Chris Jones has been on the job for a little over a 2 months. In that time he has managed to tear down the roster to little more than a smattering of names and systematically build it back up into something resembling the roster of a professional football team again. While Jones became an ogre of sorts around here during the whole "tearing down" part. He has won back many people in the rebuilding phase particularly over the past week where he used free agency to dramatically improve our roster.
Now I will remind you that if performance during free agency correlated to performance in the season, Winnipeg would not be the perennial pile of failure they currently are. All the moves Jones has made don't mean a thing if they don't translate into wins come the actual season. But if you are like me, you have to like the way Jones is going about building our roster.
Here are some numbers to consider about the 45 players Jones has brought in (free agents or pending FAs re-signed):
- The average age of the players is 26.
- Only 2 players over the age of 30 have been added and both are Canadian (Bagg and Andrew Jones)
- 17 Canadians have been added (now have 32 total under contract)
- Chris Jones obviously has an affinity for family members as he has added 3 Jones (Matt, Greg, Andrew)
- He also apparently likes Campbell as he has added 3 of those (Bruce, Michael and Tevaughn)
- And of course the average height of players is like 7'1
There is a lot to like about Jones' approach. First he is building a young core. Second he is clearly focusing on building Canadian depth. Not only that but he is just adding 5th round schlubs but top end impact players like Chambers and Capicciotti (something we have been lacking in recent years). Third he is methodically addressing areas of need: 2 solid defensive ends and an impact MLB (hallmarks of any good defense); depth behind key Canadian positions (Ainsworth, Newman, A Jones); playmakers on offence both size and speed; guys who play well on special teams. You can just tell he has a blueprint of what he needs for a successful team and is going out and getting the pieces he needs to build that. There haven't really been any head scratching moves. I personally find the Gainey one odd but we have a distinct lack of veteran DBs so its not completely whacky. I still assume we will find someone better via recruiting but I see the value on not blinding assuming that will happen.
We have even dabbled in trading draft picks (something we bemoaned the previous GM for doing) but at least this time we aren't trading ourselves out of the 2nd and 3rd round like we usually do. We have traded a 4th this year for a potential starting LT. Unlikely you find anything of that impact in the 4th rd. We also traded a 4th next year for a Canadian player who was just drafted in the 3rd round last year and managed to earn playing time as a starter. Again, its unlikely we could get something drastically better in the 4th rd next year. To me those are most justifiable moves than the trading down to get Cory Watson and then trading down again to get rid of him.
Jones' work is by no means finished as I would argue there are still areas of concern. Our interior O-line depth is lacking and it would be nice if we had players to push the starters. Our secondary certainly doesn't give me ton of confidence yet. Hollins and Brooks may be able to lock down the HBs spots but one is a second year player and one hasn't played in the league in a while so far from a sure thing. I like our starting 4 D-line but aside from Ainsworth I see a lack of depth. We all know I'm not a Bartel fan so I'm hoping some punting competition is coming. And lastly we still need QBs. Blindly assuming we have a competent back-up has left us with the likes of Suneri in the past. I think Smith is better than Sunseri (now there's an understatement) but I want him to earn the back-up spot by beating out competent players rather than by default.
The draft will address some of this, as will the ongoing recruiting efforts down south. I also think we need to keep in mind that it's unlikely Jones can build exactly what he wants in year 1. It took him 2 in Edmonton so while I expect him to return us to a competitive team this year, I don't think we will peak until at least year 2.
As a said in the beginning though, I am a big fan of the direction Jones has taken so far.