Defence swarms to loose balls

IAN BUSBY

, Last Updated: 12:54 PM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos must have thought their opponent stopped playing football Friday night and switched to rugby.

How else could they explain why Calgary Stampeders defenders were scooping up balls on incomplete passes and trying to take it the other way?

Throughout training camp, the Stamps have swarmed to the loose footballs under the direction of new co-ordinator Chris Jones -- whether the ball was live or not -- and that continued in the 39-14 preseason opening win at McMahon Stadium.

"They probably thought it was weird," said linebacker Mike Labinjo. "While watching the film today, our coaches were actually laughing at us picking up dropped passes and chasing the play out of bounds. It just shows how much of Chris Jones' teachings have hit home with us."

In the first test of Jones' defence, hardly anything could be considered a negative. Although the Esks were without quarterback Ricky Ray and receivers Jason Tucker and Kamau Peterson, the Stamps allowed just 222 yards total offence and created four turnovers.

It was hard to pick a standout performance by any player but equally tough to say anyone didn't play well.

And when Markus Howell picked off Jason Maas in the second half, the entire defence celebrated around the receiver-turned-cornerback with the same enthusiasm they used when jumping on loose balls.

Linebacker JoJuan Armour said fans can expect to see this continue all season long.

"I hope it sends a statement out to the league that we're going to fly to the ball and try to get it out," Armour said.

"If it's incomplete, we're waiting for the refs to blow the whistle. We may just get lucky on a couple of those."

EXTRA POINTS

Stamps head coach John Hufnagel didn't make any cuts yesterday as the players went through a run down at McMahon Stadium ... The team will complete its final two-practice day today in preparation for Thursday's preseason finale in B.C.


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