Jonesing for better D

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:37 AM ET

Chris Jones won't rush to the defence of his rush defence.

Not when he's the one pressuring them to be much better.

After two straight losses to start the regular season, the Calgary Stampeders are dead last in stopping the run, and it is causing frustration for the defensive co-ordinator.

In two games, the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have piled up 319 yards on the ground against the Stampeders.

"I don't really worry about stats," Jones said. "I know they've been able to run the ball on us. I know some of it is scheme and some of it is not getting in the gaps. We play a lot of man coverage, so that helps in average yards per catch because they can't throw the ball down the field on us as much.

"With the run, we intend on stopping every single one. Eight-yard runs, they kill me."

In a weird statistical anomaly, the Stamps are tops in the league in pass defence, holding the Als and the Bombers to just 411 yards combined.

But it is in the key number the Stampeders are terrible, although it isn't completely the defence's fault.

The Stamps have allowed a league-high 82 points in two games.

"We control what we can control," Jones said. "We don't run the ball on defence. Our job is stop people, regardless of where they start out. It's a team game. If we have the misfortune of having a short field, it's a matter of stopping them regardless."

The rough start and some injuries have led to a steady stream of juggling in personnel among the front four.

Before last week's trip to Winnipeg, rush end Mike Labinjo was moved inside, tackle Miguel Robede was scratched and rookie Odell Willis started in Labinjo's old spot.

Justin Phillips (hip) is out this week, and it seems Juwan Simpson will join him on the sidelines with Malik Jackson drawing back into the lineup after getting scratched for Week 2.

Now, Labinjo will have a new teammate inside, as defensive tackle Tom Johnson is set to make his debut.

The former NFLer missed the first two weeks of the season dealing with the death of his grandfather, but he's pumped to join the roster and see if he can make an impact.

"I hope this is it," Johnson said about the lineup juggling. "They had a few problems -- nothing really big. A little peek here and there in the front line.

"There is a small crease, and the opponent was taking advantage of it. We just have to refocus as a group and try to eliminate those mistakes."

With Johnson getting activated, the likely roster victim will be tackle Justin Brown.

Some might question whether the Stamps are missing linebacker JoJuan Armour, who was cut during camp for disciplinary reasons. But the rush defence issue goes back to last season, and even into the playoffs.

In the season-finale, the B.C. Lions ran for 154 yards and for even more in the West Division final, when they had 160 along the ground. The Als had 117 yards rushing in the Grey Cup.

The difference is the Stamps won those tilts.

"Teams started scheming us the way we were running our defence," said linebacker Dwaine Carpenter, who took Armour's spot this season. "This year, there is some scheme stuff, but the bottom line is we're out of our gaps. Until we get that fixed, we will be last against the run."

Carpenter said the biggest issue right now is talking among the new players.

"It's different guys every time. That's the problem there," Carpenter added. "We have to do a better job of communicating. We have to let each other know where we're supposed to fit."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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