With Ricky Ray sidelined, the Blue Bombers know they have a better shot at building on their last win when the Toronto Argonauts visit Winnipeg Saturday.
“Any time you go to the backup quarterback, I mean there’s a reason why one guy’s No. 1 and one guy’s No. 2, so obviously that bodes well for us in that respect,” coach Tim Burke said Tuesday after practice.
But Burke and other Bombers also know they can’t take Argos backup pivot Jarious Jackson too lightly if they hope to get more than one win in a row, something they haven’t managed all season.
“He’s an experienced quarterback and he’s got a great arm and he can run around,” says Burke, who has faced Jackson both in the CFL and when the two were in the U.S. college system.
“My first experience with him was when I was at Purdue and he was the quarterback at Notre Dame and he was an option quarterback at that time, so that shows you how much he can run.”
Winnipeg linebacker Henoc Muamba, the CFL’s Canadian player of the week, agreed that the Bombers will be preparing for Jackson.
“He’s a good quarterback, we’re not sleeping whatsoever,” said Muamba, the CFL’s top overall draft pick in 2011.
Muamba was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but emigrated to Canada and attended college at St. Francis Xavier, where he was the top defensive player in the CIS in 2010.
Muamba missed the first seven games of last season due to injury but this year has been particularly effective in forcing fumbles at key times. He did it again last Friday as the Bombers ended a four-game losing streak with a 34-12 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats . Muamba had one forced fumble, one sack and five tackles.
He’ll hope to have similar success against Jackson.
“We know what he’s capable of,” Muamba said. “We saw what he was able to do last week. He held up his own in terms of stepping up after Ricky Ray went down.”
Jackson took over in the first quarter when Toronto was down 10-0, went 15 out of 31 for 198 yards and an interception in the 31-10 loss to the Alouettes.
He signed with Toronto as a free agent this year after spending seven seasons with the B.C. Lions, mostly as a backup.
Ray suffered what the Argos (6-6) say are strained knee ligaments in Montreal Sunday. They hope to see him back next week.
The Bombers (3-9) badly need another win if they want to keep any playoff hopes alive this season.
Friday, their sagging offence got a much-needed shot of adrenalin with the return from injury of quarterback Buck Pierce.
Relying heavily on rookie running back Chad Simpson, he ended Winnipeg’s offensive touchdown drought (it stretched into 16 quarters of football) and crafted a solid win that left the Tiger-Cats a little stunned.
Simpson was named the league’s offensive player of the week for a game in which he fell just short of 200 combined yards.
“I think Chad’s very, very deserving,” Pierce said.
“He’s a hard worker. He’s played through injury. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for our whole offensive line as well because an award like that speaks volumes about the guys up front and offensive line coaches as well.”
One of those guys up front is 2011 CFL draft pick Paul Swiston, playing at right tackle right now behind import Shannon Boatman. The Bombers just extended his contract and Burke says they’re pleased he’s come so far so fast.
“We didn’t expect him to come along this fast when we drafted him. We’re really happy with his progress and I think he’s going to have a great future,” Burke said.
Swiston, a 23-year-old native of Calgary, is pretty happy himself.
“It’s been my first time to get some playing time and I’ve been able to get in there a lot,” he said. “The results haven’t quite been there for the team but, personally, I’ve been getting better, which is good.”
While happy to get some CFL recognition in his rookie year, Simpson was also cautious about celebrating too much after just win No. 3.
“This next game will be a test,” he said. “We did it with B.C. We thought we were headed in the right direction (a gritty 20-17 loss) and we come and lose 50-something to zip (against Saskatchewan),” he said.
“We have to come and put (in) that same performance (as Friday’s) again.”