Stamps D-pending on 'em

Stampeders defensive lineman Sam Scott and his fellow defenders have a lot to live up to after the...

Stampeders defensive lineman Sam Scott and his fellow defenders have a lot to live up to after the squad posted stingy numbers last season but lost some key players.

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 PM ET

CALGARY - Chris Jones is staring at some big holes in the Calgary Stampeders defence which need to be filled.

With the regular-season opener just over a week from now, you’d hope the defensive co-ordinator would know whether he has the suitable replacements.

“It’s probably the wrong day to ask me that,” Jones said after Tuesday’s practice at McMahon Stadium. “It was the worst day in camp — one of the worst days I’ve seen the last two years.

“In a big-picture scheme, I’ve been very happy with how we’ve come out and responded in camp, with the exception of today.”

The high standards to which Jones holds his players is a reason the Stamps had such a strong defensive squad last season.

His charges surrendered the fewest yards, fewest touchdowns and third-fewest points allowed. Six players were division all-stars, three of whom — linebacker Juwan Simpson and cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson — were all-Canadians.

However, Browner signed with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Anderson left via free agency for the Montreal Alouettes, putting a huge dent in the team’s pass coverage.

Plus, defensive tackle Tom Johnson, a division all-star, signed with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, and safety Wes Lysack left for the Toronto Argonauts.

For the Stamps to not only duplicate last season — winning the West Division in the regular season — but improve and reach the Grey Cup, they’ll need people to fill those big shoes.

“I tell new guys those shoes don’t have to be filled, just come in and play your game,” said defensive back Keon Raymond. “Coach Jones has a great scheme, so make plays and things will come your way.”

“No one person, no singular individual, makes or breaks this defence,” Jones said. “That’s not to say we won’t miss those guys, because they’re part of our family. They helped us win a lot of games but, at the same time, I’ll tell you we’ve got a great group of guys, a great group of athletes, and I feel a great group of workers willing to do what we say, play as a team and are willing to do what it takes to win a championship.”

Friday’s pre-season tilt in Edmonton will help shake out who jumps into those roles, but rest assured the predictions will come from all corners of the CFL whether the Stamps defence will be the same without those key players.

“To me, defence is about having a swagger that says you don’t care what people say about you,” Raymond said. “Ultimately, we go out there and have to play. We can’t worry if somebody doesn’t like us. Just show up on the field on game days and make plays.

“We still have some of the core guys from when we won the Grey Cup in ’08 and guys from last year when we had a top defence. We have a great foundation built, so it’s getting the young guys up to speed.

“We were so good last year, some people may expect us to start at that point. We don’t have those all-stars at corner and defensive tackle, but we have guys to replace them.”

It just may take time for them to prove it, or somebody to jump forward and become a standout.

“Somebody has to,” said Simpson, whose career took a big step last season. “Before we knew about Brandon Browner, Dwight Anderson and Tom Johnson, there were other guys in front of them. It’s a cycle. You can rest assured somebody won’t be out there getting beat every play. Whoever’s out there, they will be a suitable replacement.

“Even last year, nobody expected us to be up near the top, where we were. All we can do is go out there and perform. We have young guys capable of stepping up and making big plays. I’m confident in them, as is the rest of the team.

“It’s a phase every team will go through and it’s our turn this year.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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