WYMAN: With Streveler ailing, it's time for Bombers to hand ball to Collaros
You’d need some sort of torture device to get head coach Mike O’Shea to admit it — actually, even that probably wouldn’t work — but all indications are that Zach Collaros will make his Winnipeg Blue Bombers debut on Friday night.
It’s the right play for a team that has virtually no passing attack and needs to see what the newly acquired veteran quarterback can do before the end of the CFL regular season.
The Bombers need to pull out all the stops to have a chance of winning in the playoffs and that should include having Collaros ready to step in when needed, or even potentially start, in the West semifinal.
There’s absolutely no reason to risk further injury to current starter Chris Streveler, who could barely hobble on his right ankle after last Saturday’s loss to the Calgary Stampeders and did not practice Tuesday.
The Bombers have only one more practice this week — a closed affair on Wednesday — before they face the Stampeders again on Friday night at IG Field.
Winnipeg can no longer get first place and is unlikely to earn a home playoff game even if it wins Friday because the Stampeders still have a chance to finish ahead with a win on the final day of the regular season against the 5-12 B.C. Lions.
Sitting Streveler and starting Collaros makes perfect sense.
Of course, O’Shea isn’t going to say that. At least, not yet.
“They’re all options,” O’Shea said of Streveler, Collaros and Sean McGuire on Tuesday.
“(Streveler) had the day off today and we’ll see where that puts us tomorrow.
“You saw how tough he is. He finished the game (in Calgary). He’s been in the playbook and every single game he’s gotten reps. He doesn’t need to practice.”
Collaros, acquired at the trade deadline from the Toronto Argonauts, took all the first-team reps on Tuesday and looked decent despite a howling wind swirling and freezing rain falling at IG Field.
“It feels really good just to be in the huddle,” Collaros said. “Anytime you have the opportunity to play, it’s a great thing. You prepare all week thinking it’s gonna be your shot and you go from there.”
Collaros has now had eight practice sessions with the Bombers and the eight-year CFL veteran is said to have picked up the playbook quickly.
Even if the plan is still to start Streveler in the playoffs, having Collaros ready to share duties or take over if necessary can’t be a bad thing.
Collaros led the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a home playoff appearance last year, though he was unable to play in the West semifinal because of a concussion.
In his first appearance of the season with the Riders this year, he suffered another concussion, on a dangerous hit by Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
Since then he’s been traded twice, first to Toronto and then to Winnipeg.
And yet, here he is, possibly with a chance to play a game that still has meaning in the standings, and potentially earn some playoff action.
“If given the opportunity, it would mean a lot,” Collaros said. “It’s something to reflect on after the season or when I’m done playing.
“It’s basically been an off-season for me. Being able to put the shoulder pads on, the helmet on and going out there and being in the huddle with the guys and doing all those little things that will go away when you’re done playing — you’ve got to cherish those things, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Streveler was battered and bruised after a gutsy performance in the 37-33 loss at Calgary last week. He could barely move on his heavily taped ankle after the game, during which he ran for 85 yards and threw for 134 yards and a touchdown.
“I definitely can’t run the ball like he did the other night,” Collaros said. “That was really impressive and hats off to him for just toughness and will to win.”
No doubt Streveler has shown incredible toughness in his eight games as the starter since Matt Nichols went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.
He moves the football by sheer will and strength.
At the same time, the Bombers’ passing game has fallen to new depths. The Bombers are 3-5 in Streveler’s eight starts and 10-7 overall, after closing August at 8-2.
There are those who believe the Bombers cannot win a playoff game unless the passing game improves and Friday’s loss was a good example of why. In a tight, high-scoring contest, the Bombers needed quick strikes in the waning minutes but simply couldn’t execute. It should not have come as a surprise, given that they haven’t executed in the passing game for most of the season.
Collaros may or may not be able to make a difference, but at least it’s worth a try.
What have the Bombers got to lose?
Collaros feeling confident thanks to veterans on Bombers offence
He’s still very new to the Blue Bombers system, but veteran quarterback Zach Collaros said he’s starting to feel comfortable in his new surroundings.
Having veterans like Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick on the offensive line and Andrew Harris running the football will do that.
“Offensively, it’s a really calming feeling, knowing you’re back there with a guy like Andrew Harris, who isn’t gonna miss a protection,” Collaros said Tuesday. “And the guys we have up front have been playing together for a long time. You can have confidence that you’re out there with a veteran group that loves the game and they’re gonna lay it all out on the line for you.”
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