With an offence still feeling its way, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers know they need another strong defensive performance this Saturday when they face the Edmonton Eskimos.
They blitzed and battered the Saskatchewan Roughriders last Sunday and emerged with their first home win at their new stadium and just their second victory of the season.
Riders quarterback Darian Durant was sacked eight times but the Blue Bombers’ offence was largely ineffective until late in the 25-13 victory. Coach Tim Burke said they’re expecting a battle this week and won’t underestimate the 1-9 Eskimos in the slightest.
“I think they’re in the same boat we are,” he said Tuesday. “They’ve competed with good teams ... and they want to get over the hump on that, but I think they feel they can play with anybody.”
He also said the Eskimos present different challenges.
“Their offence is starting to really get going now. I mean they’re putting up a lot of yards and they’re putting up a lot of points.”
The Bombers have scored the fewest points and given up the most in the league.
Justin Goltz will start again at quarterback for Winnipeg. Max Hall and Jason Boltus will serve as backups since Buck Pierce was traded to the B.C. Lions last week.
Burke also was happy to learn two of his players took CFL player of the week honours — defensive back Demond Washington was named top defensive player and running back Will Ford earned the special-teams nod.
Washington racked up seven tackles, two special teams tackles, and one sack while Ford returned two kickoffs for 118 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown return. It was Winnipeg’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2005.
Regular starting tailback Chad Simpson was expected to miss Saturday’s game with a foot injury, but should be back next week. And offensive lineman Paul Swiston has been placed on the nine-game injured list.
Burke said he may insert newly acquired lineman Marc Parenteau into the lineup. He was picked up Monday in a trade with Toronto for running back Anthony Woodson and a draft pick.
The Bombers also announced Tuesday they have signed import running back Shawnbrey McNeal to their practice roster. It’s even possible that Canadian receiver Akeem Foster, obtained in the trade for Pierce, will see some action.
But Burke said they have to make sure he’s up to speed on the fine points of Winnipeg’s offence.
“He’s played in the CFL and he’s had a good year in the CFL so he’s got a chance. It’s just how fast he can learn it.”
In the first quarter against the Riders, the Winnipeg offence was on the field for only about three minutes. Burke said he hopes his defence can put together another performance like the one it delivered last Sunday.
“That’s as good a defence as we’ve played since I’ve been here.”
He singled out the defensive backs for praise, after singling them out for criticism many times this season.
“The thing that I was really impressed with from them was almost every throw was a contested throw.”
Burke is hopeful the upset victory, coupled with a strong performance the previous week in Regina, will help boost his team’s confidence.
“I think our game in Saskatchewan gave them the confidence that they knew they can compete with anybody and now they know that they can beat anybody,” he said. “So hopefully we can use that to get us some more wins.”