March 30, 2012

Poblah ready to take on larger role with Bombers

Paul Wiecek
Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG — Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Kito Poblah says he’s looking forward to a lot more freedom to express his inner artist in a new and more wide-open offensive scheme the Bombers braintrust has planned for this coming season.

“The receivers have a lot more options in their routes, which I like a lot,” Poblah told a news conference at Canad Inns Stadium Wednesday afternoon. “(It) lets you play around with the (defensive back) a lot more… With the more responsibility, I feel like if we do it right, defences are going to have a lot of trouble.

“They will give (us) more options in our routes to kind of express yourself. I feel like what we do as receivers is kind of an art… I love the opportunity to be able to just kind of do my own route, find open space and get open.

“That’s backyard football — ‘Just get open.’”

Poblah made the comments Wednesday afternoon as the Bombers announced that they have signed Poblah and fellow non-import receiver Cory Watson to contract extensions.

Watson and Poblah are expected to be the Canadian anchors of a Bombers offence that sounds as though it will be a lot more interesting to watch under incoming offensive coordinator Gary Crowton than the conservative — and often anemic — attack that was on display last season.

Of course, “just get open” works better in a schoolyard than it does on a professional football field and Poblah agreed that there are big dangers in a less regimented offensive scheme.

“That could just make things look very ugly — one guys doing one route, the quarterback’s thinking it’s another route, the ball’s in the air and the defensive guy grabs it and goes the other way.

“I feel like there’s going to be more communication and more responsibility.”

Poblah, 24, played in just three regular season games last season and recorded just 10 catches for 99 yards. Nine of those catches, however, came in just one game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Labour Day, offering a glimpse of what the Bombers braintrust believes will be a bright future for Poblah in the CFL.

Poblah said a knee injury suffered in the first game of the season and a shoulder injury suffered in the Banjo Bowl — which, combined, sidelined him for 15 regular season games and the playoffs — were not indicative of any durability issues that should worry fans.

“The people who know Kito Poblah would know that’s never happened before,” said Poblah. “I know what I can do and I’m not worried about last year…

“I’m actually really grateful that Winnipeg gave me this opportunity to scratch off last year and just restart and refresh.”

Poblah said he still had a year and an option left on his contract, but was grateful for the extension.

Watson, on the other hand, was heading into his option year this season after a strong second-year CFL campaign that saw him play in every regular season and playoff game in 2011, get named top Canadian in Week 4 and make a catch in every single game in 2012 with the exception of the very first regular season contest in Hamilton.

“It’s good to know I’m going to be a Bomber for quite awhile,” Watson said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Watson said the challenge for Winnipeg on offence this season will be to find a consistency that was sorely lacking in 2011, despite the club’s Grey Cup appearance. “We need to sustain drives a lot better than we did last year. We just had too many two-and-outs.”

Poblah agreed. “I honestly believe that if our offence was even a little bit better last year, it would have helped us win,” said Poblah. “We didn’t step it up. We had the best defence in the league and the defence can only do so much to hold off the other team…

“Other teams weren’t even playing to score anymore. They were just playing to get nice field position, knowing our offence wasn’t going to do very well.”

With the contract extensions — the first the Bombers have awarded this year — the Winnipeg braintrust made clear it feels Watson and Poblah are part of the solution on offence, not the problem.

“We are very pleased to lock up, what we feel, are two valuable Canadian players in our league,” Bombers general manager Joe Mack said in a statement.

“Cory has shown tremendous progression from year one to year two, and we are looking forward to watching him take his game to the next level in 2012. With Kito, he had some unfortunate injuries nag him for a lot of 2011, but in the short duration in which he did play, we were very pleased.

“His outing in Regina last season showed us all how much potential he has, and we’re excited to see him bring that level of play consistently in 2012.”