CFL Offseason Review: Calgary Stampeders


We’ve crossed the half-way point of our team-by-team offseason reviews! Next up: the Calgary Stampeders.

While it wasn’t a perfect season by any stretch for Calgary in 2019, the team still managed to make the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season with a 12-6 record, but lost in the West Semi-Final to the eventual Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In their quest to get back to the top, they must overcome several obstacles, such as significant NFL losses. That’s what we will cover today in this all-inclusive offseason review!

If you haven’t had the chance to check out previous reviews in this running-series, you can find them here: https://husseyshuddle.xyz/?page_id=9

Re-signings/Extensions

Kamar Jorden (#88), playing for the Calgary Stampeders
Credit: CBC.ca Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press
  • QB Montell Cozart
  • RB Romar Morris
  • DL Ivan Mclennan
  • WR Kamar Jorden
  • OL Nila Kasitati
  • DL Mike Rose
  • RB Ka’Deem Carey
  • OL Leon Johnson

Not a huge list of re-signings here for Calgary, with the team having a relatively-high number of players previously under contract for next season. Still, there are some worthwhile mentions in this group.

Jorden, one of Calgary’s longest-tenured players, returns in 2020 after suffering a serious knee-injury near the end of the 2018 season. He was able to return for one playoff game in 2019, but in 2020, he should be able to resume his starting spot in the Stamps’ line-up. He adds depth and production to a receiving group that needs it, as we will see later on.

Kasitati returns as the team’s book-end at right-tackle, where he started 16 games last season.

In his first legitimate CFL action in 2019, Carey, a former NFL 4th-round pick, rushed for 422 yards on 75 carries (5.6 yard average). With some upheaval at the running-back position this offseason in Calgary, he projects as the team’s starter.

Departures (2020 team)

Montreal quarterback Vernon Adams Jr (#8) is chased by Calgary Stampeders defensive-end Chris Casher (#96)
Credit: Saltwire.com Gavin Young / PostMedia
  • P Rob Maver* (Retired)
  • OL Derek Dennis (FA)
  • LB Job Reinhart* (Retired)
  • DB Jamari Gilbert (FA)
  • DB Dagogo Maxwell* (FA)
  • RB Terry Williams (EDM)
  • DB Courtney Stephen* (HAM)
  • DL Ese Mrabure* (FA)
  • RB Don Jackson (HAM)
  • LB Cory Greenwood* (FA)
  • DL Chris Casher (BC)
  • WR Juwan Brescacin (TOR)
  • LB Marcus Ball (FA)
  • DL Jabar Westerman* (FA)
  • DL Junior Turner* (FA)

Plenty of notable past contributors here for the Stampeders.

It is important to note just how important having a productive return-man is in the CFL, and the departure of Williams to the rival-Eskimos leaves Calgary with a void in that regard. He’s consistently been among the best at what he does since entering the league in 2017.

Jackson, the team’s starter at running-back last season, departs for Hamilton, leaving an opportunity for someone to emerge on Calgary’s roster.

Greenwood was Calgary’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian in 2019 but struggled with nagging-injuries down the stretch. He remains a free agent and it doesn’t look like he’ll receive much interest until he can prove his health. For Calgary, they will need to fill his former position of middle-linebacker.

Casher, one of the team’s starting defensive-ends, departed for BC, taking his productive nature as a pass-rusher with him.

Finally, Brescacin, a Canadian receiver, got out to a hot start last season, catching 3 touchdowns in 4 games. He would suffer an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season, but now he heads to Toronto where he should have the opportunity to shine if healthy. It is unfortunate how things ended with the Stamps, as he showed plenty of promise with the team over four seasons.

Free Agent Signings (2019 team)

OL Sean McEwen playing for the Toronto Argonauts
Credit: IndependentSportingNews.com
  • QB Dakota Prukop (TOR)
  • DB Branden Dozier (BC)
  • DL Connor McGough* (HAM)
  • DB Richard Leonard (HAM)
  • K Ronnie Pfeffer (TOR)
  • OL Sean McEwen* (TOR)

Not a long-list of free agent signings for Calgary, but there are few players here that will be tasked with playing major roles next season.

Dozier, a defensive-back that spent last season in BC, has been a solid open-field coverage player over three CFL seasons, flashing high-tackle numbers in the process. We will see where he slides into Calgary’s line-up a little later on.

