Winnipeg – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers confirmed what most suspected when they returned to practice on Sunday morning. The clubs number one quarterback since the start of 2014, Drew Willy, will sit down and Matt Nichols will start when the Bombers visit the Edmonton Eskimos on Thursday. Willy’s numbers are pretty good, a 72% completion rate, nearly 1500 yards passing and only 4 interceptions in 5 games, but the Bombers are having trouble scoring touchdowns, just 7 offensive touchdowns in those 5 games, and they are having trouble winning. When you are 1-4 and haven’t come close to living up to expectations, something has to give. And in this case, it’s a quarterback change.
Willy was clearly despondent about the move but he said all the right things. “I just got the information this morning, I will just come out here and support my teammates, do everything I can in practice and just keep working hard. Any time something like this happens it’s hard to swallow but you have to take it the right way, be professional and do everything you can to help the team” said Willy, who added “a lot gets put on this position, you just have to keep fighting through it, I’ve seen a lot in my career, just different situations in both leagues I’ve been in. I just have to keep working, maintain a positive mindset and support your teammates, that’s the biggest thing, love your teammates and help them in any way you can and just go from there.”
Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea said it all boils down to production. “Just trying to provide a spark for the offence, change it up a little bit, trying to score a few more points. It’s a good opportunity for Matt and we will see where it takes us” said O’Shea.
Nichols admitted it’s always tough to get your chance in a situation like this, but he said he will embrace his chance. “I feel like I’ve always prepared like I’m playing every week, and I’m excited for the opportunity. Obviously it’s never an easy thing, but Drew’s had a great attitude about it and we’re still having our conversations and he’s going to do everything he can to help me play well and ultimately help this team win.” said Nichols.
The quarterback change was the big story on day one of the Bombers preparations for the Edmonton game but not far behind was the injury situation. During last weeks loss to Calgary, the Bombers lost six starters, offensive linemen Pat Neufeld, Sukh Chung and Jermarcus Hardrick, and defensive backs Chris Randle, Macho Harris and Julian Posey, to injury. Hardick is the only one of that group who is certain to play in Edmonton although O’Shea said he is hopeful that Chung will also be ready to go. Neufeld will be out for up to 6 weeks with a leg injury, Randle is expected to miss up to a month with a leg injury, while Harris and Posey should be out for a shorter term. Import offensive linemen Travis Bond and Manase Foketi are candidates to come on the roster while 3rd year defensive back Bruce Johnson will return from injury to bolster the secondary. Rookie d.b. Terrence Frederick got his share of reps on Sunday while Taylor Loffler from UBC looks like he’ll take over from Harris as the starting safety.
Lots of issues for the Bombers to grapple with as they get set to take their 1-4 record into Edmonton Thursday.