February 25, 2022

Upon Further Review: Calgary Stampeders

The Canadian Press

Upon Further Review is a series that looks back at each team’s 2021 season, their key free agent additions and other staff and roster changes and looks ahead to their 2022 campaign.

Looking Back

The 2021 Calgary Stampeders were a team born from resilience. For the first time in recent memory Calgary was not at or near the top of the West with Winnipeg assuming control of the division. Nevertheless, Dave Dickenson’s squad found a way into the playoffs making it 16 consecutive playoff seasons (fifth-longest in CFL history) and a 13th-straight season above .500 (fourth-longest in history).

The effort was not enough to host a playoff game though, which was a feat they achieved eight-straight years previous. Calgary’s trip to Saskatchewan in the Western Semi was their first road Semi-Final game since 2011. The Stampeders’ last road Semi-Final win was back in 2009.

The Stampeders started the 2021 regular season 1-4 but were 7-2 after. That was a stretch of time that saw Bo Levi Mitchell suffer and recover from a broken leg with QB Jake Maier stepping in admirably. One of the keys in those final nine regular season games was fourth quarter scoring. Calgary was outscored just once in the final 15:00 over their last nine games, and still won even that game.

» Upon Further Review: Toronto Argonauts
Upon Further Review: Saskatchewan Roughriders
Upon Further Review: Winnipeg Blue Bombers
» Upon Further Review: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Of their 14 games, 11 were decided in the final 3:00 and going 5-6. They went 2-3 in five games decided by four points or less. While those records aren’t outstanding, they forced Calgary to feel the pressure they usually place on other teams and I believe it drew some world class coaching out of Dave Dickenson. He worked the sideline visibly harder than previous years and did everything he could to drag Calgary into contention.

One player Dickenson didn’t have to ride was RB Ka’Deem Carey who accounted for a higher percentage of team offence and running touches than just about any player across the CFL landscape. 

Late in the year REC Reggie Begelton returned to Calgary giving the passing game some much needed life but it was too little, too late. Playing in just two games before the playoff loss, Begelton announced his re-arrival north of the border with 119 yards at BC before falling off in the final two matchups of the year.

With Carey, Begelton and Kamar Jorden locked and loaded for 2022 with Mitchell and Maier at QB the question quickly turned to who John Hufnagel would add to upgrade Calgary and build hope against their classic Western foes.

New Additions

Not much.

Hufnagel’s tendency is to trust those in house and build on the lessons of previous years with a core. This inevitably leads to losses when players find new opportunities in other CFL cities and this year was no different for the Stamps.

CFL leading tackler Darnell Sankey left for Saskatchewan, DB Richard Leonard for Hamilton, OL Ucambre Williams for Ottawa, REC Hergy Mayala for Montreal and a host of now former Stampeders joining the Argos.

The truth is Calgary builds through the draft as well or better than most teams and doesn’t rely on splashy free agent steals from other teams to build a roster build. The trade of FS Royce Metchie for LB Cameron Judge is without question the biggest move of the February signing period and will be sure to buoy the Stamps defence against too much drop off when paired with standout Jameer Thurman.

Looking Forward

The question for me for the 2022 Stampeders is whether or not 2021 signalled a turning of the page in the West division, or if it will be viewed as an anomaly by the time we reach Christmas.

With a re-stocked pile of offensive talent, excuses for lack of production will be far and few between. The defence will have to carry their weight and special teams continue to show out for Coordinator Mark Kilam, but there is one trend that I believe will define the 2022 Stampeders.

Last season Bo Levi Mitchell threw more check downs than anyone in the league. 

This might not seem like a big deal until you realize just how contrary to his typical heat chart 2021 was. Does this show Bo’s game has changed, or that he was playing through a broken leg and recovering from shoulder surgery in a way that forced temporary evolution? Here is his 2019 chart for comparison.

The Stamps ability to retake the West just might hinge on Bo’s return to form and the inevitable fireworks that would follow.

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