Leonard is probably the most crucial of this year’s additions after having a stellar 2019 with Hamilton. In all, he was one of the best play-making defensive-backs, producing 4 interceptions while forcing 2 fumbles. He provides some star-power to a team that lost plenty of it to the NFL (more on that in a minute).

McEwen, a Canadian, was on our list of most impactful free agent signings, as he is at times a complete rock-star upfront. As one of the better pass-blocking interior lineman in the CFL while still only being 26, this was a huge get for the Stamps, who now have among the best Canadian offensive-line groups.

New CFL Arrivals

Via GamecockCentral.com, South Carolina Gamecocks on YouTube
  • DB Ramon Richards
  • DL Theo Majette
  • LB Perry Young
  • RB Brandon Wilds
  • QB Jake Maier
  • DL Dadi Nicholas
  • DB Jojo Tillery
  • LB Cory James
  • DB Ashton Lampkin
  • WR Bernard Reedy
  • LB Basil Jackson
  • WR James Quick
  • WR Dorian Baker
  • OL DJ Coker
  • LB Darnell Sankey
  • WR Shawn Bane
  • RB Roc Thomas
  • DL Lenny Jones
  • DB Isaiah Wharton
  • DB Javien Hamilton
  • LB Darrell Williams

Calgary is a team that routinely dips into the market for newcomers year after year, and the 2020 offseason was no different.

Richards and Lampkin, both defensive-backs, played collegiately together at Oklahoma State. Both have previously been apart of NFL practice rosters before taking their talents North. Calgary lost two starters in the secondary this offseason to the NFL, so players like Richards and Lampkin will have the chance to make a mark in 2020.

Wilds is a running-back that has been fighting his way to find a permanent football home since 2016, when he went undrafted out of South Carolina. In the past four years, he has been, at least briefly, on the roster of 6 NFL teams, plus the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers in 2020. Still just 26, he adds some competition in the Stamps’ backfield that typically deploys a committee of backs.

James is a former NFL draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, taken in the 6th-round in 2016. He spent two seasons on the team’s active-roster and even played a decent amount, recording 104 tackles. However, the end of his time with the Raiders was marred by a knee injury that left him out of football for the 2018 and 2019 NFL seasons. He signed with the Stampeders in January, two years removed from last being part of a professional football organization. It isn’t likely that he cracks the starting line-up with Calgary’s experienced group at linebacker, but he could be an interesting rotation-guy.

2020 Stampeders’ Draft Class

Southeastern Louisiana defender Isaac Adeyemi-Beglund (#91) breaks up LSU quarterback Joe Burrow’s pass attempt
Credit: TheAdvocate.com Hillary Scheinuk
  • 1st: DL Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, Southeastern Louisiana (#3)
  • 2nd: WR Trivel Pinto, UBC (#12)
  • 3rd: WR Rysen John, Simon Frazier (#21); OL Jonathan Zamora, STFX (#26)
  • 4th: LB Kurtis Gray, Waterloo (#31); WR Tyson Middlemost, McMaster (#34)
  • 5th: None
  • 6th: DL Andrew Seinet-Spaulding, McGill (#52)
  • 7th: K Keiran Burnham, STFX (#61)
  • 8th: DB Michael Asibuo, Concordia (#70)

Calgary, who originally held the #1 selection at the top of the 2020 CFL Draft, was active early on draft-night, kicking it off by trading back with BC to the #3 pick while flipping picks in the 2nd-round with the Lions, too.

With that #3 overall pick, the team selected Southeastern Louisiana defensive-end/outside linebacker Adeyemi-Berglund, who emerged as the top pass-rusher in the draft-class. Calgary may need him to be part of the rotation early, given the loss of Chris Casher.

One trend you might have noticed above is that Calgary went all-in on this year’s crop of receivers, selecting three prospects.

The team’s first receiver selected, Pinto, is a shorter, shifty player out of UBC. As some players do, he took 2019 off to prepare for the draft, but in his last season with the Thunderbirds in 2018, he produced over 1000 yards and 7 touchdowns in only 8 games.

John is one of the more unique body-types you will find at receiver, coming out of Simon Frazier. Standing six-foot-seven, he obviously possesses rare size and had good production while in college. He could have been drafted earlier if not for the fact that he is currently signed with the New York Giants of the NFL. A worthwhile dice-roll for Calgary, who is looking to replace the size that Juwan Brescacin brought as a Canadian receiver.

