Rich Stubler’s Defence could challenge Calgary Stampeders

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Rich Stubler led defence could make Stamps matchup interesting

The Als may have a fighting chance against the Stampeders. I know, it sounds improbable, unlikely, or even impossible! But hear me out.

If Bo Levi Mitchell does not start, the Rich Stubler led Montreal Alouettes defence could give the Calgary Stampeders offence trouble.

What does Stubler have to work with?

The Alouettes have a solid defensive line. The ends are anchored with veterans Jamaal Westerman and longtime Alouette John Bowman. While neither player is in their prime, they are still providing workmanlike performances.

The linebacking corps is starting to come into its own. Henoc Muamba, while playing on the edge, is still capable of stopping run penetration. Muamba’s presence in the middle has facilitated Branden Dozier emergence as a highly effective strong-side Linebacker with 22 defensive tackles and one interception. At weak-side linebacker, Chris Ackie returned from a torn tendon in 2017 and contributed over 30 defensive tackles over the last four games.

The Als’ defensive backs are a mix of veterans and rookie Tyquwan Glass. While none are true superstars in their own right, as a group they provide effective coverage options.

Traditional Stubler Defence?

Traditionally, Rich Stubler has been known for his preventative defensive schemes. Depending on the situation, defensive backs line up with a 5-10 yard cushion from the line of scrimmage and aim to prevent the big gain. While not exciting, this brand of defence helps to control the pace of the game and can wear an opposing offence down. But, if you have an opposing quarterback who reads the game well like Mike Reilly or Bo-Levi Mitchell, this type of defence can be picked apart. Quarterback pressure is needed.

Blitzing their way to improvement

Something interesting is happening with the Alouettes defence. While Stubler hasn’t completely abandoned his traditional defensive scheme, Stubler has started to mix in a healthy dose of linebacker blitzes.

This combination first started to click during their game against Saskatchewan on June 30th. Lets take a look at the play at 1:46 in the linked video.

The Als have a 3-3 setup with an extra defender helping on coverage. While the initial read could see as many as all six players in the box blitz, the Als end up sending the strong and weak-side linebackers in on the blitz. Muamba then drops into coverage. The resulting pressure forces Saskatchewan pivot Brandon Bridge to quickly run through his reads and the resulting mistake ends up as an Als interception.

The Als continued to send the linebackers in their game against the Redblacks. Take a look at 4:36 in the video link.

Chris Ackie is going to step up into the blitz and the Alouettes will hedge their bets by having Muamba drop back into coverage. The resulting pressure forces the quick throw and an incompletion.

A work in progress

The Alouettes are still not a great defence.

Large elements of Stubler’s preventative philosophy remain which has helped the Als rank 2nd in the league with an opponent average gain of 5.7 yards on first down. However, the Als have given up a league-worst 10 passing touchdowns. As well, it is hard to look past the 30 points per game they give up to opponents.

Implications versus the Stampeders

Rich Stubler appears content to increase the amount of Alouette linebacker blitzes. If the Bo Levi Mitchell injury forces Nick Arbuckle to start, then look for Stubler to increase the pressure on the young quarterback.

Make no mistake, the Als’ defence remains a work in progress. However, their recent incorporation of linebacker pressure in past games could give them a fighting chance against an excellent Stampeders team.

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