It’s an obvious talking point, even if there doesn’t appear to be even a morsel of meat on this particular bone. Still, a common narrative continued to play out this week as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were quizzed repeatedly about facing a Calgary Stampeders quarterback not named Bo Levi Mitchell, what with Jake Maier scheduled to make his second CFL start Sunday at IG Field.
That narrative went along the lines of this… Will the Bombers bring more pressure against the rookie pivot? Is there a danger in the Bombers taking the Stampeders lightly, given it will be Maier and not Mitchell behind centre?
And so on and so on…
Here’s the thing about all that: a team being guided by Mike O’Shea won’t fall into that trap for any number of reasons but, primarily this week, because they were thumped last Saturday by the Toronto Argonauts.
“He’s not a back-up, he’s a starter,” said O’Shea of Maier on Friday, during a media Zoom call following practice. “It’s our job as a defence to put pressure on any quarterback no matter how many games experience they have. But, make no mistake about it, he is the starter.”
It’s the same reason the Bombers had so much respect when Nick Arbuckle replaced Mitchell for a spell in 2019 and – it’s worth noting – even way back when Mitchell made his first CFL start and lit up the Bombers. After all, the Stamps – led by two former QBs in GM John Hufnagel and head coach Dave Dickenson — have long been a QB factory.
“Calgary… that staff has been together for what, 10 plus years?,” began Bombers defensive back Alden Darby Friday. “They’ve been together for so long in that system that it doesn’t matter if it’s a rookie or a veteran, they’ve got a plug and play system over there.”
“You’ve got to respect them as such and you’ve got to understand and know that’s a good team over there and you don’t want to take them lightly no matter who’s hiking, who’s throwing the ball, who’s throwing the ball… rookie, veteran or not you’d better understand that they are the Stampeders, that staff has been together for a long time and they are a plug and play system.
“Very good team, well-disciplined and very talented across the board. And Jake Maier did throw for what, 88 touchdowns in college? He has a nose for the end zone, so you can’t take him lightly.”
Darby, the former Argo acquired in a training camp trade after the season-ending Achilles injury to Mercy Maston, got a lot of work this week at the ‘Dime’ spot in the Bombers’ secondary. His place there won’t be confirmed until the depth chart is revealed on Saturday, but his return to the field ends a long absence away from action.
“I’m very excited, whatever the status may or may not be, just waking up and having the chance to play football, to play the game I love and been playing since I was a kid,” he said. “Just that in itself is enough for me. But to possibly have the opportunity to play this weekend is huge for me – I haven’t played a game since November 2nd, 2019. We’ll see how things may go the next few days.”
Also worth noting is the fact that running back Andrew Harris, after splitting reps with Brady Oliveira at Wednesday’s practice (Thursday’s was closed) primarily watched Friday’s session. As well, kicker Tyler Crapigna was listed Friday on the injury report as having a hamstring injury and he did not practice.
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