- FREE AGENCY
TORONTO — The dog days of summer have arrived and one team feeling the early August heat might be the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Two weeks ago the Blue and Gold were the class of the league, starting the season 5-0 and backing up lofty pre-season expectations of a Grey Cup contender.
Missed opportunities have led to some turbulence the last couple of games for the Bombers. First they failed to take advantage of an injured Jeremiah Masoli, turning the ball over six times en route to a 23-15 loss to Hamilton. Then they surrendered a 20-0 lead in the first half, losing to the previously-winless Argos in the game’s final moments.
To be clear, the Bombers probably won’t be lamenting their two-week road trip to Southern Ontario come November. This is a playoff team with a deep roster and veteran coaching staff that’s set sight on winning the city’s first Grey Cup since 1990.
Still, these are games a Grey Cup contender is expected to win, and the lead in the West has evapourated with four teams all within a single game.
Is there reason for concern in Winnipeg? The debate is on in The Weekly Say:
Donnovan Bennett: One. If I could say zero that would be my answer. Let’s not forget they were up 20-0 on Toronto and put it cruise control. When engaged they are still capable of dominant defence and explosive offence.
Don Landry: Let’s not get too jumpy just yet, but there is room for healthy concern. So I’ll set it at about five, if one is “everything is beautiful” and 10 is “everyone must go!” The team seemed to be ramping up to powerhouse status before its trip to Ontario. Losing to Hamilton was only slightly concerning due to the ferocious defence that Hamilton put on display that night. Blowing a 20-point lead against the Argos was something else. The defence showed downfield weakness that night. The offence got stuck in the mud. There is work to be done, as doubt has certainly crept in.
Matthew Cauz: Going with a four. Matt Nichols has had back to back poor performances but considering the parity in the entire league I can’t go higher. This will not be the year where Calgary and Edmonton run away early with the top two spots in the West.
Marshall Ferguson: Four. Not a good sign but speed bumps can be good for the long term health of a team.
Chris O’Leary: Three. It’s a long season and the Bombers have a talented, experienced core. They can handle some bumps in the road.
Cauz: Trevor Harris. It’s always fun watching a quarterback try to stick it to a team who choose finances over quarterback stability.
O’Leary: Ottawa. Trevor Harris’ move to Edmonton has paid off for him in every sense. The REDBLACKS don’t have a definitive answer at QB yet and have already been in one finger-hovering-above-the-panic-button moment already this year. This isn’t even about beating your old QB. The REDBLACKS just need a win.
Bennett: Ottawa REDBLACKS. Trevor Harris has moved on and is leading a team with a winning record and is the early leading candidate to be named MOP in the league. The Ottawa REDBLACKS haven’t been able to replace him and have massive question marks at the QB position and a losing record.
Landry: The REDBLACKS. Harris has already proven himself, both with Ottawa and now with Edmonton. There are no questions about his ability and no pressure to prove himself to his former team. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind giving the REDBLACKS an object lesson in just how good he still is by hanging 400 yards on them, sure. The REDBLACKS moved on from Harris during the off-season, hitching their wagon to Dominique Davis instead, and must be feeling the pressure to prove that it was the correct decision. So far, there is little evidence it was the right way to go, and last week’s game in Montreal was an offensive bust.
Ferguson: Ottawa – Trevor knows what he has around him, Ottawa is still figuring it out.
Bennett: No. He played well but the Calgary Stampeders won despite him not because of him. Arbuckle is a grade A backup but not dynamic or proven enough to be a starter in the league yet.
Ferguson: The spicy pick would be Winnipeg or Saskatchewan depending on the future prospects of Nichols or end of season belief in Fajardo, but I believe he stays in Calgary. It’s a great place to play and he’s obviously adapted to the system.
Landry: He has. It’s too early to say that he can be a championship-calibre quarterback, but what he has shown so far makes him a cut above what, say, James Franklin while in Edmonton. And everybody went gaga over Franklin as a potential starter. Where would Arbuckle go? As it stands right now, Ontario would be my bet; Ottawa or Toronto.
O’Leary: I thought if Arbuckle went .500 as a starter in Bo Levi Mitchell’s absence that it would be a success. To go 5-1 (counting the win vs. BC) is very impressive. It’s also a testament to the Stamps’ defence and special teams performances in those wins. Could Arbuckle be a starter? He’s shown he deserves a shot with a team. I’d guess that Toronto and Ottawa are keeping a close eye on him. A fun option: Halifax in a couple of years.
Cauz: He has proven he absolutely deserves a chance to be a starter somewhere else in the league. The moment for me was Arbuckle completing a 28-yard pass to Markeith Ambles on a second-and-10 against Ottawa a couple weeks ago. Arbuckle knew he was about to take a shot but he still stood in the pocket and delivered a perfect pass. Yes, that is about as small a sample size as you can get, but it was one of those check-the-box moments we all look for with young quarterbacks looking to make a name for themselves.