Just as advertised and as promised, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will begin defending their 2019 Grey Cup title next week with a squad dominated by veterans and familiar faces. Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea stressed last month the importance of having experienced players in what will be a condensed 14-game Canadian Football League season which comes following the cancellation of the 2020 campaign.
And O’Shea and the Bombers’ football operations staff held true to that in declaring the roster, practice roster and CFL taxi squad on Friday in advance of a 9 p.m. deadline. Before we get to an analysis of the roster, here’s how the decisions went down…
- There were 10 players released outright, among them 2021 CFL Draft pick Kyle Borsa, who is returning to school but the club will retain his rights. Also cut were four receivers in Deontez Alexander, Montay Crockett, Blake Jackson (who tore his Achilles last week) and Davon Grayson; three defensive backs in Mazzi Wilkins, Jeremiah Johnson and Terrence Alexander, defensive tackle Cedric Wilcots II and linebacker Jamalcolm Liggins.
- Moving to the practice roster are quarterback Dru Brown, receivers Cam Meredith (who has been injured for most of camp) and Carlton Agodusi, 2020 CFL Draft picks Nick Dheilly, a defensive end, and receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange, Canadian O-lineman Chris Kolankowski and Canadian linebacker Nakas Onyeka, defensive tackle Ricky Walker, defensive back David Rivers, offensive lineman Drew Richmond and two Global players – offensive lineman Tomoya Machino and defensive back Sergio Schiaffino-Perez.
- Added to the five-man CFL taxi squad – a new addition to give teams COVID-19 roster protection – are: O-lineman Tyler Johnson, defensive tackle Ezekiel Rose, defensive back Demerio Houston, running back Devonte Williams, all imports, as well as Global linebacker Ayo Oyelola.
The Bombers don’t have to declare their injured list, FYI, until this Wednesday in advance of the season opener on August 5th against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Here’s a more-detailed look at who remains:
Returning starters: 12
QB Zach Collaros, RB Andrew Harris, LT Stanley Bryant, LG Drew Desjarlais*, C Michael Couture*, RG Pat Neufeld*, RT Jermarcus Hardrick, WR Darvin Adams, WR Drew Wolitarsky*, SB Nic Demski*, SB Rasheed Bailey, SB Kenny Lawler.
Also returning on offence: QB Sean McGuire, RB Brady Oliveira*, RB Johnny Augustine*, FB Mike Miller*, WR/KR Janarion Grant, WR/KR Charles Nelson, OL Tui Eli*, OL Geoff Gray.*
New faces on the offensive roster:
- WR Kelvin McKnight: Spent some time with the Denver Broncos; saw time with the starting offence with Darvin Adams on the mend.
- WR ArDarius Stewart: Former Alabama star and NY Jets draft pick, like McKnight he was taking turns with the ones as camp ended.
- WR James Tyrell*: Undrafted Canadian who had a superb fifth year at Concordia.
Returning starters: 8
DE Willie Jefferson, DT Jake Thomas, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, LB Adam Bighill, LB Kyrie Wilson, CB Mike Jones, S Brandon Alexander, DB Nick Taylor. DB Mercy Maston (tore his Achilles in camp and will likely be moved to the injured list).
Also returning on defence: DT Steven Richardson (who split time with Drake Nevis, now in Toronto), LB Shayne Gauthier*, LB Jesse Briggs*, DB Nick Hallett*, DL Thiadric Hansen (Global), DL Jonathan Kongbo*
New faces on the defensive roster:
- DB Josh Johnson: Veteran defender has been getting a lot of work at the ‘dime’ spot held by Maston.
- DL/LB Tobi Antigha: CFL vet with Sask and Toronto, he was the Riders Most Outstanding Rookie in 2017 and brings some versatility to the D.
- DB Alden Darby: Acquired in a trade with the Argos after the Maston injury, Darby just returned to practice later this week. Veteran player should find a spot somewhere in the secondary eventually.
- LB Les Maruo (Global): The Bombers’ top pick in the Global draft, Maruo has been solid and should see time to start the year on specials.
- DB DeAundre Alford: Very quietly had a superb camp and was getting a lot of work with the starters
- LB Tanner Cadwallader: Seventh-round pick by the Bombers in ’20, he opened some eyes and earned a spot in camp.
- DB Noah Hallett*: The club’s top selection in the ’20 CFL Draft, 18th overall, he joins his brother Nick on the roster and on the defence.
- DB Redha Kramdi*: Another draft pick – Kramdi was selected this year because of his impressive work in university on special teams.
- DB Josh Miller: Great career at Ball State, was spotted by the Bombers scouts while attending the Detroit Lions camp in 2019.
- DB Deatrick Nichols: Was leading the XFL in interceptions last year when the plug was pulled on that league. Getting lots of work with the starters on D.
- LB Jontrell Rocquemore: Kept standing out in training camp with one play after another. Engaging and intelligent, he’s a good fit for the D.
- DT Casey Sayles: He shows signs of being a force at the tackle spot; last with the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL.
KR/PR Janarion Grant and KR/PR Charles Nelson
New faces among the specialists:
- K Marc Liegghio*: Has had more good days than bad days as a placekicker in camp and shows a live leg as a punter.
- K Tyler Crapigna*: Arrived during after being cut by Montreal. He holds a career field-goal percentage mark of 85.2 – Justin Medlock’s percentage was 86.5, for what it’s worth – but does not punt.
- LS Mike Benson*: Proud Winnipegger has 89 career CFL games to his name with Edmonton, B.C. and Ottawa.
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