What we’ve learned about the Stamps after two weeks

Although they haven’t quite formed an identity, the Calgary Stampeders are starting to come together after a pair of entertaining outings against the Ottawa RedBlacks.

We knew the Stamps could be an offensive team, based on who they returned from last season, but as with the case in every season, this group should have a character that is different from previous years.

If the Stamps are going to dominate the West Division like they did last year and in previous seasons, some things will probably need to change, although escaping two close contests with a win and a tie is a good showing from a Grey Cup rematch and rematch of the rematch.

Here are some things that stood out in the first two games:

• Defensive lineman Micah Johnson is still hugely underrated in this league. His name doesn’t often come up when talking about end-of-season accolades, but his ability to control the centre of the line can not be overstated. In the second meeting, he plugged the middle and created plenty of pressure, registering three huge sacks of Trevor Harris. For a mainly defensive tackle, picking up three sacks is definitely a career night. The Stamps have lost some defensive leaders this season, with halfback Brandon Smith and linebacker Deron Mayo out with injuries right now, but Johnson is one of those ‘carry the team on his back’ types.

• In his third season, Canadian receiver Lemar Durant has become an important part of the offence. In the two games, he’s caught nine passes for 168 yards a touchdown. When the Stamps needed a big play late in the home outing Thursday night, Bo Levi Mitchell went deep to Durant and he hauled in a 48-yarder to ice the game. The Stamps haven’t had a big-time impact Canadian in the receiving corps for several years but Durant looks like he has the tools to become just that. He’s really making them look good for picking him in the second round two years ago.

• It could be the adjustments on the offensive line, or just a slow start, but running back Jerome Messam  isn’t running well right now. Messam didn’t have much going on against the RedBlacks, although his final numbers turned out OK due to a couple of first-down runs late in the second outing. Messam managed 51 yards on the ground, but on 14 carries for an average of 3.6 per handoff. There were times he looked tentative to step into the hole, or maybe no hole emerged. It certainly didn’t help that road grader Shane Bergman went out early with an injury. The Stamps are using an international at centre (Ucambre Williams) while Canadians Spencer Wilson (left) and Dan Federkeil (right) are manning the tackle spots. Even with a ‘slow’ start, Messam is on pace for more than 1,000 yards, so maybe we’re just splitting hairs.

• Rene Paredes has a problem with converts. Although the outstanding kicker made two converts in the opener, he missed three times in the return outing. He missed a chance to win the first game by going wide right on a 37-yarder in overtime. The missed converts didn’t come back to hurt the Stamps, but those 32-yarders from the middle of the field seem to stump Paredes, who is still the kicker you want with the game on the line. Paredes is being forced to use a new holder this season as Andrew Buckley took over for Drew Tate, so maybe it’s a matter of comfort level.

• The Stamps secondary has some work to do. Obviously there are changes with the veteran unit due to Smith being out and placed on the six-game injured list. Joe Burnett moved over to corner and was beat soundly by the dynamic Diontae Spencer on a deep bomb with less than three minutes left. Ciante Evans will probably need some time to get acclimatized to the halfback role Smith made his own for 10 years, while Tommie Campbell made his season debut but needs to shake off some rust before he returns to the all-star form of his rookie season. Even the steady Jamar Wall missed an open tackle on a Brad Sinopoli touchdown reception so there is work to be done here.

• As much as the secondary struggled, the defence as a whole has shown the ability to make game-changing plays. Middle linebacker Alex Singleton has a nose for the ball. He recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown (although the play was called back), and then he forced a fumble that was returned for a Maleki Harris major that actually counted. Just like the opener, when the game turned on a Wall forced fumble, the Stamps defence contributes a game-changer once in a while and can help put points on the board, much like they did last year.

