Rooks won't be pawns

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 5:49 AM ET

The Toronto Argonauts arrived with the CFL's No.-1 rusher in Jamal Robertson.

The Calgary Stampeders appear to be starting two rookies on the defensive line -- one who'll make his debut.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

One of those rooks, Tom Johnson, sees it as a chance to prove himself right away.

"It's always great to go up against somebody that has status, because it proves how good your defence is," Johnson said. "And it's a challenge to establish yourself, show you can dominate the line of scrimmage as a d-lineman, and as a defence as a whole."

Johnson missed the season-opener due to his grandfather's death. That week away was a factor for keeping him out of the lineup last game, too.

The 6-foot-3, 293-lb. defensive tackle out of Southern Miss finally has his chance to show his wares when the winless Stamps (0-2) host the Argos (1-1). And it appears he'll be alongside another first-time starter in Malik Jackson.

Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 230-lb. defensive end out of Louisville who had a tryout with the Oakland Raiders last year has seen some action this season, but with the team's struggles against the run to start the season, it appears he'll be given more opportunity.

"It's a fun challenge," he said of facing the league's top runner. "Any team you play against is gonna have their strong point. You just have to step up to the challenge. I'm looking forward to it and having fun."

The Stamps won't have a ton of fun if Robertson has a game like his season-opener. He ran for 134 yards and a touchdown in Toronto's 30-17 victory over Hamilton.

He's compiled 214 yards on the ground to go with a pair of majors through his first two games.

Considering the way the Stampeders have been run over so far this season -- allowing a league-worst 319 yards on the ground in the first two games -- it could make for a long night at McMahon.

"He's a bigger back and people don't think he's as fast as he is," said Mike Labinjo, who'll be the veteran presence on the defensive line.

Of course, the Argos rushing attack doesn't end there. Quarterback Kerry Joseph is always a major threat to take off with the ball.

"The most important thing is to get him out of a rhythm," Labinjo said of Joseph's abilities. "When he gets into the zone, he can pick teams apart.

"We stressed all week to keep him contained. We can't lose containment with this guy or he will make you pay with his legs. Coach (Chris) Jones stressed keeping contain and putting pressure on him at all times. We don't want him sitting back there and have the option of taking off to run."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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