Stamps coming into his own with Esks

Edmonton Eskimos Fred Stamps walks off after losing to the Calgary Stampeders in the Eskimo...

Edmonton Eskimos Fred Stamps walks off after losing to the Calgary Stampeders in the Eskimo pre-season home opener at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday, June 24 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI AGENCY)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

If you saw TSN’s mess of a project to select the Top 50 players in the CFL, it turned out to be so lacking in credibility it defied controversy.

But one thing it had right.

There were only two Edmonton Eskimos on the list — Ricky Ray and Fred Stamps.

The ugly truth is that the Eskimos are only taking two certified CFL stars into their 62nd season, which opens against the Roughriders Sunday in Saskatchewan.

Much, of course, is being made of Ray and of GM Eric Tillman’s pronouncement that Job 1 this season will be to protect the quarterback to give him a chance to succeed.

But what about Fred Stamps?

Despite missing four games in the middle of the season, the fifth-year Eskimo, who had his breakout year in 2009 with 85 catches for 1,402 yards, ended the season as the team’s top receiver. He had 80 catches for 1,223 yards and was the Eskimos’ nominee as most outstanding player.

So will this be his career year?

Will this be the year he hits the century figure in catches that he would have hit last year, if he’d stayed healthy?

Will this be the year he’ll hit the magic 1,800-yard mark and average 100 yards per game?

Or will all the changes affect him with double coverage?

If you break down the protection on Ricky Ray and take Fred Stamps away, are the Edmonton Eskimos going to beat you? Probably not.

Ray said as far as he’s concerned, Stamps is arriving as a legitimate top talent and that he has every expectation he’ll prove it in an even bigger way this season.

“He’s become a good player. Last year he put up seriously good numbers.

“When it comes to the quarterback-receiver relationship, he has good speed with an extra gear and he makes a lot of tough catches. You don’t always have to make the most accurate of throws for him to catch it. If you get the ball in his area, he can still go get it.

“I think the thing you have to look at last year is that when he was out, we played some of our worst football. When he came back, we started playing pretty well and getting a few wins.

“Fred is definitely the guy I’m most comfortable with. Now it’s about finding guys to complement him with,” said Ray of the largely new crew of receivers he’ll be working with.

Stamps thinks he’s arrived as a true CFL pro, where now he just needs to go out and prove it with consistency over several consecutive seasons.

“I think I’m at the point where I see the whole field. I know where everybody is going to be. In the off-season I like to work hard toward getting better and I think it’s resulted in my goal of getting better.”

Stamps likes what he sees with the new offence Marcus Crandell is installing here this year.

“I love the new offence. It’s more of a wide-open offence. It’ll be interesting to see how the defence plays it.”

Stamps is accepting a new role on the team with the new receivers.

“I was having wings with Ray Fisher, telling him that in this league, the more film you watch, the more understanding you’re going to have what’s going on and the easier the game is going to be,” he said of the rookie receiver who stood out in the pre-season games with four catches for 141 yards.

“Canadian football is a fun game to play, but once you understand it, it’s even better. I think I understand it pretty good now.”

Stamps has had a taste of putting up big numbers, being named to all-star teams the last two years and being nominated for most outstanding player awards.

But he says it hasn’t become a motivator to get bigger numbers and be the most outstanding player, because of the other taste he’s had.

“I came to Edmonton five years ago and it was all about the Grey Cup around here. I’ve never got close to it. I just want to win before I get old. I’m tired of going home angry every year.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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