Bombers putting starters on field for half of last pre-season game
WINNIPEG - Their second and last pre-season game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will settle some questions for Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Paul LaPolice.
Wednesday's game is a big chance for those players on the bubble to change their fate and it will help nail down who will be backup to starting quarterback Buck Pierce — Alex Brink or Joey Elliott.
Brink took over from Elliott behind Pierce last season when Elliott went down with a torn ACL.
LaPolice says he'll name the backup after the game and while other players may not be fighting for starting spots at this point, they are able to improve their chances of sticking around.
"It may put the confidence in the coaches and myself to say 'We're going to keep this kid around, he needs to be on our reserve or our practice squad,'" LaPolice told reporters.
"We're going to have difficult decisions because there's a lot of talented guys."
Another battle that still needs to be settled is who will be the team's punter. Import Eric Wilbur and Canadian Mike Renaud are competing for the job.
"Both guys have performed well," said LaPolice. "Eric's done some good things but Mike Renaud had a really good game last week himself too."
Because of the import, non-import ratio, Renaud is thought to have the inside track unless Wilbur can outperform him in a major way.
It will be the first home game of 2012 played at Canad Inns Stadium, which the Bombers thought they'd seen the last of in 2011. Construction delays mean the new Investors Group Field on the campus of the University of Manitoba won't be ready till next season.
LaPolice says most of his starters will be on the field for about half the game.
But some veteran faces will continue to be missing from the lineup —such as offensive linemen Glenn January and Andre Douglas and slotback Cory Watson, all out with injuries.
"You'd like all the vets to at least get some game experience so it's unfortunate some of the guys will maybe miss both pre-season games but it's out of our control," said the coach
There also will be newcomers certain to make the 2012 starting lineup such as rookie import wide receiver Chris Matthews.
Pierce has nothing but good things to say about Matthews, who has impressed everyone with his performance in camp.
"Physically he's as good as I've seen," he said. "He's a guy that poses great matchup advantages for us with size and speed. He's a smart kid . . . We're expecting big things out of him. We're going to put him in a position to make plays."
This game will also see the return of Canadian receiver Kito Poblah, who missed much of last season due to injuries.
"If he's on the field, he makes us better," said Pierce. "That's the bottom line."