5 Takeways from the Stamps' season-opening loss to the Redblacks
Never, not once, did Dave Dickenson suggest that 2019 was going to be easy for the Calgary Stampeders.
Throughout pre-season and training camp, the Stamps head coach was open about needing to work, build and go through the process of building a winning team.
So while it’s disappointing that the Stampeders lost a game they absolutely could have won in their season opener against the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday evening, it’s worth keeping a little perspective.
“We feel like we let one get away,” Dickenson said Sunday morning. “Certainly didn’t play our best. We’re trying to build something, though, and we understand. I, at least, didn’t think it was going to be a smooth path. Kind of put ourselves in a tough start, (but) the guys gave it everything they had and played hard.
“The effort was great, just execution, details, ball security and we didn’t win the battle on either line of scrimmage.”
The truth is, Saturday night’s game was a little strange.
After a month of training camp where fans and media questioned how a new-look Stampeders defence would handle the rigours of the regular season, the group was generally pretty effective against the Redblacks. The d-line struggled and is already battered, but if the offence was able to stay on the field in the second half the Stamps would have won this game.
And the offence? Well, it just didn’t produce in the second half and finished with only 318 yards.
“I think our offence lost a little confidence and I don’t know why,” Dickenson said. “We’re a veteran group, we’ve got a lot of playmakers there. We still had more than enough plays and opportunities to win that game, we just didn’t make any in the second half.”
Here’s five other takeways from Saturday’s game:
Even before Saturday, the defensive line was a concern.
They lost Micah Johnson and Ja’Gared Davis in free agency, and Folarin Orimolade’s pre-season injury left the team with little depth.
Now, it’s even worse.
While Dickenson didn’t have any conclusive updates on Sunday, the leg injury Junior Turner suffered against the Redblacks appears to be serious. The only good news was that Ese Mrabure was feeling better on Sunday morning, so hopefully the bye week the Stamps are entering gives him time to recover.
Either way, the Stamps played the entire second half with only four defensive linemen and they had trouble putting Redblacks QB Dominique Davis under any pressure.
The Stamps need difference makers on the d-line, to be sure, but right now they also just need bodies, period.
There are lots of things the Stamps need to work on, but let’s take a quick second to focus on two guys who really stepped up on special teams.
Nate Holley and Dwayne Norman were legitimately excellent, with Holley picking up four special teams tackles and Norman contributing two.
Dickenson said that special teams was essentially a saw-off on Saturday night, but the Stamps unit was strong.
Lorenzo Jerome can hardly be faulted for fumbling a punt in the fourth quarter — he’s a defensive back who was only there because of an injury to Terry Williams — and otherwise the Stamps were effective.
Rob Maver’s punting was absolutely on point, Rene Paredes hit both his field goal attempts and the Stamps’ coverage was strong.
The Stamps offence deserves the benefit of the doubt. We know there’s a lot of talent there, and chances are they’re going to turn it around.
Bo Levi Mitchell and his receivers didn’t quite seem to have their timing, though, and there were times when the offensive line seemed to get pushed around more than you’d like.
The run-game never really got going either.
Nobody seemed to quite know why the offence struggled so much, but Mitchell refused to use the lack of time they’d spent on the field together during pre-season as an excuse.
“If you look at other teams around the league, Edmonton executed very well,” Mitchell said. “You’ve just got to realize you’re not going to see the same thing we see every day in practice. See with your eyes, trust it, but don’t try to do too much. Let things come to us and the big plays will happen.”
Terry Williams hurt his ankle in Saturday’s game, and while the Stamps’ kick returner/running back was seen walking without any sort of cast or boot on Sunday morning, Dickenson didn’t sound particularly encouraged about his status.
“Don’t have an update, just an ankle,” Dickenson said. “He’s had kind of that chronic problem with his ankles. The last two or three years, he’s had problems with his ankles, so we’ve got to make sure we get it fixed.”
Compounding the trouble is the fact that third-stringer Ka’Deem Carey had a “procedure” on his hamstring right before Saturday’s game, so it may be up to Ante Milanovic-Litre to step in and backup up Don Jackson.
Or maybe the Stamps will give LaDarius Galloway a call. He was impressive in camp.
Just to go back to the start of this story for a second, it really is worth taking a deep breath and letting this young Stamps team find its feet.
The team lost a tonne of players through free agency, so it’s going to be a process if they’re going to get back to the Grey Cup.
The new defensive backs did well, Eric Rogers and Reggie Begelton are going to be better and hopefully people step up on the offensive and defensive lines.
It’s one game, and this season isn’t going to be a smooth ride right to the Grey Cup.