Stampeders face familiar face in Toronto

Argonauts defensive coordinator Chris Jones prepares his troops for battle against his old team,...

Argonauts defensive coordinator Chris Jones prepares his troops for battle against his old team, the Stampeders. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:21 AM ET

TORONTO - The Calgary Stampeders vs. Chris Jones?

Good luck selling that storyline to guys on either sideline.

“This is professional football, and I’m just a coach. In my entire 10-year career in this league, I’ve never made a tackle,” protested Jones, the former Stamps assistant coach and current defensive co-ordinator for the Toronto Argonauts. “I’ve got friends all over the league, so every single week it’s dealing with people you know and competing against people you know.”

Still, Saturday’s showdown between the Stamps and the Argos at Rogers Centre (1 p.m., TSN, QR77) is a bit different.

Jones was the Red & White defensive co-ordinator for four seasons — including two with the added title of assistant player personnel director — before bolting to join the Boatmen just days after the 2011 Grey Cup game.

At the time, Stamps boss John Hufnagel told reporters he was “very surprised” by the move and “had no forewarning of it.” The league investigated the hire and, after confirming the Argos did not request permission to chat with the defensive whiz, fined the team $5,000.

Ahead of Saturday’s clash at what’s still known to many as SkyDome, Jones called Stamps offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson and receivers coach Pete Costanza “some of my best friends” and added the coaching crew in Calgary was “a good group of dudes.”

He admitted, though, he hasn’t had any conversations with Hufnagel since his hasty departure.

“I don’t really want to re-hash it,” Hufnagel said earlier this week. “Just go back to what you wrote four or five months ago. That’s what it was. Things haven’t changed. I’m not going there.”

Don’t expect a war of words, then.

What you can count on is an entertaining battle between the white lines.

The Stamps offence was impressive in a 38-10 blowout of the Montreal Alouettes in Week 1, while the Argos defence wasn’t necessarily to blame in a 19-15 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.

In 2010, Jones’ unit in Calgary surrendered fewer yards than any other team in the three-down football loop, so his former employers know what he’s capable of.

“It’s very challenging — Chris is a great defensive coach,” Hufnagel said. “We do have one luxury of we’ve experienced him for the last four years and know the things he wants to do and what he can do, although he’s still dreaming up new things to do. It’s going to be a fight.

“I believe if you asked other offensive coaches throughout the league of what’s it like to face the Stampeders while Chris was here, they’d say the same thing I’m saying now.”

For fans of the Red & White, Jones won’t be the only familiar face now wearing two shades of blue.

Former Stamps starters Robert McCune and Brandon Isaac are now making tackles for the Argos, while linebacker Ejiro Kuale and defensive back Ahmad Carroll have earned jobs in T.O. after brief auditions at McMahon Stadium.

Jones knows much of the Calgary club’s personnel on both sides of the ball, but he scoffed at a suggestion that would give him any sort of advantage in Saturday’s matchup.

“Even when I was there, (the offence) would come out every single day and have some kind of new wrinkle that would defeat what we were doing. So familiarity? I’ve not been there in six months. I’m sure they’ve got a lot installed between then and now,” Jones said.

“The thing about them — if you watched the game last week — is that’s a good offence and they’re clicking on all cylinders. They’re well-coached from the top down. Their quarterback is running things like a quarterback should. He’s making all the throws. With the exception of a couple drops the other night, they played as good of a football game as I’ve seen in a long time.

“I mean, they’re solid. Their front is physical. They can pass-protect. Their running back can hit it downhill. They’ve got speed at receiver. We’ve certainly got out hands full.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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