A splash of offence

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It's only another exhibition game tonight in Vancouver but it is much more than that to the Stampeders offence.

After last week's Water Wings Bowl against Saskatchewan in the pre-season opener, Calgary's offence expects to start living up to its advanced billing by moving the ball and hitting the scoreboard against the Lions.

Offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto watched his troops slip and slide to just 279 yards of offence and 18 points in the win over the Riders, a contest so wet even a streaker went dashing onto the field in full rain gear.

Buratto expects his squad to make a much larger splash tonight, a prelude to its CFL season-opener in two weeks time.

"We should be very close to good enough to win a regular-season game and I expect them to be there," Buratto said after yesterday's practice. "We have enough quality people and enough veterans that we need to play to that standard.

"I would expect us to stay on the field and put together some drives with three or four first downs and be able to finish some of those.

"The defence gave us the ball in great field position against the 'Riders but, with our inability to execute, we didn't finish those off. We had eight balls overthrown or poorly thrown to open receivers and eight balls that we put on the ground. That represents 30 additional plays because most of them were on second down and those would have moved the chains and kept us on the field.

"We need to make sure we don't do that."

Buratto expects No. 1 QB Henry Burris to play three quarters tonight after seeing just 30 minutes of action last week against his old pals in Green and White. Burris completed just five of 16 passes in sloppy conditions, something he won't have to contend with inside B.C. Place.

"Henry needs to work with the guys and we need the timing," said Buratto, who'll likely provide backup Jason Gesser with 15 minutes of work.

"Had last week's game not been such a shlemozzle with the weather and the rain and the horrible conditions, then we may have given Henry less (tonight). But we didn't run but about 50 plays last week and I don't think Henry had more than 15 or 18, so he needs to work with the guys, get his timing down with some throws. We've got two weeks before we play again so it's the only opportunity we're going to have before facing Toronto (in their season-opener July 1)."

Free-agent acquisition Jeremaine Copeland, a 1,000-yard man the last two seasons in Montreal, said he and Burris are starting to click.

Although the men paid to move the ball won't hit full stride until sometime next month, Copeland expects the Stampeders offence to begin displaying its true colours against the Lions under the roof.

"It is time to start putting the pieces together and being indoors, not worrying about the field conditions, will put us in position to show what we can really do," Copeland said. "We've been looking good the last couple of weeks in camp. Everybody's improving and everybody should be able to go out onto the field and have fun now, not having to worry about what we have to do on each play. That changes the attitude of players, not having to worry about if you'll run the right route.

"I'm pretty sure we'll be firing on all cylinders and I'm looking forward to it."

The defending West Division champion Lions are expected to play most of their starting defence with their season opener just nine days away.

Last season, the Lions allowed the second-fewest first downs, the fewest first downs rushing and the fourth-fewest average yards of offence per game, although they were also the second most porous team against the pass.

Overall, that should provide a stringent test for the Stamps, who just 19 days into camp are working with a condensed play package within a totally revamped offence.

"We need to keep the things that we're doing real tight," said Buratto, the Lions offensive co-ordinator last season when the team finished first in several categories. "If we have a big, broad menu of plays, we're not going to execute them very well. We need to keep that menu very small and add and grow as we go through the season. It doesn't do us any good to go out there now and run things we can't execute."

In Buratto's eyes, merely treading water tonight will not be tolerated.


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