Lots in tank

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

As Khari Jones was shredding the Toronto Argos defence Saturday, he was doing more than just helping the Stampeders earn some credibility.

The team's new pivot was proving that at 33, the veteran play caller is capable of extending his career beyond an age many consider old.

By smartly leaning on his running backs in his Stampeders debut, succeeding with his brain as much as his brawn, Jones told his critics there's much more fuel left in his tank.

Joffrey Reynolds' 189-yard rushing performance was no doubt an exceptional day, making it that much easier to avoid filling the air with footballs. But Jones wisely relied not only on the playbook pages that garnered results, but an attack that will preserve his throwing arm long-term.

Although cold windy weather also dictated Jones' play calling -- the seven-year CFL veteran attempted just 22 passes -- common sense of a veteran made him stick with what was working, exploiting the Stamps rediscovered running game.

"He kept going back to the well, that's what it's supposed to be like," said head coach Matt Dunigan of calling Reynolds' number 23 times, doggedly focusing on what was working so splendidly while also dumping passes to his running backs.

"You look at Khari in Winnipeg (where) he had (Mike) Sellers and Charles Roberts -- he just loves utilizing his backs. He gave those guys plenty of balls in the air -- 50-60 catches a year -- and he utilized them more on the ground.

"(When) you're getting something like that going, you can extend your career another four or five years.

"Tracy Ham, when he went to Baltimore, had (Robert) Drummond and (Mike) Pringle and realized how important it was to utilize your talent in and around you."

Jones obviously did that against the Argos, not only squeezing every inch out of Reynolds but spreading his 14 completions among four receivers, with Reynolds also making a grab out of the backfield.

The rumblings about Jones' sore throwing shoulder after his trade from Winnipeg three weeks ago will also simmer down after a solid throwing performance.

There has been speculation the nagging injury would prevent him from ever returning to his MVP form of 2001, when he led the Blue Bombers to their last Grey Cup appearance.

Now in the afterglow of an impressive 29-11 win with a proven quarterback calling the shots, the 4-12 Stampeders, long ago eliminated from CFL playoff hunt, would love to flip the calendar pages back to June.

Bolt out of training camp with the current 40-man roster and there'd be reason for excitement and optimism again at McMahon Stadium.

In fact, there already is.

"(Linebacker) Brian Clark made the comment I think kind of reflects the players' opinion coming off a big win against a good football team and a good performance," Dunigan said.

"(He said) 'I can't wait for next year, (heck) I can't wait for next week!' "

It was merely one game, a forgotten blip on the radar screen if Jones doesn't continue to progress in Stampeders colours.

But his debut has given everyone surrounding him reason for optimism that not only will he play well as a Stampeder, he'll stay a good, long time.

And one suspects Brian Clark isn't the only Stampeder excited about the next game and next season.


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