Labour Day weekend signals the start of the second half of the CFL season. With that, LastWordOnSports CFL has created report cards for all nine teams. Teams will be rated on their offence, defence, special teams, and coaching overall over the first 10 weeks of the season. This will help fans compare their teams to others across the CFL and help identify areas of strength and weakness. Here is the Calgary Stampeders 2016 mid-season report card.
Calgary Stampeders 2016 Mid-Season Report
At the beginning of the season, not many would have guessed the Calgary Stampeders would be at the top of the West Division considering all the changes on and off the field. Calgary’s offence lost several top performers, either leaving for the NFL or retirement.
Despite the changes, Calgary’s veteran offence has taken charge. Bo Levi Mitchell is doing what he’s always done, throwing the ball and targeting a spread of different pass catchers, and it’s been successful. Mitchell has thrown 2,857 yards so far and has 15 touchdowns, and he continues to stay healthy.
His veteran receivers Marquay McDaniel and Anthony Parker pave the way for Stamps newcomers such as Bakari Grant and Lemar Durant. Another veteran receiver, Joe West, is expected back from the six-game injured list shortly. So the receiving corps production will only go up and become a bit more threatening.
Jerome Messam is ranked second in the league for most rushing yards and has 103 carries for 542 yards. He will likely reach the 1,000-yard mark by the end of the season.
Calgary’s offensive line is healthy, or at least healthy enough. Minus Dan Federkeil and Karl Lavoie, the offensive line is working at full speed. The offensive line has kept Mitchell up with the fewest sacks allowed in the league and is responsible for the success of a lot of third-down gambles this season.
The Stamps only offensive weakness this season is dropped balls. Scott Mitchell from the Calgary Sun stated, ” Mitchell’s receivers had 12 drops coming into Week 8″. So far, this hasn’t hurt the Stampeders too much because they are still finding ways to win even in the worst conditions. But it could rear it’s ugly head down the road in a playoff game. Also, considering the drama around the Saskatchewan Roughriders roster, maybe players should stick to jokes and high fives on social media.
Calgary’s defence ranks top of the league for fewest points allowed. And the Stamps have 14 forced fumbles and 38 pass knock downs. Charleston “The Sackmaster” Hughes has seven sacks and Deron Mayo has 47 defensive tackles for the year so far. Micah Johnson, Brandon Smith, Joe Burnett, and Tommie Campbell continue to make game-changing plays. Calgary’s defence has been the difference between a win and a loss many of times.
The Stampeder defence is not all sunshine and rainbows. They have had problems with penalties, and they usually occur at the worst times during the game. In Week 5 against the Winnipeg Blue bombers, Calgary had 13 penalties that cost them over 120 yards. And most of those penalties were ones that should have been avoided, such as roughing the passer, foul language and a couple of misconducts. The coaching staff has addressed the penalties, and they seem to be under control lately.
Calgary’s defence also has to keep the momentum up all the way to the end of the game. The defence became a tad lazy last week against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A healthy lead in that game turned into a five-point game late in the fourth, but the Stamps pulled through. The defence has to play all 60 minutes of football.
Calgary’s special teams have been consistently outstanding the past few weeks. At the beginning of the season, kicker Rene Paredes was under fire for missing a few field goals and one-point coverts. Many were quick to criticize and thought Paredes was on a very slippery slope. Since then, he has made all field goal and convert attempts. He sits at the top of the league with 32 out of 36 field goals.
Punter Rob Maver is also one of the most consistent throughout the league. He has an average of 47.2 yards a the longest punt at 67 yards.
What’s most notable of the special teams is that they seem to have finally found a good punt returner. Roy Finch is second in the league with 568 yards, with his longest being 58 yards. Calgary has struggled the past few years finding someone who was consistent. So far, Finch has a keen eye on when to run the ball and look for holes. He’s fast and has good control of the ball.
Coaching changes is one of the main reasons why Calgary was ranked lower in the standing predictions at the beginning of the season. When John Hufnagel stepped down as head coach, it wasn’t a surprise that he’d pass the torch to Dave Dickenson. But what was a surprise was how Dickenson continued Hufnagel’s legacy. Sure, Hufnagel still has a say in players and a watchful eye on plays, but Dickenson is the key to the team’s success.
In the off-season, Calgary also lost it’s defensive coordinator Rich Stubler, and as such, DeVonne Claybrooks was promoted from defensive line coach. Claybrooks’ familiar face has played a large part of the team’s defensive success. Claybrooks started off as a player himself, and he brings consistency when it is needed. And the players respect him.
Mark Kilam is responsible for the consistency of the special teams. He has been with the Stamps for the past 12 years, seven of them as the special teams coordinator.
The Calgary Stampeders have had it’s up and downs. They weren’t predicted to be at the top; they faced adversity, but they now sit at the top spot in the league, let alone the entire league. It won’t be a comfortable ride, as they face some tough opponents in the last half of the season. Calgary needs to stay focused, and they need to play clean football. They need to clean up the penalties and catch the balls. Most importantly, the Stampeders have to play all four quarters of football.
Overall Grade: A