Looks like Collaros is the man for Bombers with Streveler still hurting
The quarterback question that has been on many people’s minds over the past couple of weeks barely needed to be asked when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers returned to practice on Wednesday.
Zach Collaros, who has played just one game with the Bombers, was taking most of the first-team reps at quarterback, while a still-hurting Chris Streveler was mostly in a backup role.
As if that wasn’t enough evidence that Collaros will get the start in Sunday’s West semifinal at Calgary, Streveler himself cast doubt on whether he’ll be healthy enough to even play.
“If I am able to go, I don’t know how it’s gonna play out, but I’m more than willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Streveler said when asked if he expected the Bombers to deploy a two-quarterback system.
He was then asked if he’d be able to play if the game were tomorrow, instead of Sunday.
“Luckily it’s not,” he said. “I couldn’t give you an answer but I’ll wake up tomorrow, see how I feel, and take it from there.”
Streveler suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury in the Bombers second last game of the regular season, a 37-33 loss in Calgary. The next week, Collaros was at the controls as the Bombers beat the Stamps 29-28 to finish the season at 11-7.
The Bombers still finished third in the West, however, which means they have to go through Calgary and Saskatchewan — both on the road — if they want to get to the Grey Cup.
On the bright side, it looks like they’ll have a veteran quarterback leading the way.
Collaros completed 22 of 28 pass attempts for 221 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception, in his Bombers’ debut on Oct. 25.
The calmness he brought to the quarterback position was as important as anything, his 74 games played in the CFL coming through at a critical moment.
There’s an excellent chance Collaros would be starting even if Streveler were 100% healthy.
“I thought we did a pretty good job executing,” Collaros said. “For me, I thought I did a pretty decent job of seeing what (the Stampeders) were doing. They threw a lot of different looks at us. They’re a very good defence and they disguise things very well, so it was a lot of fun.”
Collaros, 31, gives the Bombers more of a two-pronged attack than they deployed for much of the season. He can throw the ball downfield and has proven to be an accurate passer, which should complement the Bombers outstanding rushing attack.
The Bombers have a terrific offensive line, the league’s leading rusher in Andrew Harris and averaged a staggering 147.9 rushing yards per game this season as a team.
Streveler, if healthy, adds another dimension to that rushing game, as he put up 726 yards on the ground himself, but it seems most likely his contributions will come in spot duty, short yardage situations and a few designed plays.
“For us, just to have Zach playing as well as he played the last game, I don’t want to say it’s a confidence boost for our team because we’ve always been confident in our quarterbacks, but with Zach stepping in, going into the playoffs, we know he can make plays,” Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson said.
“We know he’s a vet and we just want him to go out there and be comfortable and make the plays that he can make.”
Likely to the Bombers advantage, it’s expected to be bitterly cold in Calgary on Sunday — currently the forecast calls for a high of minus-13 C with flurries — which could have a significant effect on the quarterbacks.
Winnipeg’s ground game is perfect for just such conditions, but it can’t be easy for QBs such as Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Collaros and possibly Streveler.
It could be even harder for Collaros, who has been in the Bombers playbook for only a month and has spent little time in game action with his teammates.
“It helps that I’ve played for a while (in the CFL) and I know a lot of these guys,” Collaros said. “There are a lot of vets here, so they know what I’m about, I know what they’re about and it’s been a pretty seamless transition from a relationship standpoint.”
Six weeks ago, Collaros was an inactive player with the Toronto Argonauts, still trying to prove he could come back from concussions suffered late last year and early this year.
Now, he’s the starter of a playoff team in Winnipeg. Could he ever have imagined this scenario?
“Unfortunately in Toronto, we were out of the playoffs so, yeah, I figured I wouldn’t be doing anything this week,” Collaros said with a laugh.
“Maybe go on vacation.”
How about to cold, snowy and beautiful Calgary?
TWO-HEADED QB MONSTER WOULD BE IDEAL
In an ideal world, Blue Bombers coach Mike O’Shea and offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice would be able to throw a two-headed quarterback monster on the Calgary Stampeders.
With veteran Zach Collaros running the offence and stretching the field through the air and Chris Streveler running the football as if he’s a tailback, the Bombers could be a difficult team to stop.
Of course, Streveler is recovering from an ankle injury, so it’s not clear how much he can contribute, but the possibility of him playing certainly will create some problems for the Stampeders’ defence.
“It certainly brings a different feel to the offence when you have different things available,” O’Shea said. “Streveler did a fair bit to put us in position to win games.”
Streveler went 3-5 as the Bombers starter, while they were 7-2 under Matt Nichols and 1-0 with Collaros behind centre.