The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be spending a lot of time at training camp this season deciding on the pecking order among their three backup quarterbacks.
“Our whole training camp will be based on developing our quarterbacks, in addition to, you know, everybody else on the team,” coach Tim Burke said Tuesday, a day before the start of rookie camp.
It won’t be business as usual as far as evaluating pivots, he added, with all four at rookie camp including starter Buck Pierce.
“Normally you go into a season you say, ‘OK, here’s our No. 1 guy, here’s our No. 2 guy, here’s our No. 3 guy,’ and so you proportion your reps accordingly with the No. 1 guy getting the vast majority of them,” he said.
“In this camp, we’re going to try to get everybody a lot of reps so we can see which will be the No. 2, 3 and 4 guys.”
Veteran Justin Goltz is going in as the top candidate behind Pierce but Burke said there is no guarantee he will hold that spot. The Bombers cut their other veteran backups, Alex Brink and Joey Elliott, in the off-season and signed Max Hall and Chase Clement, who have no CFL experience.
The Bombers still like Pierce and believe he gives them their best chance to win, when he stays healthy. He missed most of last season with a series of injuries and the Bombers went from Grey Cup contenders in 2011 to second-last in the CFL standings in 2012.
Burke also wants to improve the secondary and will give some new defensive backs a try.
“I didn’t think our secondary played very well last year, so we brought in a lot of DBs to compete at that position,” he said. “Certainly the guys who were here last year are going to have to play better than they played last year or they won’t be here.”
This is Burke’s first full season as head coach, a position few seem to hold for very long lately with the Bombers. Burke is the sixth head coach in the last 10 years.
He replaced Paul LaPolice, who was sacked mid-season in 2012.
The Bombers won’t get a look at their top two draft picks right away. Andy Mulumba has signed with the Green Bay Packers and Kristopher Robertson has a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
But they’ve signed third-round pick Carl Fitzgerald, who they will try to switch from a wide receiver to a fullback or tight end.
They also signed fourth-round pick and wide receiver Michael DeCroce, although Burke said that’s going to be a tough position for any rookie to crack.
Another area where they’ll be looking to see if an upgrade is possible is at punter. The list of contenders for Mike Renaud’s job includes draft pick Billy Pavlopoulos and Brett Cameron, the son of Bombers legend Bob Cameron.
Two key players are still recovering from injuries and off-season repairs.
Veteran receiver Terrence Edwards is likely to be ready first – perhaps for the pre-season – but defensive back Johnny Sears may not be ready until the start of the regular season, said Burke.
Burke added that if the Bombers want to get back to the playoffs this season, they have one issue to settle.
“Can we consistently play at a high level? The mark of a champion is consistently playing at a high level under pressure,” he said.