Winnipeg Blue Bombers take many veterans for 1st pre-season clash

Saturday won’t be an off day for most of the veteran players on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after all.

Usually teams rest many of their experienced players for their first pre-season test, so it’s a little bit of a surprise the Bombers are taking a veteran-laden squad to Edmonton for Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Elks.

The Bombers are set to dress 64 players. How long the vets will play is the real question, probably not for more than a quarter.

Receiver Dalton Schoen and defensive tackle Jake Thomas were both left behind. Linebacker Adam Bighill, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, running back Brady Oliveira, and defensive backs Winston Rose and Desmond Lawrence are all nicked up and will also sit out after missing time in training camp.

Zach Collaros, Nic Demski, Kenny Lawler, Willie Jefferson, and Stanley Bryant are just some of the veterans who are on the roster.

The Bombers five returning starters on the offensive line are making the trip to Alberta. All four of their quarterbacks will also dress, but Collaros is unlikely to see much playing time, if any.

Saturday’s game will also be the first chance to see recent first round draft pick Anthony Bennett. The defensive lineman will make his blue and gold debut after being selected eighth overall.

Head coach Mike O’Shea is looking forward to seeing the recent addition in a game situation after nearly two weeks of practices.

“You’d like to see him, once again, against people he doesn’t really know,” said O’Shea. “He’s been practicing against the same guys.

“He’s more of a natural pass rusher, right. I watched him more closely the other day, and his hand placements, and his understanding of where the offensive linemen are going to put their hands and how he’s already on top of that. With his hands, it’s pretty neat to see.”

The club will also get a good look at how their kicking competition is shaking down as they’re sitting their two experienced kickers in both Sergio Castillo and Marc Liegghio.

Instead, they’ll dress their three rookie kickers in Chandler Staton, Jamieson Sheahan, and Karl Schmitz.

You might see the head coach make a few unusual in game decisions on special teams to see a few more kicks and punts.

“We got some competition in that area,” O’Shea said. “So, now what are you doing on third and short? We’d like to stick with the routine and go for it. Or are you kicking cause you want to see your kickers? I don’t know how it’s going to unfold, but we certainly need to see our guys in a game situation with the other team rushing hard at us.”

The Elks have already played their first exhibition game, getting beat by the Calgary Stampeders 29-24 on Monday.

Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 3:00 pm Manitoba time.

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