‘Some guys have taken a step back’: Stampeders’ head coach Dave Dickenson not afraid to be ‘cutthroat’ with preseason playing time

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

There were altogether too many penalty flags thrown in what was described as a “herky-jerky” Red and White game, but Calgary Stampeders’ head coach Dave Dickenson still came away impressed by his team’s first live scrimmage on Sunday.

“I thought it was probably our highest paced scrimmage that we’ve had in the last few years,” Dickenson told the media after the final whistle. “I’ve got a short memory, but I just felt like the weather turned for us a little bit. We finally got a little sun, a little heat, and I think the guys responded with a good effort.”

Training camp mock games are often the first opportunity for prospective CFL rookies to prove they can perform when the live bullets are flying and several made an impression on Day 8 of camp. However, not every player was able to rise to the occasion.

With Calgary scheduled to open their pre-season schedule next Saturday against the B.C. Lions, Dickenson and his staff will have difficult decisions to make, balancing their desire to see prospects in real game scenarios against the pro football reality that everything must be earned.

“I have a feeling there are some guys that might have taken a step back [in the scrimmage], but I’ll let them play preseason. For the most part, I’m going to try to get most guys snaps,” Dickenson said. “I’m not going to make that guarantee though. If you can’t show me you can go out there and execute and do your job, I’m moving on.”

That isn’t the part of his role that Dickenson enjoys doing, but it comes with the territory.

“That’s the bad part of our business that unfortunately, it gets to be a little cutthroat,” he said, stopping himself before using an expletive to describe the whole endeavour.

Though some players may now find themselves on the bubble, Dickenson isn’t concerned about the areas on the roster that need the most help. The team’s wide-open competition at defensive back is heating up, with players like scrimmage standout Dionte’ Ruffin stepping up to the plate under pressure.

“I thought that where I was looking for plays and where I was looking for the battles, I think they’re still there,” Dickenson said. “I love our secondary right now. I’m not sure who’s going to be playing, but you saw some real playmakers there and we were looking for guys.”

He believes they found what they were searching for in the secondary and along the defensive line, but not every discovery can be a good one. Players may soon begin to find that out the hard way.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.