Days before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Week 10 matchup with the Ottawa Redblacks last season, I predicted that schematically Trevor Harris’ offence would give Winnipeg fits.
Numerous Bombers fans let me know before kick-off that they doubted my hunch. Three hours later Harris and the Ottawa Redblacks had stomped the Bombers 44-21. Harris completed 74 per cent of his passes for 361 yards.
While exiting the stadium I ran into one of the questioning fans. We locked eyes, and he nodded his head and said “good call” as we moped home.
The same outcome for Winnipeg may be looming Thursday.
To start Week 3, Harris is back at IG Field. Now a member of the 2-0 Edmonton Eskimos, Harris is off to a tremendous start. He’s thrown for 741 yards and six touchdowns — both first in the CFL — without throwing an interception.
Trevor Harris Versus the Blue Bombers
Trevor Harris’ passing tendency matches up well against the Bombers. Traditionally, it’s quick, accurate passes with the occasional deep shot. The Bombers rarely play press coverage, which has resulted in offensive success for Harris.
In five career starts versus Winnipeg, Harris has a 3-2 record with a 71 per cent completion rate and 9:1 touchdown to interception ratio. In the two losses, Harris’ offence scored 30 and 32 points.
Here’s how Harris’ two games against Winnipeg last year played out.
Trevor Harris had success on the outside, exposing then Bombers cornerbacks Chris Randle and Kevin Fogg.
On Thursday, Chandler Fenner and Winston Rose should start at cornerback. Both were mediocre in Week 1, giving up 160 yards between them to the B.C. Lions. Fenner also got fooled on a double move by Lemar Durant for a Lions touchdown.
Eskimos offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic should plan to attack Winnipeg’s corners. If so, Fenner and Rose will have their hands full with Kenny Stafford, Tevaun Smith, at times Greg Ellingson and possibly DaVaris Daniels, who could line up at wide receiver on Thursday.
Linemen in the Spotlight
Possibly the biggest reason for Edmonton’s 2-0 start is the play of their defensive line. The group of Kawku Boateng, Almondo Sewell, Mike Moore and Nick Usher have been fantastic, rounding up a league-best nine sacks through two games.
They took over in their Week 2 win over B.C., just ask Mike Reilly how he’s feeling.
Stanley Bryant Jr. versus Boateng battling all evening is worthy of its own camera, while the Bombers young interior linemen may experience a reality shock. Pat Neufeld remains out of the lineup, so Geoff Gray, Michael Couture and Cody Speller will be tasked with keeping Matt Nichols upright.
With an extra week of preparation, Paul LaPolice will surely have a firm plan to neutralize Edmonton’s front. Something along the lines of short, horizontal passes to playmakers like Nic Demski and Lucky Whitehead and packages with extra protection to buy Nichols time.
The real battle, and possibly the x-factor, is whether Andrew Harris can repeat his Week 1 total of 148 rushing yards versus Edmonton.
The Last Word
The Eskimos are stout at two areas that directly match up against areas of potential weakness for the Bombers. But that’s not to say Edmonton is without a weakness.
If Nichols can quickly move the ball to his receivers, Edmonton’s secondary will struggle. Edmonton’s without their two best defensive backs in Anthony Orange and Don Unamba. The Bombers, who should have Chris Matthews in their lineup, can exploit Orange and Unamba’s absence with a clean offensive showing à la Week 1 in Vancouver.
Trevor Harris versus Winnipeg’s secondary and Edmonton’s defensive line versus Winnipeg’s offensive line boils down to whichever unit performs better.
It’s supposed to be a scorching night in Winnipeg, underneath those Thursday night lights. So, long live the night (I’m sorry).
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images