CFL Pass

Fleet-footed Bombers' sophomore Streveler working on becoming well-rounded quarterback

An argument can be made that there is no more intriguing player on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster than Chris Streveler.

The 24-year-old quarterback from the Chicago area had a very strong rookie campaign last year, starting in Week 1, and playing a role in the offence all season long.

With his ability to throw and run the football, escape pressure and lower his shoulder to gain yardage, Streveler looks like a future CFL starting quarterback.

For most observers it’s not a matter of if, but when, he takes over as the starter for the Bombers or another team in the league.

He’ll enter this season as the No. 2 quarterback behind Matt Nichols and is expected to reprise his role as an offensive weapon. He threw for 11 touchdowns and ran for 10 in 2018 and had the third most rushing yards among all CFL quarterbacks.

If he has a similar season, the Bombers will have a difficult decision to make, as Streveler will be a potential free agent and Nichols will still be under contract.

So it’s fair to say that this is a pivotal time for Streveler and a Bombers organization that has developed precious few quarterback recruits into starters over the last 40 years.

If there’s a question mark regarding Strevler it’s this: Can he prove he can be a pure passer game in and game out and not just an improviser with an ability to be elusive?

Streveler himself has been quoted as saying he wants to improve his passing, but he believes some people have taken that out of context.

“As a quarterback, you always want to improve your passing, you’re always trying to get better,” said Streveler, who played just one quarter in the first game of the pre-season last Friday against Edmonton and went 2-for-6 for 15 yards, while rushing twice for 34 yards.

“I think people have kind of blown that up and said ‘Oh well, he can’t pass.’ That’s not what I meant. I meant I want to continue to become more polished and go through my reads a little better.”

One thing is certain — Streveler is a real threat when he runs the football.

He ran for 441 yards last season and has a knack for extending plays that look to be breaking down.

By no means does he want to be type cast as running quarterback, however.

“I definitely don’t ever go into a play thinking, ‘OK, I’m gonna run it on this play,’” Streveler said. “You’ve got to go through your reads and then if things break down, it’s definitely a tool that you have in your toolbox. If things don’t look right or things are breaking down, you can incorporate that into your game.”

“I’m never saying on any particular play, ‘I can’t wait to run.’ You’re a quarterback and however you can put a drive together and move the ball, that’s your job.”

It remains to be seen how Streveler might perform as a full-time starter and for now he’s a strong complement to the less-mobile Nichols.

Streveler can run certain packages designed by offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice that catch opposing defences off guard. Some of them are designed running plays that are made more effective by the fact that Streveler has shown the ability to throw downfield.

You get the sense that Streveler knows his place in the Bombers pecking order and his simply trying to continue to learn and become more well-rounded as he grows in the Canadian game.

“His quarter, plus camp, has shown that, like we talked about him doing in the off-season, he’s been preparing to be the No. 1 and working hard to be better than he was the year before,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said.

“We know he was very good the year before so he’s come into camp and shown us that the items he wanted to work on, he worked on really hard.”

While Streveler says he doesn’t want to “overuse or rely” on his scrambling ability, O’Shea doesn’t see that as an issue.

“I think he’s pretty damn good,” O’Shea said. “His style of play and his game are very effective for him and for us. If it was a case where he’s missing touchdowns all over the field, you would show him those and he would learn from them, but that’s not the case. He’s gained enough experience to know the times to stand in and throw and the times to take off and go. He’s very effective in that regard.”

Nichols will play in Bombers final pre-season tune-up

Blue Bombers No. 1 quarterback Matt Nichols wasn’t sure after practice Monday if he’d be playing a lot, a little or not at all in Thursday’s final CFL pre-season game in Saskatchewan.

Head coach Mike O’Shea was able to answer at least one of those questions a few minutes later.

“He’s gonna play,” O’Shea said. “He’s expecting reps and he’ll get them.”

Nichols did not play in the Bombers pre-season opener last Friday against Edmonton, but hoped to use this week’s game as a springboard into the season opener on June 15 in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.

So it remains to be seen just how much playing time Nichols will get and how much will go to backups Chris Streveler, Bryan Bennett and Sean McGuire.

O’Shea said it’s just a matter of how much the coaching staff feels Nichols needs and how much Nichols feels he needs. Could O’Shea leave it all up to Nichols?

“He wouldn’t do that because he knows I would choose to play the whole game,” Nichols said.

— Wyman