• The Roy Finch suspension created an opportunity for others, and boy did Tunde Adeleke ever take advantage of it. The 25th overall draft pick was inserted on punt returns for Finch and he promptly took back one 71 yards for a major. With a spin and high step, Adeleke took off from coverage and couldn’t be caught. The Stamps were hoping the 21-year-old would perform as advertised and he didn’t disappoint when given the chance. As a Canadian, it should be easy for him to stay on the roster, which gives the Stamps an extra weapon when and if Finch gets activated.

• There was no DaVaris Daniels in the second outing, but the Stamps didn’t miss a beat. The go-to guy right now is Kamar Jorden, who has come into his own after a long wait from the Stamps. Jorden made a great leaping grab for the first of two touchdowns and was solidly open a lot of the night. The actual replacement for Daniels, Marken Michel, ran a great route for a touchdown reception of his own. Obviously the Stamps want Daniels in there long-term, but it’s great to see their depth is shining through.

• The special teams units had an up and down night on Thursday. They blocked a punt, but allowed a punt-return TD, then scored a punt return TD of their own. Add in Paredes shakiness on converts, and it was a roller-coaster ride on teams.

• Buckley managed to score on a quarterback sneak … from 60 yards out. It was a bit of a bizarre play, but the second-year QB’s athleticism gives him a chance at making something happen when he has the ball.

• Blame a long weekend or a Thursday night, but the home opener attendance wasn’t great. A crowd of 24,613 might be great in other cities but it’s disappointing in Calgary. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are up next however, and it’s on a Saturday night in late July. If that atmosphere is lacklustre, then there is a real problem, but the chances of that are pretty slim.

Ian Busby

Ian Busby

Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.
Ian Busby
Ian Busby
About Ian Busby (175 Articles)
Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.

19 Comments on What we’ve learned about the Stamps after two weeks

  1. Horsieland // July 3, 2017 at 9:57 am //

    This team while not spectacular found ways to get it done on Thursday night. The class of the league. If we can avoid too many injuries and get guys back this team will be world class. This team, with all it’s injuries still managed to start 8 Canadians and only 1 import on O-line. Hopefully Thorn and Grossman can go Friday. Can you imagine the ratio options this team will have once Smith and Turner get in there?
    Secondary is a concern. I don’t understand why Evans is playing inside. He was an all star corner last season. Why don’t they move him back to corner, Burnett back to SAM and Levels at inside spot until Smith is back?

    • Found ways to win? More like stayed steady & waited to capitalize on many of the RedBlacks’ blunders in game 2. Stamps are still the top of the league thanks to Hufnagel keeping the roster deep enough to be able to replace injuries with quality players & an O-line that keeps Mitchell well protected most nights that gives him all the time in the world to pick his spots. I find Mitchell is a weak spot on those nights when the O-line has a bad night. He doesn’t really have the grit like Mike Reilly to scramble out of the pocket & make great passes under the pressure which cost them the Grey Cup last year.

      • George Porge // July 4, 2017 at 11:53 pm //

        “Found ways to win? More like stayed steady & waited to capitalize on many of the RedBlacks’ blunders in game 2.”

        What part of that is different than “found ways to win”? Good teams are patient and recognize opportunities. Great teams make those opportunities happen.

  2. Scottsask // July 3, 2017 at 10:31 am //

    Still the best team in the west until proven otherwise.

  3. agreed. Stamps are the team to beat. Until someone knocks them off their pedestal, they can lay that claim

  4. Maybe they’re still the team to beat until proven otherwise, but I’d say EDM / BC and CGY are all very close to each other … and possibly even in that order. If talent is that close, it could be a season decided by game day tactics, lucky turnovers etc.

  5. Injuries are the key. Hamilton has some critical players out – their 3 best DB’s & Tolliver. Tolliver is same size as Carter & in his 2 years has almost identical stats. Coming to Regina w/o some big weapons. Then there’s Esks. Lost White, then Ojo before season began last 2 years, Reilly for tail end of ’14 & in opener in ’15. Now Greenwood, Sherritt & White again. The good teams make it work. But it would be nice if the Stamps could stay healthy on the OL & the other teams mentioned got a break as well.

