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The Stampeders endured some turbulence in the off-season, yet the defending Grey Cup Champions are in position to hold on to the CFL’s Iron Throne. Once quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell re-signed with the franchise, the offence was set to resume its usual balance of overwhelming opponents with a steady yet unspectacular ground game and a vertical passing attack that led the league with 44 completions of better than 30 yards.
The NFL came knocking at Mitchell’s door. Fortunately for Calgary, he didn’t answer.
A new four-year deal keeps Mitchell at home and the Stampeders atop the league. After a less than stellar (for him, at least) 2017, Mitchell unleashed a weekly reminder to opposing defences, finishing the year with a career-high 35 touchdown passes and 5,124 yards. He was lethal when dialing up the ball, completing a league-best 42 completions of over 30 yards with 17 of his majors coming from at least 20 yards out. No one attempted more passes of 20-plus yards than Mitchell (134), who also topped all pivots with an average attempt of 12.5 yards.
Don’t expect Mitchell to ease up now that he’s set for the long haul. Fantasy users can count on coach Dave Dickenson give the reigning Most Outstanding Player the green light to strike downfield when the opportunity presents itself.
Even with the loss of receivers Marken Michel (NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) and Chris Matthews (Winnipeg), Mitchell has the talent to run under his long-range darts. Fantasy users can bank on Mitchell remaining durable despite facing issues around his right shoulder and watch him flirt with the third 5,000-yard season of his career while also staying in the neighborhood of 27-30 passing majors. While he did surprise many by rushing for 108 yards, don’t count on him reverting to his old self. Chances are good 2019 will be the fourth straight year Mitchell does not record a rushing major.
Nick Arbuckle rushed for five majors as a rookie and will begin his second season as the Stamps’ short yardage specialist and should get a game or two of fourth quarter mop-up duty. The Stampeders like the potential of third pivot Montell Cozart, who signed with the team last August. While he did not see the field, Cozart has a nice mix of passing and running that will have the chance to develop at a slow and steady pace.
Calgary finished sixth in the league with 99.4 rushing yards per game, but the Stampeders may have the best crop of backs available. Don Jackson had a impressive first season in Canada as the former Green Bay Packer finished as the fourth-leading rusher with 924 yards. Jackson averaged a solid 5.8 yards per carry and was the league’s leading runner for much of the season before injuries cost him five games. He only scored three times, which hurt his Fantasy status, but Jackson will be near the top of many Fantasy users’ wish lists on a weekly basis. He’s a good RB1 who can contribute as a receiver (23 receptions, 188 yards), which he showed by catching a 21-yard scoring toss from Mitchell in the Grey Cup.
Backup Terry Williams will still be a good RB2 for Fantasy users. Williams was fifth in the league with 1,336 total return yards and was eighth in all-purpose yards (1,593). No one topped his three punt returns for scores as he averaged 13.1 yards per return before capping off his season with a game-altering return for a score in the Grey Cup win over the REDBLACKS. He will spell Jackson but did show potential as a lead back. His Fantasy value takes a significant climb if asked to handle the lead role in Calgary.
Rookie Romar Morris became one of the league’s most exciting players in his rookie season before an injury in the Western Final sidelined him. Morris was 11th in all-purpose yards (1,356) and had one of the best individual efforts of the season in Week 13 when he rushed for 95 yards and two scores and added five catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-42 loss at the Eskimos. The Stampeders will have to find a way to get him on the field once he’s at full strength.
Calgary’s backfield riches extend to Atlee Simon, who left Regina as the Rams’ all-time leading rusher. Ka’Deem Carey and LaDarius Galloway have had impressive training camps, but at least one of them will eventually have to leave the Stamps to find an opportunity in the league.
Losing Michel and Matthews — along with DaVaris Daniels (Eskimos) and Lemar Durant (Lions) — won’t hurt as much as some might expect, for while the Stampeders suffered a brutal rash of injuries at the position last season, the team’s depth and eye for talent came through.
The team is hoping Kamar Jorden will return by mid-season after he sustained a brutal knee injury on Labour Day. Jorden was playing the best ball of his career (55 catches, 944 yards, six majors) before being sidelined. He was still able to earn West All-Star honors, though. Jorden will need time to get back to form, so it’s unlikely he will be at the level he was until 2020. Eric Rogers returned to the Stamps last season and pulled in 36 receptions for 499 yards and five majors despite missing half the year with knee injuries.
This will be Reggie Begelton’s time to shine, as he is expected to be Mitchell’s top option. Begelton had a combined 12 catches for 303 yards in Weeks 13-14 that included a 99-yard touchdown reception. His season was dashed by an arm injury the following game, but Begelton is healthy and is primed for a potential 1,000-yard campaign. Calgary found a diamond in the rough with Markeith Ambles, who came off the practice roster to catch touchdowns in four straight games late in the season. The second-year pro will start at Jorden’s slot position and should be set as a middle-of-the-road WR2/Flex.
Juwan Brescacin averaged 16.2 yards per catch and looks set to start at one of the boundary receiver slots, while first-round pick Hergy Mayala will seek to work his way into the rotation. Richard Sindani will compete for a starting job, with Julan Lynch providing the Stamps with an experienced hand should injuries come along. Former Indianapolis Colts wideout Griff Whalen will factor in somewhere.
As much as the offence suffered losses, the defence had it worse, beginning with coordinator DeVone Claybrooks, who took the head coaching role in BC. The loss of tackle Micah Johnson (Roughriders) is a huge blow to the league’s top defence, which also lost pass rushing end Ja’Gared Davis (Tiger-Cats), hard-hitting linebacker Alex Singleton (NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) and secondary anchors Adam Berger (retired) and Tunde Adeleke (Tiger-Cats).
The shelves aren’t completely bare, as end Cordarro Law, linebackers Corey Greenwood and Riley Jones will be joined by a lockdown secondary featuring corner Tre Roberson, halfback Brandon Smith and free-agent acquisition Courtney Stephen.