Brady Oliveira doesn’t need to be Andrew Harris, but he does need to be better.
Oliveira’s 17 yards on 10 carries in Week 1’s 19-17 win over the Ottawa Redblacks was the fewest rushing yards by a Blue Bombers starting running back since Aug. 25, 2018 when Harris was held to 13 yards in a 39-26 loss to Calgary. Johnny Augustine wasn’t any better as his three carries on Friday went for a total of 10 yards.
“It was tough sledding there. Obviously, it wasn’t pretty,” Oliveira told the Free Press after Wednesday’s closed practice at IG Field.
“It was a grimy and ugly win, but we were still able to get that win.”
To be fair to Oliveira and Augustine, Ottawa’s defensive line played a sound game and managed to clog up the running lanes.
“We just didn’t play physical enough,” said guard Patrick Neufeld.
“Kudos to them as well, they had a really good plan. They did some really good things that kept us at bay and we just didn’t get the momentum kind of going. But I think ultimately, we’re going to hold ourselves accountable. We just didn’t play physical enough.”
Oliveira exploded out of the gate in last season’s opener against Hamilton in relief of an injured Harris as he carried the ball 22 times for 126 yards. The following two weeks against the Toronto Argonauts, Oliveira could only muster 57 yards with 20 total carries. His next start didn’t come until Week 11 against Edmonton, when Harris was injured again, and Oliveira was sharp, receiving 16 handoffs 105 yards.
“On Friday I felt like I wasn’t able to get into that rhythm. And then with last year, starting some games and then not and then when Andrew goes down to stay ready and get in there, it definitely is tough mentally, but I mean, obviously this year is going to be a lot different,” said Oliveira, a University of North Dakota product chosen 14th overall by the Bombers in the 2019 CFL Draft.
“At the running back position, it makes it a lot easier as you get more carries and things start slowing down a little bit more. We’re just going to take it week by week, game by game.”
Oliveira closed out 2021 with pedestrian numbers in his final three games. If you combine those totals with Friday’s result, Oliveira is averaging 3.4 yards per carry off of 146 yards on 43 carries in his last four games.
“There’s probably a plethora of reasons. We don’t really worry too much about stats like that. We just want to have success on first down and success in the run game where we’re averaging more than that in the yardage on first or second down or whenever we’re carrying the ball,” Neufeld said.
“But ultimately, it’s making sure we have our blocks right and we’re playing physical. We’re not really worried about numbers as much because you can rush for 200 yards and lose a game like we did last year against Calgary (in Week 16). Ultimately, those stats don’t matter. What matters is getting one more point than our opponent.”
Offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce made it clear on Wednesday his confidence in the 24-year-old ball carrier from Winnipeg hasn’t wavered.
“You know, it’s early. Brady’s doing an excellent job. We got backs we believe in and who we trust and they’ve shown that in the past. We’ll be all right,” Pierce said.
“… (Brady’s) physical tools are very prevalent. You can see what he can do. I think with most younger guys, with more reps the more consistent you get out there and you tend to get more comfortable. We’re excited for Brady.”
Oliveira and the offensive line will have a chance to rebound against the Redblacks on Friday in a rematch at Ottawa’s TD Place.
“We’re gonna get things rolling this Friday,” Oliveira said.
WHITEOUT COMING TO IG FIELD
The Bombers are having a good ol’ fashioned whiteout on June 24 at IG Field.
The club will wear their white away jerseys when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats come to town as a nod to what the Bombers wore in their back-to-back Grey Cup wins over the Tabbies. The Bombers are encouraging fans in the stands to also wear white.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.