The Calgary Stampeders defense had a remarkable year in 2017.
They allowed 349 points or 19.4 points per game, a number becomes more impressive when you eliminate return TDs as the number drops to 301 points or 16.7 ppg. Now factor in that the worst scoring team in the league last year were the Montreal Alouettes who still cobbled together 314 points for a 17.4 total average and an offensive total of 294 points or 16.4 ppg.
Now if that doesn’t immediately register, it means that the Stamps defence had an average score against that was lower than every other team’s average points for in the entire league. Not an easy feat to accomplish by any stretch.
Defensive Coordinator DeVone Claybrooks had several offers to leave this past off-season but decided in December that he was going to return to Calgary. But there are some changes to deal with; Tommie Campbell and Shaquille Richardson finding new homes in Montreal and Oakland respectively, the loss via trade of Stampeders all-time record holder for sacks Charleston Hughes, and the retirement of Deron Mayo and Joshua Bell. Bell, of course, is still in Calgary and will be taking over as DB coach for the departed Khalil Carter.
Breaking it down by position shows the Stampeders should once again terrify opposition OC’s when trying to gameplan against a defence that held their QB’s to a 55.3 QUAR last season.
Alex Singleton is the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player and is in just his third season. This ratio-breaker is an animal in the middle of the defence and is well complemented by second-year man Jameer Thurman. Thurman himself impressed last season when pressed into action after an injury to Maleki Harris opened the door. The question for this year will be at SAM as the departing Shaquille Richardson leave the position a training camp battle. Look for Jamar Wall to get the first shot to earn the job as he enters camp at the top of the depth chart with newcomers Troy Stoudermire and Devin Butler nipping at his heels.
With the 99 career sacks, Charleston Hughes is now residing in Saskatchewan and the Stampeders will be relying on pressure to come from all four members of a line that collected 39 additional sacks (Hughes had 11) to lead the league with 50 total. The Stamps line wil be formidible should they all remain healthy throughout the season as the welcome back Cordarro Law (3 sacks in 4 games), Micah Johnson (9 sacks in 18 games), and James Vaughters (6 sacks in 18 games). That compliments the middle-clogging efforts of Derek Wiggan and newly inked former first-round pick Ese Mrabure. Health remains the biggest factor here and early reports suggest the Micah Johnson is being eased into camp following offseason knee surgery. If Johnson isn’t ready to go, expect to see a rookie in that slot.
There are certainly questions is in the defensive backfield. The loss of Tommie Campbell, who allowed just one TD all season (albeit a 100 yarder in the Grey Cup), will be noticed most and it is Patrick Levels who will get the first chance to earn that slot. Stamps fans are breathing a sigh of relief however given the emergence of Tunde Adeleke. The Stamps have gone with the ratio-breaking Canadian backfield the last several seasons on offence which allowed for Joshua Bell to patrol the field as the safety. With Bell now moving to the sidelines, Adeleke is pencilled in as the starter. Shortly after taking the coaching job, Bell told me that Adeleke was good enough to start regardless of his passport.
After an injury-plagued 2017 in Hamilton, Emanuel Davis brings a heap of experience to the position and was the biggest name brought in in free agency by the Red and White this off-season. Davis should help the Stamps recover from the loss of three starters in the defensive backfield.
Also returning to Calgary is Adam Berger who will be used as a backup to Adeleke. Berger was always looked upon as a great talent in his first stint here in Calgary but could never stay healthy enough to compete for a roster spot.
While the battery of P.L. Caron, Rene Paredes, and Rob Maver is untouchable, the Stampeders will be looking for a returner due to the legal troubles facing last year’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player Roy Finch. Terry Williams, Romar Morris and Tunde Adeleke are all sure to get looks, but replacing Finch won’t be easy. There is still talk that Finch may be able to return to the league in July, but the Stamps, for now, have him on the retired list.
The retirement of Andrew Buckley also leaves a hole in the ST family as he had been acting as the holder for Paredes on field goal attempts. Coach Dickenson says that none of the QB’s currently on the roster have much experience holding, so the team will be auditioning. Early indications also put Rob Maver on the list.