WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are working on rebuilding their depleted receiving corps this season, but veteran Clarence Denmark says the building blocks are all there.
“The whole corps this year is probably one of the best since I’ve been here,” he said Monday after the second day of training camp.
Denmark is entering his fifth season with the Bombers and led the team’s receivers with 900 yards in 2013 as Terrence Edwards missed several games due to injury and the previous season’s leader, Chris Matthews, hardly played at all.
It was a tough season all around for the Bombers as a series of quarterbacks failed to get the offence going and they finished last in the CFL at 3-15.
As the team looked to rebuild, the Bombers traded Canadian receiver Jade Etienne to Saskatchewan for quarterback Drew Willy and Kito Poblah to the B.C. Lions for defensive back Korey Banks. On the import side, Edwards retired and Matthews moved on to the NFL.
Edwards, who spent seven of his 10 CFL seasons with the Bombers, is going to be missed, said Denmark.
“We just have to step up and fill those shoes. Terrence is a great guy and a great teacher and just being behind him all those years and watching him, how you prepare for the game, how he is in meetings, was a good experience.”
To help fill the gap, the team picked up some proven import talent in free agent Nick Moore from B.C. and have other promising players in camp like six-foot-six Mario Urruttia.
But they also need to bolster their Canadian talent base and head coach Mike O’Shea said it would be ideal to return to the same ratio they had of Canadians and imports.
“To have some sort of consistency in that regard would be ideal (as) it allows you to work on other areas,” he said. “Once again, it’s Day 2 of training camp and it doesn’t always work out that way.”
While he said they believe they can start two Canadian receivers, a key to maintaining that number is their ability able to function on special teams.
“We have to get them in a game in special teams also,” he said. “Special teams are a huge part of our game especially for backups — especially for Canadian backups. They need to be able to take pride in that and work and get the job done.”
Winnipeg already has Cory Watson and Rory Kohlert on its roster and they’ve been joined at camp by prospects Taylor Renaud and Julian Feoli-Gundino. Renaud is from Winnipeg and this is his second camp. The Blue Bombers released receiver Jordan Brescacin of Tecumseh, Ont., and signed Winnipeg’s Brett Carter on Monday.
Denmark says the competition at the receiver position is going to be tough but he’s looking to crack the 1,000-yard mark this season. He knows Moore has already proven he can do that, after a breakout 2013 in B.C. that saw him hit 1,105 yards and rank third in the league.
“It’s possible there’ll be two of us up there in the 1,000-yard range this year,” he said.
By joining the Bombers, meanwhile, Moore has reconnected with Willy and is looking forward to playing on the same team with him. They trained together, prepared for the NFL draft together and kept in touch after they went undrafted in 2009.
“We’re going to come out and work every day and get on the same page,” he said.
He’s looking to build on his success in B.C., when he finally had the playing time needed to bring it all together.
“It felt like it was coming together and also a sense of comfortableness,” he said. “Being out there. Knowing the quarterback, the quarterback knowing you, knowing you’re going to be at the right spot at the right time.”
© The Canadian Press, 2014