With a short training camp and two pre-season games over the span of six days, the veterans had a real advantage in terms of making an impression for the Calgary Stampeders.
However, even without the benefit of ‘first-teamers’ around him on Sunday night, second-year Canadian Andrew Buckley held his own in the fight for the No. 2 quarterback position with the Stamps.
Coming into camp, the Calgary Dinos product had a bit of a leg up on Stamps newcomers Ricky Stanzi and Mitchell Gale, with the latter at least not new to the CFL, seeing as how he’s familiar with the team and Dave Dickenson’s offence. Someone else probably needed an exceptional performance in the exhibition outings for Buckley to drop down the depth chart, and that didn’t really happen, especially in a 36-35 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday.
Although Buckley entered the contest fourth, the game was tight and he delivered, throwing a strike to rookie Canadian Richard Sindani for a great 24-yard touchdown conversion. Earlier in the game, when Bo Levi Mitchell was still in action, Buckley came in to run the short yardage unit, another good sign that he’s the frontrunner to take that job.
Buckley appears to have grown through his first full off-season as a member of the Stampeders, and he’s shown to be much more comfortable running the offence so far this spring. Over two pre-season games, he went 12-for-15 passing for 140 yards with four rushes for 48 yards and a touchdown along the ground as well.
Against the Eskimos, each of the four Stampeders quarterbacks helped put points on the board. Gale converted a Mitchell-led drive for a TD plunge, while Stanzi entered the game in the third quarter and hooked up with Rory Kohlert for a TD strike of his own on a nice corner route. Gale did lose a fumble though after his pocket collapsed under pressure.
The Stamps coaches didn’t get a great schedule when it comes to evaluations, but at least this is a veteran team, so they mostly know what they have already.
Still, it was good for them to see the likes of defensive tackle Micah Johnson record a sack, right tackle Dan Federkeil get into some action and receiver Marquay McDaniel and running back Jerome Messam doing their thing.
Incumbent return specialist Roy Finch also solidified his position by returning a punt 81 yards, although because he was working against a first pre-season game cover unit from the Eskimos, so maybe that should be taken with a grain of salt.
Of course, it wouldn’t be pre-season without an injury issue, and there is one that will be a blow to the defence. Cordarro Law went down with a leg injury and had to be helped off in obvious anger and frustration. International defensive end is one of the areas where the Stamps have some depth, but big things were expected of Law in a full season back from a long NFL stint. The Stamps sat veteran Charleston Hughes out of the pre-season and gave plenty of youngsters long looks, so now there is a chance for someone to break onto the roster that wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise.
In a complete reversal of usual camps, the Stamps will break camp with a scrimmage on Thursday, and it will be the final chance for players to make an impression before the opening day roster is set for the Grey Cup rematch.
But you have to believe most of the toughest decisions will be made by now.
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