BOMBERS vs. REDBLACKS: Five things to watch when Ottawa is in town for the start of the CFL season

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Friday; 7:30 p.m.; Television: TSN, Radio: CJOB 680; Line: Bombers by 9.5: Weather: 26 C, becoming cloudy in the evening

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RETURNING HEROES: Paul LaPolice, who was the Bombers’ offensive coordinator when they won the 2019 Gray Cup, is returning to Winnipeg for the first time as head coach of the Redblacks. He’s joined by receiver Darvin Adams, who played six seasons with the Bombers and won two championships. Expect a warm welcome from Bombers players and their fans.

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REPLACEMENTS: Big name players Andrew Harris, Kenny Lawler, Adams and Steven Richardson all left last year’s squad. Friday will be the first chance to see how running backs Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine, receivers Greg Ellingson, Rasheed Bailey (moving to Adams’ position) and Dalton Schoen, and defensive tackle Casey Sayles will do in taking on key roles. full time. base.

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SECONDARY PATCHWORK: The Bombers secondary will be significantly different from the one that played in the Gray Cup. Gone are stars DeAundre Alford and Alden Darby and injured All-Star safety Brandon Alexander and starting top penny Mercy Maston. Redblacks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will surely be looking to exploit newcomers Tyquwan Glass at cornerback, Malcolm Thompson at safety and Donald Rutledge, Jr. at penny.

REINFORCED: The Rougenoirs had the worst offensive line in the league last year (gave up 52 sacks last year, while the Bombers gave up 16), but they’ve made big improvements this year and protection should be good for the new quarterback Masoli. He now has CFL veterans Ucambre Williams, Hunter Steward, Darius Ciraco and Jacob Ruby ahead of him, and that could help him avoid Winnipeg’s dreaded pass rush, led by star defensive end Willie Jefferson.

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RETURN : The Bombers had the CFL’s worst foot game for most of last season and there’s no guarantee it’ll be better this year. However, sophomore Marc Liegghio will get the chance to add kicking and kicking to his punting duties and the Bombers believe he can handle all three jobs. He will have to be much better than in 2021 when he went 10 for 16 combined on field goals and converts.

KEY MATCH: Zach Collaros vs. Jeremiah Masoli

Old friends from their time together in Hamilton and old foes from last year’s Gray Cup, Collaros and Masoli hold the keys to their respective teams’ fortunes in 2022. Masoli signed as a free agent with the Rouge et Noir and has the potential to turn things around quickly for a team that had a toothless attack in 2021. Masoli can run and throw, has a much better offensive line and some weapons in the receiving body. Will that be enough to get the better of Collaros, who was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player of 2021? That remains to be seen, but by all indications Collaros is healthy and in top form, so even though he hasn’t taken a single shot during pre-season, he should be ready to go out.

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TO NOTE : The Bombers will raise a banner commemorating their 2021 Gray Cup win before the game. Winnipeg has now won the Gray Cup 12 times in its history…Winnipeg will be without star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat with an ankle injury. He will be replaced by LB Mack III, who is one of three rookies on the Bombers roster. The others are receiver Dalton Schoen and running back Donald Rutledge, Jr.… The Rougenoirs, who went 3-11 last season, will have 10 new faces among the starters on offense. They will have three new starters on defense… This will be the first time the Bombers and Rougenoirs have met since July 19, 2019, when the Bombers won 31-1 at IG Field. The 2020 season has been canceled and the two teams were not to face each other in 2021… With Brandon Alexander injured, Canadian Malcolm Thompson will start at the safety of the Bombers. This will be his third game in the CFL and his first start. The undrafted 26-year-old played two games with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2021 and had two special teams tackles.

OUR OPINION : The Bombers are the overwhelming favorites to win the Gray Cup, which would give them three straight games. Many people see the Redblacks as a highly improved team that will give even the best in the CFL a good challenge. Bombardiers 27, Rougenoirs 17.

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