  6. CFLs Best since 1990 // July 3, 2017 at 1:49 pm //

    The upcoming game against Winnipeg is HUGE in how the standings will turn for the first half of the season. Winnipeg wins at home and goes to 2-0, while the Stamps fall to 1-1-1, making the West a tighter race with more teams in the hunt for first. Stamps win to go to 2-0-1 and drop Bombers to 1-1 sets the table for another run for first, and leaves the Bombers on the outside looking in. Winnipeg looked good against Saskatchewan, so it will be a big challenge for the Stamps. Remember, however, that it took them a couple of games to get into their season last year, and then they started blowing teams away. I’m hoping for a repeat of that this year…

  7. I wouldn’t be worried about the Stamps. Reigning MOP at QB, reigning MOC at RB, reigning RotY at WR, reigning sack king at DE, reigning CotY as HC, etc, etc, etc. oh yeah, and the key to it all: Huf. Hands down the best GM in the league for a decade (sorry, Wally).

    • Don’t forget reigning Chokers at the Grey Cup since you’re at it…

      • Horsieland // July 3, 2017 at 8:04 pm //

        lol same old song and dance. Raptor as a rider fan you are so far out of your league even discussing playoff disappointments. Riders simply aren’t and never have been good enough.
        Now your next argument will be how much better your stadium is…yawn.
        bottom line:
        stamps 3 out of 4 points
        riders 0 out of 4 points
        Argument over !!!!!

  8. Jeff259 // July 4, 2017 at 1:58 am //

    The team will be fine as usual, but will anyone in Calgary really care. The crowd for the season opener was more typical than atypical. Attendance in Calgary is a real issue, but gets overlooked b/c of bigger issues in Vancouver, Toronto and even Montreal. With the type of perennial winner the Stamps have year after year, there should be no concerns in putting bums in the seats, but that is not the case. Part of it has to do with the dilapidated state of McMahon stadium, but Calgary as a whole is not a great sports city in turns of supporting teams.

    • Horsieland // July 4, 2017 at 12:26 pm //

      GET OFF IT… the rider song and dance of Great fan support,while everywhere else is lousy really holds no water when you are the only team in the league with 0 points after 2 games

  9. They seem to do a good job in attending Flames games.

  10. Jeff259 // July 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm //

    You are right Joe. Calgary is a hockey town, but even the Flames had serious issues with attendance throughout the latter part of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Their 2004 run to the final changed that. You couldn’t give Flames tickets away before that.

    With respect to the Stamps though, I have commented here before that the game day experience is lacking. In the 17 years that I have lived here and been attending games, nothing has changed with it except now they have the “worlds fastest cow” running at half time. With the slow pace of the game with the number of penalties, tv time outs, challenges, there has to be more in place to entertain and keep fans engaged throughout a game.

    Unfortunately, the Stamps only draw well in two situations, when the Riders visit and on Labour Day.

    • Horsieland // July 4, 2017 at 12:28 pm //

      Crowds at McMahon when riders play have been deccreasing with the poor performance in recent years

  11. Jeff259 // July 5, 2017 at 1:12 am //

    Something needs to change moving forward. I love the Stamps and hate to miss a game, but choosing between watching it on tv versus going in person I will typically choose the former. A new or a drastically improved stadium would change that for me. I work with a former season ticket holder of almost 20 years who she, her husband and friends gave up their seats before this season. The stamps offered a jersey to keep their tickets. The field house concept that the Calgary sports and entertainment were suggesting is not a good option for a football stadium and I am glad it did not move forward. Calgary needs a field house badly, but should not come at the expense of stamps who need a new place to play. Besides Montreal, every city in the league has a new or refurbished stadium to play in and Calgary should be no different. Unfortunately, the main focus will always be on the Flames and in a head to head competition the Stamps will ALWAYS lose in Calgary.

Comments are closed.