Calgary Stampeders have intriguing options at defensive end
The Calgary Stampeders took a hit at defensive end this off-season.
Not only did Ja’Gared Davis leave in free agency for a new gig with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but the NFL’s Chicago Bears also came calling for backup James Vaughters.
In a league where putting pressure on quarterbacks is paramount, there’s no getting around the fact that those were two big losses, especially when you combine it with the departure of defensive tackle Micah Johnson, the team’s sack leader last season.
Now, the Stampeders need someone to step up.
That could be Folarin Orimolade, who impressed in limited playing time last season.
It could be Ivan McLennan, who spent the past two seasons with the B.C. Lions and joined the Stamps in free agency.
Chris Casher is an option, too, after signing with the Stamps in September of last year and spending most of the final couple of months of the season on the practice roster.
On Friday morning, the Stamps brought in yet another option when they signed Jonathan Massaquoi, a veteran of 39 NFL games with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Stampeders have some intriguing choices, in other words.
“We’re searching at d-end, big time,” said head coach Dave Dickenson. “We want to find some guys who can be scary, so that’s an area where we really want to see what the competition will be like.”
The one guarantee at defensive end to start the season will likely be Cordarro Law. He’s an established veteran and can be as dangerous rushing the quarterback as anyone in the league.
If he can stay healthy, Law is going to be playing, although injuries did limit him to only nine games over the past two seasons.
As for the other d-end spot, it’s anyone’s guess at this point and it’s quite possible that all of the guys listed above will get some snaps.
The defensive line has been a strength for the Stampeders for years, and last year they finished in a – honestly, kind of bizarre – five-way tie for most sacks in the CFL, with 45.
Johnson, Vaughters and Davis combined for 26 of those sacks, though, so whoever earns a 2019 defensive end spot has a big job ahead of them.
“We want as much competition as we can, we want different types of guys,” Dickenson said. “Obviously, Cordarro’s going to be our leader, but the rest of the guys … we have long guys, you have powerful guys, as well. A lot of opportunity there.”
Massaquoi took part in his first CFL practice on Friday morning, and the Georgia native was greeted by a cold, rainy Calgary day.
The 31-year-old took it in stride, though, and said the Stampeders’ championship pedigree was a big part of the appeal of coming up to Calgary and joining the organization.
Massaquoi brings a tonne of experience, although he admitted there were some adjustments to the Canadian game he realized he’d have to make right away.
“There are some intricacies,” Massaquoi said. “Today was my first day out here so I’m still trying to get acclimated to being a yard off and things of that nature. It’s all about adapting, but as a football player you have to adapt.
“It’s still football. You still have to see ball, hit ball, run, listen to the plays, communicate with the guys on the d-line and go out there and execute.”
Rookie camp generally isn’t the best time to come to any concrete conclusions about players, as so much of what is being done is essentially orientation designed to get the new players enough of a base that they can compete when the veterans arrive on Sunday.
Griff Whalen, though, certainly hasn’t looked out of place.
The 29-year-old receiver played 33 games for the Indianapolis Colts and has bounced around the NFL since 2015, and Dickenson sounded impressed with what he’s seen so far.
The Stamps have had their eye on Whalen for a while, but a stroke of good fortune opened the door to him signing right before camp began.
“We weren’t sure (because) he’s a four or five year NFL guy, how much he wanted to be up in Canada on a rookie deal, but we found out his girlfriend’s family lives up here in Calgary,” Dickenson said. “I’ve been impressed. Very smart, has wiggle, makes a lot of plays. Certainly, I’ve liked what I’ve seen.”
It sounds like the Stampeders’ coaching staff has liked what they’ve seen from Justin Lawrence. The offensive lineman was drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 draft and spent most of last season on the practice roster, but came back to camp leaner and is in contention for the starting centre job … This isn’t really news, but whether the players are complaining about it or not, the media who cover the Stampeders would really appreciate if Mother Nature could help us out and give us weather that’s not cold and rainy for the rest of training camp … WR Hergy Mayala, the Stamps’ first-round selection in this year’s CFL Draft, looks like he’s the real deal.