anyone has a link...

P.S. Dropping the ratio completely is as drastic, and insane, a measure as going 4-down.  IMHO


The "dropping ratio completely" was over a 10 year period...
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2022, 05:29:45 PM »

We've added Canadian DL acquiring Lawson from the Als and we drafted a couple of Canadians on the DL.

Talk has constantly been that we'd likely start Hallett at safety until Alexander was healthy.

Losing Harris and his blocking skills combined with Gray now replacing Desjarlais might be a factor.

The team may be covering all bases on the OL but it seems an outside chance of 3 import OL.  Does bode well for the back up Canadian OL if a rookie import beats them out??

Greater chance that the ratio drops starting Canadians down to 6.




Yes, they literally used the words "outside chance".
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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2022, 05:33:55 PM »

Yes, they literally used the words "outside chance".

Yes but the curious thing is that could be true in any season if a team chooses to start a Canadian elsewhere.
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2022, 05:38:42 PM »

I think you stick with four on the Oline, who knows maybe Dobson will end up in the blue and gold this season.

Rene/Ford at CB is another option

The Halett brothers and Kramdi at safety is another option
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Blue In BC
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2022, 05:47:10 PM »

I think you stick with four on the Oline, who knows maybe Dobson will end up in the blue and gold this season.

Rene/Ford at CB is another option

The Halett brothers and Kramdi at safety is another option

What do you mean " stick " with 4?  We start 3 Canadian OL in the middle of the line. It's been awhile since we've had 4 import OL.
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Throw Long Bannatyne
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2022, 05:52:52 PM »

"The right guard starting spot is probably his to lose." Must be a typo, Gray slots in at LG.
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« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2022, 06:42:41 PM »

"The right guard starting spot is probably his to lose." Must be a typo, Gray slots in at LG.

Yea...typo.
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