This is a very good team. I know they didn't rise to the challenge of playoff urgency last year but their statistical success was extreme. And yes, there is a degree of truth that statistics don't always convey the whole picture, but they are accurate indicators of what has improved and what the priority is to improve.
For the Stampeders, there is little to find a discouraging word about. Here are the categories of pure football efficiency that the Stampeders finished first in compared to the other eight teams in the league last year: points scored, 30 per game; net offense, 383 per game; rushing yards, 141 per game; fewest quarterback sacks allowed; best second to first conversion rate; most quarterback sacks on defence; fewest giveaways, only 27 over 18 games; and tied with the Roughriders with the best takeaway/giveaway ratio at +19.
Really, the only two areas of concern are punt and kick returns and red zone defence in which Calgary finished seventh best. This is a very good team.
Quarterback will be an interesting battle. It should be a battle between the youth and arm skill of Bo Levi Mitchell and the intensity with determination of Drew Tate. Mitchell has youth on his side, Tate has the experience; and for Tate a surprising amount of experience. This is now his eighth year in the league and now is the time, but I said that at this time last year too.
They are different types of quarterbacks and personalities. Tate is kind of confrontational and aggressive while Mitchell is more smooth and mellow, I would say. Both do work well under pressure and both have excellent futures.
Still, it will be very interesting to see who wins the job and if they can keep it for 18 games. It's a nice problem to have but a difficult decision to make between the two. With quarterback depth a unique luxury and in some ways taken care of, the next strength is kicking.
You can make an easy argument that no CFL team has a better combo punter/kicker than Rob Maver and Rene Parades. Especially in the field goal kicking, the streak they had last season was both entertaining and game-changing. There will come a day where some field goal kicker makes every kick, does not miss one over the course of the season. The art of kicking has developed into a science more than ever before and a calm concentrated demeanor is more significant than ever before. Yes, it's a lofty goal but obtainable also attainable. Maybe in Calgary.
Also interesting outside of the priority of a great quarterback and the critical importance of good kickers is depth at running back. With Jon Cornish, Martell Mallett and Jock Sanders there are now three good ones.
Of the three, the best may be Sanders, especially if he returns punts and kicks replacing Larry Taylor.
Calgary finished fifth best in both punt and kick returns so there is room for improvement. By no means was Taylor the sole issue as a returner is as good as his blocking, especially initially. Still, with Sanders you have acceleration in the excess and a quality running back who can start.
The Roughriders will miss Kory Sheets, Keith Shologon, and Craig Butler, but losing Sanders to their most direct competition is a double issue.
Evaluating personnel is subjective in that how one person may see the present ability of one player or their potential is always different than another. But right now the combination of 24 starters and key depth contributors in Calgary has no clear superior.
It may not be of obvious significance right now, but wait until October and November. And that player that in June you never thought would be a starter responds as one when he has to, it can change everything.
I know for the third time, the Calgary Stampeders are a very good team.