Has Barrin Simpson lost his mind?
After completing his first two practices with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers yesterday, the team's premier free-agent acquisition this winter was feeling rather confident.
The ex-B.C. Lions linebacker said the Bomber defence, which set CFL records in 2005 for most yards and passing yards surrendered in a single season, will be near the top of the statistical pile in 2006.
"We plan to be in the top three, and that's being a little modest," said Simpson. "It's a start."
For the record, "Bomber defence" and "top three" were never uttered in the same sentence last season.
Or top four.
Or top five.
The best the Bombers did in 25 defensive categories last season was sixth, and that happened only three times -- fewest passing touchdowns allowed, fewest sacks allowed and the opposition's average gain per rush.
And now Simpson thinks the Bomber D is going from the outhouse to the penthouse in a matter of months?
Simpson said the talent level on defence is "humongous," and he's confident in new defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall and the rest of the defensive coaches.
Aside from snagging Simpson in the free-agent sweepstakes, the Bombers' other off-season splashes on defence included a trade for halfback Kelly Malveaux from Montreal, bringing back defensive end Ron Warner from the NFL, signing free-agent safety Donnavan Carter and claiming linebacker Kyries Hebert off waivers from Ottawa.
Unfortunately for the Blue and Gold, Hebert is appealing that waiver claim and may never play for the club.
"I'm hoping Kyries comes on in, once he gets everything cleared up with what's going on," said Simpson. "As players, we understand some of the stuff that goes on, but I would like to see him here in camp.
"Kyries is a great player, one of the up-and-coming players with a lot of ability and a great special teams player. We need him."
In addition to the Hebert headache, veteran defensive tackle Joe Fleming retired four days ago.
Add it all up, and the question remains: Is the defence going to be good enough?
Simpson was impressed by what he saw yesterday during the first day of camp.
"We were flying around," he said. "That's the key to being a great defence: You gotta get everybody around the ball, and we've got some veteran guys who have a pretty good understanding of what's going on."
Simpson's enthusiasm is boundless. When he was walking out of the Bomber office the other day, he ran into GM Brendan Taman.
"Congratulations on putting together a championship team," Simpson yelled to the GM.
He stood by that comment yesterday.
"As the days keep rolling, we're still working to get closer and closer, day by day, to that championship," he said. "That's the goal."