5 Things To Know For 2024: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

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Four straight trips to the Grey Cup. Three straight first place finishes in the West Division. An established winning culture. A core group chock full of Hall of Famers.

This is what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have built over the last five-plus years. And as such, the Blue Bombers enter 2024 with the highest of expectations: a third Grey Cup title in five years. Anything else will be classified a failure in the Manitoba capital.

Even with a number of notable roster subtractions, Winnipeg is bringing back the most important members of its core. That’s why no one will be surprised if they’re contesting a fifth straight Grey Cup in Vancouver this November.

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Chris Streveler (left) is back in Blue and Gold and will look to add unique wrinkles to the Bombers’ offence (Bluebombers.com)

A TRIUMPHANT RETURN?

Knowing the attire he donned for Winnipeg’s 2019 Grey Cup parade, it’s not that hard to picture Chris Streveler riding horseback into Princess Auto Stadium this week, is it? And even with a slightly more inconspicuous arrival, Streveler’s return to the Blue Bombers isn’t any less significant.

After four seasons south of the border, Streveler returns to Winnipeg and remains one of the most unique players in the CFL. If you remember, Streveler co-led the league with 12 rushing touchdowns in 2019 and threw for over 1,500 yards and eight majors over the course of eight starts.

Of course, that was all before Zach Collaros took over for the Bombers. Two Collaros Most Outstanding Player awards later, Streveler returns to Winnipeg’s quarterback room to supplement the league’s benchmark at the position. I can’t wait to see how offensive coordinator Buck Pierce uses Streveler’s versatile skillset to compliment Collaros in this offence.

SIGNIFICANT DEPARTURES

Even though Winnipeg retained Oliveira and Schoen, this team has also been conditioned to big name goodbyes over the last three or four winters. And after a fourth trip to the big game, that was the case again this off-season.

Whether due to lucrative offers elsewhere or the team’s desire to go in a different direction, the Blue Bombers won’t have the likes of Demerio Houston, Jermarcus Hardrick, Dakota Prukop, Janarion Grant, Winston Rose, and Greg McCrae back next season. And that’s where general manager Kyle Walters and his football operations team comes into play.

Winnipeg has done a stellar job of identifying talent and market inefficiencies in this era of Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea. With their core group as the high-level constant, the Bombers have supplemented brilliantly during this stretch of success. I’m not sure why we’d expect anything different entering 2024.

SECURING THE DYNAMIC DUO

Sometimes sacrifices have to be made in a cap world. But in the cases of running back Brady Oliveira and receiver Dalton Schoen, saying goodbye wasn’t a good outcome for anyone. After all, we’re talking about two talents discovered by the Bombers who have both developed into amongst the very best at their positions.

Yes, negotiations went longer than some on the outside expected, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Knowing the raises both Schoen and Oliveira were looking at, settling on the right number for both sides was going to be a process. But now the deals are done and this dynamic offensive duo can get back to work.

Oliveira is coming off the CFL’s best rushing season in a decade with 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns on a staggering 260 carries. Still just 26, it’s fair to expect a similar workload and similar production from Oliveira this year. Then there’s Schoen, who’s racked up almost 2,700 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in his first two professional seasons. What does Year 3 have in store for one of the league’s most dynamic receivers?

THE END OF ERAS

Two names we haven’t mentioned yet: Jackson Jeffcoat and Mike Miller. Both players announced their retirement during the off-season, ending long, impressive careers in Blue and Gold.

Since arriving in the CFL for the 2017 season, Jeffcoat has been an edge rushing menace and finishes his career with 38 sacks in 78 appearances, all with Winnipeg. It’s going to be strange not seeing and talking about “The Texas Connection” Jeffcoat had made up with Willie Jefferson since 2019.

Miller’s retirement was slightly less surprising, knowing he missed the 2023 campaign due to injury. In saying that, we’re still talking about one of the greatest special teams players in league history. The two-time West Division All-Stars retires as the all-time leader in special teams tackles with 226. For fans in Winnipeg, though, Miller isn’t going anywhere; he officially joined the team’s coaching staff as special teams coordinator in January.

GOING YOUNGER

After eight stellar seasons with the Blue Bombers, Richie Hall has stepped away as defensive coordinator. That immediately opened the door for Jordan Younger, who takes the helm at DC for the first time in his career. Hall is staying on with Winnipeg as a defensive assistant, which can only be an asset for everyone involved.

In Younger, though, the Bombers are promoting one of the game’s rising stars. The former ballhawk as a player has spent the last five years under Hall as Winnipeg’s defensive backs coach, a position he also held for two seasons prior in Toronto. Younger had drawn reported interest elsewhere, which helped facilitate his move up the ranks with the Bombers.

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