CFL Pass

Stamps Notes: Dennis, Bergman's partnership key to Stamps o-line

Derek Dennis doesn’t hesitate when he’s asked about Shane Bergman.

The two line up right next to each other on the Calgary Stampeders offensive line, with Dennis at left tackle and Bergman at left guard, and have formed a partnership that’s kept opposing d-linemen at peak frustration.

It’s led to Dennis getting regular recognition as one of the CFL’s top offensive linemen, but somehow Bergman has never once been received an all-star nod.

Dennis, though, is happy to set the record straight on where Bergman ranks among guards across the CFL.

“He’s the best guard in the league, hands down,” Dennis said from Stampeders training camp.

While the two were separated for a season in 2017 when Dennis left the Stamps as a free-agent to join the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they formed a dynamic partnership in 2016 — when Dennis was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman — and last season.

In 2018, they were crucial pieces of the offensive line that helped the Stamps tie for the fewest sacks-allowed in the entire CFL (27) and ultimately won the Grey Cup.

It’s been a fruitful partnership, but that’s the result of a lot of hard work.

“Those guys had been playing together when Derek was here the first time and last year they re-established the relationship,” said offensive line coach Pat DelMonaco. “They talk, they meet with each other and they decide how they’re going to play things. They do a good job of communicating.”

That extra time spent off the field leads to an onfield dynamic that often looks almost telepathic, and it’s not something either guy takes for granted.

“It’s great, we know what each other are doing,” Bergman said. “There’s some calls we should be making and we don’t even make them half the time because we just know what should be going on. He’s a special player, I don’t even know what else to say about it.”

Dennis was certainly happy to elaborate.

“The chemistry that him and I have, we make each other better,” Dennis said. “I know there’s stuff where if I make a mistake, I know he has my back and there’s stuff where he might make a mistake and he knows I have his back.

“That’s the biggest part of why we play well together and I think that’s going to be a big part of our offensive line this year.”
The Stamps are sure hoping so, because they’re going to be fielding a largely new-look offensive line in 2019.

Last year’s centre, Ucambre Williams, has moved to right tackle, and a season-ending injury to starting right guard Brad Erdos means the Stamps are trying to sort out who will be replacing him and who will be starting at centre — a betting man would guess on a combination of Ryan Sceviour and Justin Lawrence.

That means Dennis and Bergman’s experience will be even more important than it normally is as they try to shape a dominant unit that can give Bo Levi Mitchell the time he needs to find receivers downfield.

“I think the group is a little younger than it normally was in the past, but I think that’s good,” Dennis said. “There’s enough guys in the room who have been around Pat who know what needs to be done, so we just need to help the younger guys, try to help catch them up.”

HE’LL PLAY

Sometimes it’s best to double-check your information before questioning Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson’s memory.
When Dickenson was asked about Mitchell taking some snaps at QB during his team’s pre-season opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he confirmed that his starter will be playing and pointed out that Mitchell normally plays in both pre-season games.

This particular reporter had a different memory of how that played out last year, but to the surprise of absolutely no one, Dickenson was 100% correct.

Dickenson did acknowledge that Mitchell probably won’t see a tonne of gametime Friday night, but fans at McMahon Stadium will at least get a small sneak preview of the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player.

ALL WATCHING

Yes, the Stampeders are as hooked on the Raptors as the rest of Canada.

While Bay Area natives like Brandon Smith are firmly on the side of the Golden State Warriors heading into the NBA Finals — and we can’t blame Smith for that, as much as we’d like to — it’s sounds like it’s a decidedly pro-Raptors dressing room.

“Of course, growing up in Mississauga, the GTA as we call it back home, I grew up a Raptors fan,” said Stamps receiver Juwan Brescacin. “I’ve been threw all the ups and downs. A lot of downs, but I actually can’t even believe that we’re in the finals right now.

“And I say ‘we’ because I’m a part of the team.”

It’s not just Toronto-area guys, either.

Rookie receiver Hergy Mayala is a Montreal native, but he’s been just as locked-in to the Raptors run as anyone.

“That’s Canada’s team,” Mayala said. “If they win, we all win.”

daustin@postmedia.com

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Source: torontosun.com