Questions surrounding Stamps

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:46 PM ET

At no time since John Hufnagel took over the Calgary Stampeders have there been so many questions surrounding the team.

At least they aren’t the only ones in the CFL who have areas of concern. When training camp opens Sunday at McMahon Stadium, the Stamps GM-head coach has plenty to figure out, and the 2010 season should be an intriguing one.

Here are 10 burning questions for the Stamps as camps opens with great uncertainty in many areas:

Are the retirements finally finished?

Jeff Pilon, Markus Howell, Jim Davis, Brett Ralph and Jesse Newman. Anyone else missing? The mass exodus has become a punchline with the team, but you won’t catch the coach laughing.

Any one of those retirements hurt on their own, but collectively, it could be devastating. Now that camp is underway, the only losses should be because of injuries, which could force others to walk away.

Will Ken-Yon Rambo and Ryan Thelwell resemble their former selves?

No one questions whether Rambo and Thelwell have determination in their comebacks from major injuries, but both are fighting back from leg issues.

As receivers, speed and agility are key, so it will take time for them to get up to full speed. At 37, Thelwell is facing a tougher road having worked back from a torn Achilles, but Rambo coming back from a torn ACL won’t be easy either.

Will Mike Labinjo get back to 2008 form?

At the end of 2009, the Canadian defensive lineman hit a low point in his career as a healthy scratch during the playoffs. He was given a challenge of losing weight and coming back this season in better shape.

Labinjo took the challenge head on and he seems determined to win back the starting spot he had in 2008 when he became a star during an inspiring Grey Cup run.

Will the offensive line stack up?

The retirement of Pilon made the Stamps go with two imports at the tackle positions. Newman’s sudden departure opened another hole.

Veterans Dan Comiskey and Matt Sheridan, who were both out of football last season, were signed to provide some depth, but neither has played regularly since 2007.

The projected starters are Ben Archibald at left tackle, Godfrey Ellis at left guard, Tim O’Neill at centre, Comiskey at right guard and either Edwin Harrison or Sam Allen at right tackle.

Who is the backup quarterback?

There is once again an open competition to be Henry Burris’ understudy. Drew Tate finished last season at No. 2, surpassing Barrick Nealy with strong showings in practice, but those two will be in a heated battle.

Nealy needs to show he has taken another step in his fifth CFL season.

Did Joffrey Reynolds set the bar too high?

With a revamped offensive line, the star running back might be the one hit hardest by the changes. The 30-year-old had a career-high in yards per carry (6.4) and touchdowns (11) last year in being named the West Division’s most outstanding player.

What are the offensive changes now that George Cortez is gone?

There is no official offensive co-ordinator now that Cortez left for the NFL, but head coach John Hufnagel will have more input into the offence. Dave Dickenson will coach the quarterbacks and call the plays and there will be tweaks to the offensive system.

Do Romby Bryant and Nik Lewis know where the endzone is?

The receivers combined for 97 receptions for the Stampeders in 2009 but only one touchdown. Lewis got it in the final week of the season, giving Bryant the CFL record for most yards in a season without recording a major.

Will Milt Collins hit as hard from the linebacker spot?

The former safety was a force picking his spots but he has moved to the sam linebacker position formerly occupied by Shannon James. The Stamps want better coverage from that spot, but so far Collins is better known for devastating hits.

Will there be kicker jitters?

Replacing the CFL’s most accurate kicker of all-time won’t be easy, but first-round picks Rob Maver and Warren Kean (2007, Edmonton) will duel it out for an unenviable position.


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