Cover units earn stripes

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

When the Calgary Stampeders stuffed Tony Tompkins in the Labour Day rematch, the dynamic rookie returner made an admission.

A quick summary of the Edmonton Eskimos' statements and he sounds like Tony the Tiger: 'They're great.'

So, the article with the comments was posted in the Stamps locker-room as a sign the cover teams have done their jobs this season.

Linebacker Marc Calixte was proud to be recognized after the Stamps were able to hold Tompkins to four punt returns for minus-10 yards.

"Those are words of encouragement," the third-year Stampeder said. "The thing is, what we did to Tompkins was what we did to most returners this year.

"We stop guys from coming up field. That's our first rule, make him go east or west. We give everybody a chance to make a tackle."

Outside of two return touchdowns given up to Toronto's Bashir Levingston and a blocked punt on Labour Day against Edmonton, Calgary's specialteams units have been tack sharp this season under co-ordinator Craig Dickenson.

Despite not getting a return touchdown this season -- although they have two on blocked punts -- rarely have the Stamps lost the field-position battles.

"We take every cover and return seriously," Calixte said. "Any one of those plays can make or break a game. We don't take any chances."

Punter Burke Dales has missed practices this week because he's nursing a hip flexor. Although Dales is expected to play tomorrow, he was replaced in practice by placekicker Sandro DeAngelis and receiver Mike Juhasz, who is DeAngelis' holder.

Even if the Stamps are without the Dales' solid directional punting, Juhasz believes shutting down Tompkins won't be a problem because of the cover schemes.

"Our biggest asset on special teams is our ability to cover, wherever the kick goes," Juhasz said. "I don't think we're going to lack in that at all, even if Burke is out."

Tompkins leads the league in punt-return yards with 823 on 69 attempts but if he faced the Stamps every week, he might not have any yards.

Juhasz dropped Tompkins for a loss of 17 in the Labour Day rematch after MarTay Jenkins pushed him back on that play and dropped him for a one-yard gain on another.

"Some of those guys who get big returns, they often fight to get yards," Jenkins said. "They may lose five here and there going around the corner.

"When you have a cover team like we have, you can't turn around the corner on us. We swarm and cover all bases. We have one guy go wide to make him cut back in to all our people.

"We really have to be solid this week and block all lanes and get off protection."

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JEANTY HURTING: The Eskimos might be without defensive end Rashad Jeanty (hamstring) Sunday, second on the team with eight sacks.

"We need to be smart about it," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

"We know we're going to be playing (in the playoffs) and all indications are, if he ends up missing this one, there's no question he'll play the next one."

The 11-6 Eskimos are guaranteed a berth in the next Sunday's West semifinal or possibly a bye into the final Nov. 20.


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