The final receiver selection, Middlemost, is a player I wasn’t too aware of despite coming out of McMaster. He had a productive 2019, catching 32 passes for the Yates Cup Champions.

NFL Watch-List

  • WR Reggie Begelton (Green Bay Packers)
  • DB Dashaun Amos (Green Bay Packers)
  • DB Tre Roberson (Chicago Bears)

Calgary, as you can see, lost multiple players to the NFL from their 2019 squad, which are probably their most important losses overall this offseason.

Begelton, in his third CFL season, took the league by storm, finishing third in receiving yards (1444) and touchdowns (10). This earned him the prestigious honour of the team’s nomination for Most Outstanding Player. He parlayed his success into a contract with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, where he could catch passes from future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.

The departures of Amos and Roberson will be ginormous losses for Calgary’s secondary, with the pair combining for 12 total interceptions in 2019, tied for the most of any teammates in the CFL. Both were a key reason why the team was able to finish in the top-half of the league in both pass and rush defense. Their absence leaves this as the biggest roster question for the team in a perimeter-dominated league.

Projected Starters

Offense

*Denotes Canadian starter

Calgary’s offense is perennially one of the best in the CFL over the past half-decade-plus, but they have more question marks than in recent years.

The team’s front-five is the group I’m least concerned about. The team returns four starters from the 2019 unit, in addition to the free agent signing of McEwen.

Speaking of McEwen, a natural fit for the center position, he completes a strong all-Canadian interior line for Calgary, who has veterans in Bergman and Sceviour on each respective side. Though he can sometimes get caught out of position, Bergman is overall an outstanding player and one of the true difference-makers in run-blocking. Sceviour is more of a finesse, technical player, who is good in pass-protection but doesn’t provide as much of a push in the run-game.

At tackle, Williams and Kasitati return. Kasitati mans the right-side and while he has his fair-share of problems with the league’s better edge-players, his consistency game-to-game, snap-to-snap is there. Williams is an extremely interesting player, as he was this team’s primary starting center last season and excelled, only to have the Stamps sign McEwen in free agency because the team had so much faith in his ability to hold down the even-harder left-tackle spot. He played snaps protecting the blindside last season, and Calgary clearly liked what they saw on film. This is a rare skill-set, and if Williams again plays at a high-level at his new position it is time to put him in the discussion among the league’s best lineman.

At quarterback, Mitchell looks to rebound after battling injuries last season. To be clear, that is the only real question-mark with the long-time Stampeders’ passer, as when he is on the field for Calgary, he has won an astounding 79.3% of his games while leading his team to three consecutive Grey Cup appearances from 2016-2018. Much of Calgary’s 2020 rides on a successful bounce-back from offseason shoulder surgery.

His partner in the backfield is projected to be Carey, a player who impressed when becoming a feature of the offense during parts of last season. It wouldn’t surprise me if Calgary had more of a run-focus next season on offense, with Carey playing a major role.

Moving to the receivers, and this is where I have some pause for concern. With Reggie Begelton off to the NFL, Rogers becomes this group’s clear-cut #1, with 3 extremely productive CFL seasons under his belt. Beyond him, there are concerns of inexperience, health, and general lack of talent.

Ambles, who usually lines up along the boundary, has had moments over two seasons but has struggled mightily with injuries.

On the opposite side is Sindani, a Canadian receiver that I’ve never been overly impressed with. When reviewing some of his 2019 action, he never seems to be an after-the-catch threat. In his third CFL season, he might receive a bigger target share but I fear he is not one of the more explosive receivers at this level.

Mayala, a Canadian, is the player I’m most excited about with this group after he broke out towards the end of his rookie season, playing a pivotal role in the team’s playoff push. He looks like the real deal when you watch him, with great size, hands and contested-catch ability. He’s on the radar for a major breakout.

Jorden is a veteran that we talked about earlier, and has been a higher-level CFL pass-catcher in the past before injuries struck. A year fully-removed from his 2018 injury, he should be good to go as a day-one starter once again, but will he have that explosiveness he possessed pre-injury?

The success of this unit in 2020 will largely depend on the health of Mitchell, a quarterback who has made it work with turnover at the receiver position in the past. Still, outside of Rogers, other members of the receiving core will need to make a jump.

Defense

*Denotes Canadian starter

Calgary’s defense in 2020 will have to incorporate a few new faces quickly if they are to compete with some of the league’s better offenses.

