TSN’s Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor take a closer look at the Calgary Stampeders in their series of team snapshots around the CFL.
Lalji: The biggest question for the Stampeders going into the 2020 season is the health of quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. I don’t know that there’s a single player in the league that might have benefited to the delayed start of the season – assuming there is a start – more so than Mitchell. He didn’t start throwing until early May and that would have put him behind the eight ball for training camp in a regular year and he likely would have missed the first couple games of the regular season. Now he’s throwing, he says his arm feels very good, and he expects to be able to play if and when the season does get underway.
There certainly will be some questions around the health of that shoulder because quarterbacks coming off shoulder surgery are always different in terms of how well they can respond, if there’s any setbacks, and if they’ll ever be the same quarterback. Certainly different quarterbacks have different types of surgeries – you look at a guy like Drew Brees in the NFL who was even better after the surgery, you look at a guy like Ricky Ray who never had the arm velocity after his surgery. Where will Mitchell fall in that spectrum? That will go a long way in determining the success of the Stampeders in 2020.
Naylor: And this is a guy, the last couple of years, who’s either played banged up or had to miss a large chunk of the season as he did in 2019. And that’s really going to be a big thing because they don’t have Nick Arbuckle behind him anymore. Arbuckle was a bit of a revelation when he stepped in for Mitchell and performed so well last year, but he’s moved on to the starting role with the Ottawa Redblacks.
They did sign Dakota Prukop, who was a backup in Toronto and a former Oregon quarterback. It grabs my attention when I see Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson reach out to a guy that’s been a backup elsewhere in the CFL, because I think he may know something or see something in him that he likes. But the Stampeders have to hope they don’t need Prukop in 2020.
Holes in the Secondary
Naylor: A big key to the Stampeders’ consistent success has been their ability to replace players who depart from one year to the next. We’ve seen so many players leave the Stamps via CFL free agency or go to the National Football League. But they’ve got a concentration of players in their secondary who are no longer there that I think are going to be a challenge to replace. Brandon Smith, the consistent veteran presence in the secondary, retired. Tre Roberson has gone to the NFL and so have DaShaun Amos. So that’s three important players that were a big part of their defence and really helped make the Stampeders consistent even when their offence was sometimes struggling. Filling those holes in the secondary will be a big key for the Stampeders in 2020.
Need for Speed
Lalji: Another key is an improved receiving corps. Something we’re not used to seeing in Calgary is an offence with no explosion. The running game didn’t exist last year and according to Dickenson, the receiving corps was never really on the same page, so much so they even made a change at the receiver coach spot. But in terms of roster changes, Reggie Begelton is gone to the NFL but Kamar Jorden, who missed almost all of last season with a knee injury, will be back to play. They also lost Juwan Brescacin, who barely played last year because of an injury, but Hergy Mayala, who was their top pick a year ago, really evolved late in the season and was able to make an impact. They hope he can build on that. And then Trivel Pinto, their second round pick this year, is an explosive player that can help in the return game and stretch the field from time to time if he gets that opportunity. The biggest thing, they have to be more explosive on offence.