Copeland struggling to regain form

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

CALGARY -- Fighting to snatch the ball in the face of a blocking defender, Jeremaine Copeland jumped and twisted in an awkward angle, making the grab around his outstretched teammate.

The veteran Calgary Stampeders receiver looked determined yesterday to come back from the bye week with a new focus.

His numbers over the first seven games put him on pace for his worst statistical season since joining the Montreal Alouettes full-time in 2003.

His 21 catches for 253 yards is well behind the standard Copeland has set for himself.

After leading the CFL in touchdown receptions with 10 last season - along with teammate Ken-Yon Rambo and Saskatchewan Roughriders slotback D.J. Flick - Copeland has just two so far.

DROPPED BALLS

More concerning are the dropped balls and apparent lack of concentration at times.

There were some aspects of his game he was happy with, but Copeland admits he's striving for much better over the final 11 outings.

"I felt pretty good with my blocking, but I don't think I had a great first half of the season," Copeland said. "As far as me executing, I think my production probably could have been better. I had some drops that I don't usually have."

He's earned a reputation for being one of the more sure-handed pass-catchers in the business, so when you see him tip a ball into his opponent's arms as he did in the last game against the Riders, or drop an easy one in stride, you know something is wrong.

His quarterback Henry Burris is confident Copeland will rebound, looking more like the go-to guy he's always been.

"Oh, he'll be that guy." said Burris yesterday after the Stamps' first practice after a week off. "(Off periods) happens to guys in their careers. Like Michael Jordan said, 'The 29 times I failed, it's allowed me to succeed the million times I have.'

"For Jeremaine, it's only been a couple of games. We're going to get it to him. He's the kind of guy that if he gets the ball early, he gets that itch and wants the ball all the time."

Wrenching around to get the ball in practice yesterday, signs point to his passion already climbing in advance of Friday's game against the Lions in B.C.

"It's time to step it up," Copeland said of his grab on the McMahon turf.

"I feel what everybody else feels - I don't think I was the best in the first seven games. I'm gonna come out and see if I can boost my production a little higher and help this team out."

Burris has the luxury of a handful of confident, competent and complementary receivers at his disposal.

Rambo (616 yards, 3 TDs) and Nik Lewis (438, 6 TDs) are leading the way for the Stamps, with Brett Ralph (413, 1 TD) also racking up some big numbers.

Knowing the depth at the position is strong, Burris still believes Copeland will have to be a factor if the team is to make a play for first place in the Western Division.

SWEET GRAB

Yesterday's sweet grab in practice came courtesy of the starting QB's arm.

"I threw it to him," Burris said with a grin. "He was in a different position. That's kind of a new play we put in with him. We're just trying to get our chemistry down and the timing.

"That's the kind of catch he can make - the guy has phenomenal hands.

"He seems to show up at the right time every time in a season. We're looking forward to him rising to the occasion."

So is Copeland.

"I take it on myself to get better," he said. "The best thing is you either get better or you get worse, and I'm dang sure not gonna get worse."


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