Defence saddles up for Ride

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

That Calgary Stampeders offence is still taking a beating.

It’s been a week since the Stampeders coughed up the ball five times in a loss to the Toronto Argonauts, but things didn’t look much better on the practice field Tuesday.

Missed assignments, dropped passes and disorganized looks had head coach John Hufnagel berating his team on the turf.

“I just gave them a little pep-talk out there. It’s a little hot out here, I thought they needed a pickup — so I picked them up,” Hufnagel joked later. “We had a three or four-play series there that we had some assignment busts.

I wasn’t pleased with it.”

The offence obviously needs to get in sync in time for Saturday’s clash with the West Division-leading Saskatchewan Roughriders.

More importantly, though, the defence needs to overcome a spotty outing in Toronto in time to face the CFL’s most dangerous unit in the league so far this season.

The Riders have honours in nearly every offensive category tracked by the CFL.

Running back Wes Cates leads the league in rushing. Quarterback Darian Durant tops all passers and has already thrown seven touchdowns against just one interception.

Weston Dressler, Andy Fantuz and Chris Getzlaf highlight a dangerous group of receivers.

While keeping Argos QB Cleo Lemon quiet last week, the Stamps defence suffered against the ground attack, allowing 184 running yards against, including 142 by running back Cory Boyd.

The Riders must be licking their chops.

“Oh, it’s tough. I’m sure you guys have seen the numbers,” said Stamps middle linebacker Juwan Simpson. “They’re doing well. They run the ball real well. They have an amazing quarterback and great receivers.

“If you don’t prepare any other week, this is the week you want to prepare and make sure you know everything inside and out.

“We know they’re real dangerous, and we’ll be ready.”

One man who’s licking his chops over the chance to prove the Stamps can toughen up against the run is big defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks, who was benched last week.

“As a defensive front unit — and as a whole — we take pride in stopping the run because if you can make an offence one-dimensional then you can pretty much control and dictate what they do,” said Claybrooks, who points to the defending Grey Cup-champion Montreal Alouettes as an example of a team that was torched on the ground but still won the title in Calgary last fall.

“Montreal got gashed for (200)-something (yards) when they had the best defence in the whole league that year,” Claybrooks said. “Every team has letdowns, but it’s about when you fall, how do you get up and respond? I’m sure we’re going to respond accordingly.”

No one believes it will be easy.

The Riders shouldn’t be quick to assume they will be able to duplicate the Argos’ success, either — even if it seems like an obvious Stamps weakness.

“I expect (our opponents) to run the ball every week — we’re not the biggest,” Simpson said. “But I’ll tell you what — we take that as a challenge.

“We know what’s coming, and all we’re going to do is work very hard on and off the field to be prepared for whatever they throw at us this weekend.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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