Upon Further Review: The 2019 Stamps
As 2019 Stampeders training camp kicked off everything was possible. Bo Levi was poised for another season of utter domination, Dave Dickenson was ready to make a run at another Grey Cup and the big game was in their own stadium.
How could it get any better!
The year finished with a home defeat in the Western semifinal, another remainder that the sports gods don’t care about your storyline stars aligning. It was only the first time since 2011 Calgary failed to reach the Western Final
So what happened? How did the Stamps end in disappointment despite having another season of double digit wins and a home playoff date extending their franchise record streak of fifteen straight playoff berths?
To understand the end you have to look at the beginning of the season. When Bo Levi Mitchell suffered a pectoral injury the rhythm and flow of the offence completely changed. The Stampeders were two complelty different offensive teams when Mitchell was healthy, and when he was sidelined.
In Nick Arbuckle the Stampeders found a sturdy and reliable backup yes, but a passer unwilling to attack in the same way Bo has become know for.
For perspective, look at a comparison of the two quarterbacks passing location tendencies with the superior attempt percentage being listed.
Mitchell owned 15 of a possible 20 throw locations beyond ten yards in the air while Arbuckle’s charting showed his willingness to take safer throws under ten yards and behind the line of scrimmage where he owned 8 of 10 available throw locations.
Result? A league leading completion percentage and user friendly accuracy mark.
Here you can see how Arbuckle took over Mitchell in 2019 completion percentage including throws down the heart of the field.
Worth noting here as well is that between the two passers best marks behind the line of scrimmage Calgary quarterbacks completed 96.6% of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage. The highest mark in the CFL last season.
Playing two dramatically different styles in one season can be a difficult adjustment, now look at the number of man games lost to injury for Calgary’s receivers in 2019? Huff? Ambles? Sindani? Mayala? They all missed at least four games to injury. In fact the Stamps top two receivers Reggie Begelton and Eric Rogers had to carry so much of the load they set new mark’s in a Dave Dickenson offence for targeted tough percentage over the last three seasons.
Even more amazing is that Arbuckle, Dickenson and Mitchell had to use rookie Canadian receivers to fill the void, and barely missed a step.
In the 2019 CFL draft 14 receivers were taken.
Thanks to Hergy Mayala (1st round) and Colton Hunchak (last round) the Stamps led the CFL in 2019 Canadian rookie targets (58.1%), Canadian rookie catches (64.2%), and Canadian rookie receiving yards (70.1%).
If anyone asks you about who got the most out of offensive skill drafting last year it was Calgary in a landslide, not even close.
While the Stampeders offence was difficult to characterize due to the evolving nature of personnel and approach, we do know this: The Stamps were not explosive enough in 2019.
With Mitchell working his way back in for longer than expected and Arbuckle refusing to take shots down the field Calgary’s offence looked more like Trevor Harris’ last season in Ottawa than anything we’ve come to associate with a Dave Dickenson led approach.
Since the season ended Calgary has lost longtime receivers coach Pete Constanza who left for a bigger role elsewhere and landed in Winnipeg, but the continuity of 2019 to 2020 on the coaching staff should bode well compared to last offseason when everybody wanted a piece of a red and white coordinator following their Grey Cup championship in Edmonton over the Redblacks.
As for player movement? Calgary was more aggressive than usual as the fourth most active team after seven days of #CFLFA 2020.
They lost DL Chris Casher, RB Don Jackson, REC Juwan Brescacin, but brought in what had to be their most prominent target in former Argos OL Sean McEwen followed by kicker Ronnie Pfeffer, DB Brandon Dozier, hometown boy Connor McGough, DB Richard Leonard and Argos castoff QB Dakota Prukop to compete for the backup QB spot left vacant by Arbuckle’s departure to Ottawa.
The 2020 Stampeders will look a bit different, but expect them to return to a style, a mentality and win/loss record more familiar to what we’ve seen in recent years.
In an ultra competitive CFL West division, the Stamps aren’t going anywhere so long as they have Dickenson, Huff and Bo.
Marshall Ferguson is a former U SPORTS Quarterback, now serving as TSN 1150 Hamilton morning show host, voice of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and CFL.ca analyst.