Stamps shop for DBs in XL

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

Stampeders secondary coach Tim Burke, a newcomer to the CFL, offers a Canadian analogy when asked what he's looking for in his defensive backs.

The unit, bound for an overhaul in 2005, needs to be bigger and faster this season.

Like a defenceman covering vast expanses of an international ice surface, Burke insists his recruits need to have good wheels.

"We'd like to get five corner-type guys out on the field because I equate the CFL game to hockey," said Burke, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fresh off a stint coaching the same position with Indiana State University.

"Are you playing on small ice or big ice? If you're on the big ice, you need faster, more athletic guys to cover. So that's what we're trying to do -- get more athletic back there. Then those big spaces get smaller.

"Most of the guys we're bringing in are taller guys -- maybe not six-footers but taller than what we've been in the past and definitely faster and more athletic."

With 11 new defensive backs lining up in training camp, which opens tomorrow, it was an unmistakable off-season priority.

The addition of high-profile free-agent halfback Anthony Malbrough, who played last season in Ottawa, is expected to provide instant improvement while a handful of DBs with NFL experience also will be fighting for jobs.

"We obviously felt that was the weakest part of the defence last year, so we've gone out and acquired a lot of new players, even though we feel we already have some good players in the secondary," Burke said.

"We've gone out to replace some of the guys who've left, been traded or released and then we wanted to bring guys in to compete with the players already here."

Returnees Terrence Moore, Nate Terry, Joey Boese and Jeremy Pearl will be fighting to keep their jobs.

Among newcomers, former NFLer Rashard Anderson has garnered most of the advance billing, while fellow imports Jermaine Chatman, Don McGee and Benjamin Kelly are expected to make an impression.

Free-agent Canadians Lawrence Deck and Damony Simmonds have also signed on to make an impression in camp, along with returning non-imports Pascal Masson and Christian Simmerling.

"I like Ben Kelly, what he's able to do. Chatman, Don McGee -- those guys have been up here and worked out and looked good," Burke said of his pre-camp evaluations.

"The guys presently on the team -- Boese, Nate Terry -- were starters and obviously Malbrough. He's a proven player in this league."

Burke sees an improvement in athletic ability, allowing the Stampeders front seven to record more sacks while forcing more interceptions. Both are categories in which the defence already ranked among the best in the league last season, thanks in part to outstanding performances from the linebacking corps.

"They didn't feel like they could blitz and play man last season," Burke said. "With guys who are more athletic and can cover more ground, can cover guys one-on-one, that buys time for the d-line to get to the quarterback.

"We play a lot of zone coverage, so we have our eyes on the ball a lot of the time. I think that lends itself to more interceptions than if you just play man all the time and your back is always turned to the quarterback.

"Again, I'm hoping if we're more athletic, we'll be able to close more ground and get to more balls."


Videos

Photos