Changing of the guard?

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Last game proved Calgary Stampeders receiver Jeremaine Copeland is not ready to be put out to pasture yet.

A pair of touchdown receptions in Calgary's 48-10 thrashing of the B.C. Lions Friday night shows Copeland still can do the job when called upon.

However, one race every athlete eventually loses is the one against Father Time.

Same thing goes for Ryan Thelwell.

Which brings us to the silver lining to be found amidst the injury problems which have faced the Stampeders receiving crew of late.

While Nik Lewis continues to be hobbled by a hip injury -- he's slated to return this week after missing last game -- and Ken-Yon Rambo's status remains up in the air, it's possible he'll be on the shelf for a while due to a knee injury, the Stamps will be on the hunt for replacement pass catchers.

On the surface, the quest would be more in the short-term area.

But it's also a golden opportunity to bring into the fold players who'll be capable of handling long-term duty for the Red and White.

The Stamps need to find a couple of them. Actually, not just find them but find out whether they can do the job week in and week out if they plan to be a top-shelf team season after season.

By no means does this mean it's time to start an obituary for Copeland's career.

Considering he has four touchdown receptions already this season -- three shy of his total a year ago -- maybe some of the chatter the last couple of years that he was nearly done has been premature.

However, when a receiver, even a top receiver, hits the downslide of his career, it happens at an alarmingly quick rate.

Eventually, Copeland will be there. It happened to Allen Pitts, Travis Moore and Terry Vaughn, for those who don't want to reach too far back into the team's history annals.

And when the Stamps lost those receivers -- it almost felt like it was simultaneously -- they were in a heap of trouble.

It appears the club may already have the replacement for Thelwell, the steady and consistent non-import receiver who extinguished 36 candles off his birthday cake in April. Maybe even replacements.

Teyo Johnson is becoming more and more part of the offence, and the injured Jabari Arthur has the size, speed and skill to be a star for years to come.

That kind of Canadian talent can't be overlooked in the CFL, since the more legitimate stars you can find who can have a non-import tag makes it easier to fill in other areas with imports.

You'd think it would be so much easier to find import receivers and be able to build an outstanding corps year after year.

But it's not.

Think of how many receivers are brought in for training camp. They all have talent and possess the tools to do the job.

Once the games begin, though, it's obvious how few truly can be sure-handed, strong players at the professional level.

Think how rarely a Nik Lewis, a great blocker along with fantastic yards-after-catch receiver, comes along. Or a Rambo, who creates so much from the outside. Or a Copeland, who consistently steps into those inside seams and makes the clutch play.

Finding receivers that good isn't easy.

Who knows? Maybe Jermaine Jackson is the guy. He netted his first CFL touchdown reception against the Lions and finished the night with a team-best five receptions.

Or Titus Ryan.

With his speed, Ryan is more of an outside receiver, which makes him more likely the man to jump into Rambo's spot against Saskatchewan Saturday, but he seems so much more adept as a returner.

But to prove further how difficult it can be to figure out who will be a legitimate pro, consider Jackson played at Saginaw Valley State and the defunct Fort Wayne Fusion of the Arena Football League 2 before making his way to Calgary.

It's no different than how the Stamps have been searching for an heir apparent for running back Joffrey Reynolds.

Reynolds' 17-carry, 131-yard, two-TD game in B.C. Place proves he's still among the league's best.

The Stamps could try to acquire Arland Bruce -- although you'd have to wonder how it would make sense financially and with chemistry -- or find a retread among CFL castoffs to fill the gaps in their receiver ranks, but that route wouldn't be worth it.

They have a chance to start creating their next wave of receivers.

The best course of action is to take advantage of the opportunity.


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