Winnipeg – When twelve year veteran offensive lineman Jeff Keeping of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers went down in a heap during Wednesday’s 36-13 pre-season win over Montreal it immediately brought into question the Canadian depth on the Bombers offensive line. The 33-year old Keeping was signed as a free agent during the off-season to provide insurance in case any of the three projected Canadian starters, Pat Neufeld, Mathias Goossen or Sukh Chung ran into trouble. While the Bombers still don’t know the full extent of Keeping’s injury, he is expected to be sidelined indefinitely. That leaves the Bombers with only a pair of 2016 draftees as Canadian extras on the o-line, 10th overall pick Michael Couture from Simon Fraser and 6th rounder Zach Intzandt from McMAster. The good news, according to head coach Mike O’Shea, is that Couture played most of the second half against the Alouettes and acquitted himself quite well.
“He did very well. He certainly showed some poise and confidence at that position. When he came to the sideline and was getting a correction he seemed to know exactly what he had done even before the got to the sideline, which showed intuition too. I was pleased with the way he picked up all the twist game that Montreal had put in and made the right calls for the most part, putting his teammates in good positions. He did take a lot more snaps than he was probably going to get and that’s invaluable. It comes at a tough cost to the team, obviously, but it certainly gives him a leg up” said O’Shea.
Couture made 36 starts during his four seasons at Simon Fraser and played a number of different positions on the offensive line. Couture will likely get more playing time in Monday’s second and final pre-season game in Ottawa and if he does well, chances are he will be on the season opening roster. And, if the Bombers feel the need to play three imports on the offensive line, they would likely be comfortable doing that given the depth they have in camp in American offensive linemen, and the flexibility they currently have with their ratio.
Bombers will have lots of time after their final pre-season game in Ottawa to sort things out. In a scheduling quirk(and doesn’t the CFL always have scheduling quirks?), the Bombers will have eleven days between their last pre-season game and the start of the regular season on June 24th against Montreal at Investors Group Field.