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We’ve seen it countless times.
A defensive line collapses on Zach Collaros and it seems like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to have to settle for a couple lost yards and a sack on the stat sheet.
Then, somehow, Collaros pops up and is running across the field. Seemingly out of nowhere, he contorts his body and launches a pass downfield to an open receiver for a big gain.
It’s a paradox for opposing defences. You want to put Collaros under pressure, but it can sometimes feel like he’s truly at his best when he needs to escape and improvise.
“I remember him, basically before his ACL (injury). Way, way back, I thought he was as dynamic a guy as I’ve seen out of the pocket in many, many years,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “There’s been some good ones, too. You know, when I came in Tracy Ham was in the league, Damon (Allen) was in the league, there was Nealon Greene and guys like that.
“But I respect the way he plays. I think he’s a leader and a winner and like all quarterbacks, you’ve got to give him multiple looks and make sure they know you’re there and hopefully you make them make some bad decisions.”
Collaros has hurt the Stampeders when he escapes the pocket many times over the past couple of years and looked as dynamic as he’s ever been last weekend against the B.C. Lions.
Containing the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Players is undoubtedly one of the key areas of emphasis heading into Friday’s curiously under-hyped matchup between the CFL’s final two undefeated teams in Winnipeg.
The Stampeders (4-0) boast a fearsome defensive line that is absolutely capable of creating havoc against a very-good Bombers (5-0) o-line.
When they do get close to Collaros, though, they’re going to need to make sure they take him down.
“I think the difference with him is he keeps plays alive and when he does keep those plays alive, he makes plays down the field,” said Stamps defensive end Folarin Orimolade. “Most quarterbacks can’t do that. He’s one of the best in the league.”
In Bo Levi Mitchell, the Stamps do have a quarterback who has proven time and time again that he can similarly extend plays, dodge defenders and whip pinpoint passes downfield while on the run.
It’s part of what makes Mitchell and Collaros two of the CFL’s super elite quarterbacks.
“All quarterbacks are the most dangerous when they can make an off-schedule play that’s not really part of the play design,” Dickenson explained. “You need three or four of those to win football games and he’s doing that, no doubt.”
So what, exactly, is the key to keeping Collaros contained?
The Stamps were asked similar questions about Edmonton Elks QB Tre Ford last week and about Montreal Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr. a few weeks before that.
Neither of those guys are on Collaros’ level, of course, but it’s not as if the Stamps haven’t faced quarterbacks this season who are capable of escaping the pocket and making plays.
They don’t need to re-invent the wheel against the Bombers if they want to limit Collaros, they just need to execute at an extremely high level. If they don’t, he’ll make them pay. That’s a lesson that a lot of teams have learned over the past couple of seasons.
“You’ve just got to keep on rushing and keep him contained,” Orimolade said. “You don’t want him to be able to extend plays for so long. You’ve just got to keep pursuing him and find a way to get him down.”