Bo Levi Mitchell is set to enter the 2021 season with arguably the least star-studded receiving corps he’s ever had.
The veteran quarterback doesn’t view the lack of big-name targets as an obstacle, but an opportunity to improve his own game.
“I see it as a chance for me to maybe be the best quarterback I’ve been and not lean as heavily on big names — just try to be the best point guard I can be,” said Mitchell. “We’ve got to get creative on offence, we’ve got to move guys around and let guys go win spots, but my job is to find the open receiver and hit him.”
Reggie Begelton caught on with the Green Bay Packers following an all-star season in 2019 during which he caught 102 passes for 1,444 yards and ten touchdowns. Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescacin are no longer with the team either, having moved on to the Toronto Argonauts.
“I’m super confident in the guys we have because I’ve seen them so much and seen how hard they’ve been working,” said Mitchell. “One of the coolest things I’ve seen is four or five of those guys being together every day when they’ve been allowed to be and just working their tails off.”
Mitchell mentioned the names of American receivers Kamar Jorden and Markeith Ambles as well as Canadians Hergy Mayala and Colton Hunchak. He also singled out Global receiver Andres Salgado, saying “he’s been doing a hell of a job this off-season transforming his body and mind.”
“We got a lot of guys that are going to come here ready to go. As long as they’re physical and ready to buy into what we do here, it’ll be a good year,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell joked that he’s done a poor job of evaluating young receivers in the past, which is why he trusts head coach Dave Dickenson and general manager John Hufnagel to decide who makes the roster.
“They’ve asked me my opinion sometimes on a guy,” said Mitchell. “I always pick the wrong one and the other guy becomes an all-star, so from now on I defer to them and let them choose who the guys are.”
Jorden is the biggest remaining name in Calgary’s receiving corps, though it’s been almost three years since he last played a regular season game. The 32-year-old suffered a torn ACL in September 2018 and has been rehabilitating the injury ever since.
“The tough thing on him is workload in practice,” said Dickenson. “How much do I put on him? Five day weeks are very difficult on our veteran guys, but I know he’s going to do well. Let’s let the chips fall where they may. He could be 1,000 percent healthy and could still get hurt. He’s good. Kamar’s in good shape and he’s ready to rock.”
The Stampeders have suffered similar losses along the offensive line with starting guards Shane Bergman and Brad Erdos electing to retire. Dickenson acknowledged that the pair will be missed, but still feels strongly that the offensive line will perform well in 2021.
“I feel confident that we have the guys. I actually think it’s going to be a strength of our team,” said Dickenson. “Losing Berg and Erdos is big. They’re great people, great leaders, great workers, great football players, but Father Time catches a lot of us. We’ve always felt like we’ve have guys who are ready to go.”
Calgary will look to young Canadians such as Justin Lawrence, Jaylan Guthrie, Zack Williams, Bryce Bell, and Jonathan Zamora to help fill the void along the interior of the offensive line. Dickenson is also hoping to see more development from former first-round pick Ryan Sceviour, who started every game at right guard in 2019.
“Sceviour has to step up more,” said Dickenson. “I think we’ll see a better version of Ryan, he’s been working extremely hard. A lot of offensive line is just getting to know the guy next to you. We want to try to establish that cohesion early and we’ll have to do it in the season this year with no preseason. We have to make sure that we find the right combination and simplify our game plans a bit.”