There were plenty of question marks about the Calgary Stampeders heading into this season, but they have mostly been answered.
After seven games and heading into a bye-week, the 6-1 Stamps have the best record in the CFL, and it’s no accident.
Things have come together nicely for John Hufnagel’s crew, and the club is seemingly getting better every week.
There were certain things the Stamps could count on before this campaign began.
We all knew Henry Burris was an elite quarterback, Joffrey Reynolds was a reliable, dynamic running back and cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson were all-star worthy at their positions.
There are more than a few surprises about this group, but we’ve narrowed it down to six (which is the number of wins the Stamps have this season):
1. Nik Lewis in the endzone
A year ago, Nik Lewis went
17 games before getting his first touchdown, and he finished with just the one. Through five games this season, the veteran slotback has hit paydirt five times.
Without his old pal Jeremaine Copeland, Lewis has stepped up as the leader of the receiving corps. He’s on pace for career bests in yardage and TDs, plus he leads the CFL in receptions at this point. Copeland took his
12 TDs to Toronto, and there were questions as to who would pick up the slack for
the Stamps. Lewis has done it.
2. Deon Murphy the return specialist
Over the past few seasons, the Stamps used Canadian Markus Howell as their primary returner. When Howell retired this off-season, the Stamps opened up a competition that was easily won by Deon Murphy.
The rookie now sits second in the CFL for combined yards, and he leads in kickoff return yardage. He also contributes on offence, and he has scored two touchdowns in limited opportunities.
3. Juwan Simpson at middle linebacker
At this point in 2009, the Stamps went on the hunt for veteran help seeing as how they couldn’t stop anyone from running down their throats. They picked up Tim Johnson, DeVone Claybrooks and Jim Davis to stem the bleeding.
This year, with Johnson and Davis retiring, someone needed to step up in the middle, and it turned out to be a familiar face.
Third-year import Juwan Simpson filled the middle linebacker role nicely. The high-energy player leads the Stamps in tackles and has three sacks.
4. Ken-Yon Rambo has returned to form
No one knew if Ken-Yon Rambo would be his old dominant self once he returned from a torn ACL. Turns out, he’s giving the same production from a different area. He led the CFL in yardage during the 2008 season from wideout, but now he’s moved into the slot.
The veteran is just as good in high-traffic areas, and he has 12 receptions for 218 yards and two TDs in three games.
5. Dan Comiskey solidifies the o-line
Much was made this off-season about the retirements and defections to the NFL from the Stamps’ offensive line. The Stamps went out on a limb bringing in veterans Dan Comiskey and Matt Sheridan to compete.
Turns out Comiskey is still the all-star calibre player he was a few years ago, and his leadership has helped solidify an offensive line with three new starters.
Now that Dimitri Tsoumpas is back, the Stamps have one of the best lines in the entire CFL, thanks in part to Comiskey’s solid work at left guard.
6. Best defence in
Chris Jones turned over about half his starters this off-season, shuffling bodies around and finding different roles for veterans.
The moves have all paid off. The Stamps are first in yards allowed, interceptions, and touchdowns allowed and are second in sacks.
The Stamps have allowed the fewest points of any team in the CFL, which is all you can ask of a defence.