On the d-line, Rose and Law are the clear-standouts. Rose is one of the league’s most athletic defensive-tackles, capable of covering plenty of ground sideline-to-sideline while contributing on special-teams as well. Law is this unit’s best pass-rusher, producing 10 sacks in 2019.

Wiggan is the lone-Canadian starter along the front, and has consistently anchored the interior as a great run-defender since 2015. He doesn’t provide elite pass-rush upside but he is a high-floor player.

Orimolade, the team’s projected starter at the other defensive-end position, is a complete question mark going into 2020. He suffered a quadriceps injury that kept him out of all of 2019, while in 2018 action he was mostly a rotational lineman that had some moments in a small sample-size. It is anyone’s guess how he performs if he is given the starting job.

At linebacker, the team’s strongest unit on this side of the ball, McMannis slides over to the middle full-time after the departure of Corey Greenwood in free agency. He is an impact, energy-player for this defense who also contributes on special-teams. Holley is the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Rookie, producing eye-popping numbers, which were highlighted by his 100 total tackles (22 on special-teams). Wall, who has been with Calgary since 2012, rounds out the trio as a player that exceeds in coverage from the linebacker position. Overall, it is hard to find complaints with this linebacker room.

However, the secondary has some gelling to do. Leonard and Dozier, who project to play alongside eachother on the weak-side, could be a good combination but will need time to develop chemistry. Leonard in particular will be expected to become “the guy” in this secondary as he replaces the NFL-bound Amos and Roberson.

Metchie, at safety, figures in as one of Calgary’s Canadian starters. He had an effective 2nd-season in the league, playing significant snaps and in the process intercepting 3 passes. At 23 years-old, he’s an interesting Canadian for fans to follow.

On the right-side, Moxey and Wilson comprise a questionable pairing. Moxey doesn’t have much CFL experience, playing in 5 games last season and producing 4 total tackles. Experience can be very advantageous in the CFL, so this leaves this half-back position for Calgary as a question-mark. Wilson meanwhile, had a pretty good debut season in 2019, playing in all 18 games and intercepting 2 passes. He was often targeted, but that was largely a result of team’s not wanting to throw in the direction of Amos and Roberson.

As a whole, I like the potential of this defense, but it’s hard to expect this to be an elite unit, given the lack of a second top-level edge-rusher and all the new starters in the secondary.

Special Teams

Calgary’s special-teams are interesting going into 2020, as one team that has consistently had separate roster-spots for both their kicker and punter, while not having an experienced return-man on the roster.

Pfeffer is the player that I assume will inherit punting duties after long-time Stamp Rob Maver retired this offseason after ten years. He spent last season in Toronto, where he averaged 44.9 yards per punt in 2019.

Parades returns for another season in Calgary, which will be his tenth. For his career, he has an outstanding field-goal average of 86.8%, which is good for 2nd All-Time, only trailing only Ottawa’s Lewis Ward.

Robo is projected as this team’s primary kick-returner, but has no true CFL experience, only playing 3 career games while never returning a kick to this point. What is interesting about him though, is he is one of the two designated Global players CFL teams are required to have on their roster.

Final Word

In conclusion, there you have it, the 2020 offseason of the Calgary Stampeders.

Calgary is a difficult team to evaluate this offseason, partially due to the players that they lost to the NFL, but also because of the health status of some of their projected starters, including their most important one, Bo Levi Mitchell.

To this end, there are significant concerns here. Here is what this season will ride on for Calgary.

First, Ucambre Williams’ move from center from left-tackle must prove successful on a full-time basis, as this will play a huge role in keeping Mitchell upright.

Secondly, depth players in this receiving core from last season will need to fill the giant void left by NFL free agent departure Reggie Begelton. If Mitchell stays healthy, I think there is enough talent here to work with.

On the other side of the ball, can the team generate enough pass-rush opposite of standout Cordarro Law? Having two great athletes at defensive-end has typically been a recipe for success in modern football. Either that, or the secondary, which also brings up questions, plays like one of the top units in the CFL.

Finally, this team will have to find someone capable of being an impact returner. On paper, Calgary has one of the worst groups in the league in this regard and this can make a huge-difference in the more special-teams-heavy CFL.

Ultimately, though, I don’t doubt the chances of this team to once again find itself in the playoffs in the tough West Division, as I do feel there are enough X-Factors on this roster to put them over the top.

Did we miss any offseason additions? Do you agree with our analysis? Be sure to let it all out in the comments below!

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