WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have to fill a pretty big hole Monday in Montreal after the recent trade of CFL sack-leader Alex Hall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Hall's 15 sacks and the Winnipeg pass rush have been bright spots in an otherwise unimpressive season, which sees them flirting with a new yardstick for failure.
The 2-12 Blue Bombers have four games left to play and are in danger of setting a new franchise mark for the worst record in an 18-game season (currently 3-15). The 6-8 Alouettes, meanwhile, can officially eliminate Winnipeg from playoff contention with a win.
The Blue Bombers will use Greg Peach to fill the hole left by Hall's trade but coach Tim Burke said they will also add recent acquisition J.D. Griggs to the end-rush rotation as a designated import.
"It's going to be hard to replace Alex, his ability and his production," Burke said Thursday after practice.
The Bombers returned to the field following a four-day break after Saturday's loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
"I think Greg will do a good job. He's more a try hard and carry your lunchpail to work kind of guy. He's going to go hard all the time and that's how be gets his sacks."
Now in his fifth season in the CFL, the six-foot-three, 255-pound Peach was a mid-season acquisition after he was released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He has been part of the rotation and has three sacks and six tackles this season.
"I approach it the same way I've approached it from day one that I got here, anything the coaches want me to do I'm doing it," he said Thursday. "I'm just excited for the opportunity."
Griggs, at six foot five and 262 pounds, is built a little more like Hall but Burke said they have to see how he plays.
"We won't know until he gets into a game but I like his athleticism," he said. "He reminds me of Alex a lot as an athlete. Probably a little bit stronger than Alex.
"I don't know how good of a speed rusher he is, you know if he's as good as Alex, but the one thing he'll be able to do that Alex could do is bull rush."
The Blue Bombers may not be mathematically out of the post-season yet, but for many players the focus is also on next year as well as Monday in Montreal.
The season hasn't gone well for quarterback Max Hall, for example, but he still thinks he has a future in the CFL and with the Bombers.
"That's why personally I want to play well down the stretch because I know I can be a great quarterback in this league," he said. "And this is an opportunity for me, not exactly the best situation to be thrown into, but it's a great opportunity and I want to take advantage of it."
He said he knows he needs to be more consistent. He's completed 81 of 139 pass attempts for 974 yards and four touchdowns this year.
The Bombers are still waiting for the player they got in exchange for Hall, Canadian offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld, to recover from a leg injury.
"As soon as he's healthy, we're going to try and get him out there," said Burke.