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Calgary Stampeders fans must be happier than a pig rolling around in slop right now.
The Stamps are 4-0. They proved in their first three games that they could overcome adversity, and then they showed Thursday night that they’re capable of laying an absolute smackdown on the Edmonton Elks in a lopsided 49-6 win.
The Stampeders didn’t just beat the Elks, they big-brothered them. They were like a high school bully from a 1980s teen comedy. They gave the Elks a wedgie and then shoved them into a locker.
It was a stunning performance from the Stamps and established their credentials as one of the contenders to be feared in the CFL. It also raised serious questions about the Elks, but that’s for reporters in Edmonton to dissect.
For now, the Stamps can sit back and watch their rivals beat each other up this weekend while they begin preparations for a critical two-game set against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Those games are probably going to tell us a lot more about the Stamps than anything that happened Thursday night in Edmonton, but regardless of the opposition, there’s no arguing with a 4-0 record or a 43-point margin of victory over your biggest rival.
“Knowing we have Winnipeg coming up, knowing that in the West right now before this game there were four teams with three wins, it’s very, very important to just keep putting up two points on the board,” said Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell. “Keep doing that, hopefully B.C. and Winnipeg can beat each other up a little bit.”
Life is good in Stamps-land right now.
Here are 10 takeaways from Thursday’s big win:
It’s way too early to start talking about end-of-season awards, but it’s never too early to use them as a rhetorical shortcut to illustrate just how good a player has been.
And man, Cam Judge has been a revelation in his first four games as a Stampeder. At this point, he’s got to be a frontrunner for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award, right?
Heading into Friday’s action, Judge was third in the CFL in tackles, with 21. He’s also got an interception and two fumble recoveries, both of which came on Thursday and one of which he ran back 63 yards for a touchdown.
After an early miscue where he wrapped up Elks QB Tre Ford but couldn’t take him down, Judge was absolutely everywhere. He also had a sack to go along with his five defensive tackles and one special teams tackle.
It was a truly spectacular performance and should earn him a CFL Player of the Week nod.
As a sidenote, it really is incredible how Jameer Thurman elevates the guys around him. Whether it was Alex Singleton, Darnell Sankey or, now, Judge, it seems like whichever linebacker is slotted in next to Thurman always seems to excel.
At the time that I’m writing this, Ka’Deem Carey is currently leading the CFL in rushing yards, while Peyton Logan is establishing himself as a dangerous second option in the run-game for the Stampeders.
That dual-threat is just not something the Stamps had in their arsenal last season. With all due respect to Ante Milanovic-Litre, who is a good player, it often felt like drives stalled when the Stamps tried to run the ball with someone other than Carey last year.
Logan’s rapid rise – and it’s worth noting that he started the season as their third running back on the depth chart behind Carey and the now-injured Dedrick Mills – has been huge for the Stamps. His considerable talent as a kick returner only add to that. He had a 21-yard touchdown run and a 122 yard missed-field-goal return for a touchdown on Thursday. The guy is making an impact.
With Carey smashing through defences and Logan coming in in-relief, the Stamps are hurting teams with the run-game and it’s a problem for the opposition.
I’m going to stay out of the way on this one, because I offer my thoughts on the different areas of the offence in other takeaways here, but it’s notable how well the Stampeders are spreading the ball right now.
The run game is going, the passing game is going. When both are rolling, that’s when the Stamps are at their best.
Here’s what Mitchell had to say when he was asked about that post-game, though.
“I think (Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson) is on his game, really,” Mitchell said. “Being a quarterback is fun when your play-caller is really on his stuff and I feel like Dave is really on his bag right now. There’s not a lot of times when he calls a play and I’m kind of like ‘Really, why are we doing that?’ Every time he calls it, I feel confident about it. Offensively, that’s why I think we’re tough right now, I think we have a lot of balance but there’s going to be times when teams try to take certain guys out of the game and other guys have to step up.”
If it wasn’t for Nathan Rourke setting records in B.C., Malik Henry would surely be the story of the CFL season so far.
It is literally my job to pay attention to the Stampeders, and I had no idea the second-year receiver was going to breakout the way he has this year. It’s legitimately been incredible.
Henry has 388 receiving yards so far this season. Nobody in the CFL has more. What’s crazier is that 323 of those yards have come in the last two games, and the Stamps didn’t throw the ball his way in the second half on Thursday night because they were so far ahead already.
Henry’s been a revelation, plain and simple.
One of my favourite things about the CFL is because we don’t always know that much about players when they enter the league, it’s possible for them to completely surprise us. Henry is a textbook example of that.
This is not the first time I’ve written about this this week, but it bears repeating: The Stampeders have more interceptions through four games than they had in the entirety of the 14-game 2021 season.
Not all of the picks have come from the defensive backs, but let’s focus on them for a minute.
On Thursday, Trumaine Washington and Tre Roberson both had interceptions – has anyone ever worked harder to get into the endzone than Roberson did? Dude was bouncing around like a kangaroo with a helmet on.
The Stamps now have seven interceptions after picking up only six of them last year.
Consider that for a second. The Stamps had the most expensive defensive backfield in the CFL last year, according to Dickenson. This year, they’ve been rotating rookies in and out of the lineup while dealing with a nearly-inexplicable injury crisis.
Interceptions aren’t the only measure of a defensive backfield’s success, of course, but I’m not sure anyone is going to have complaints about the coverage or the tackling that was on-display on Thursday night.
When you combine the interceptions with the two fumbles the Stamps defence forced against the Elks, you see a unit that is creating havoc and giving the offence a lot to work with.
It might be worth just ignoring who the Stamps list as their starters on the defensive line when they release their depth chart the day before games.
Not because they are lying, but because they’re rotating guys through the starting lineup constantly.
On Thursday, the Stamps d-line got sacks from Isaac Adeyemi Berglund and TJ Rayum, neither of whom are starters. I also would swear on my life that Mike Rose got at least one sack, but the CFL’s website doesn’t list him as having a single stat from Thursday’s game, which honestly doesn’t make sense but we’ve just got to live with, I guess.
Folarin Orimolade also had a forced-fumble and the Stamps d-line was just generally quite disruptive all night.
Whether they’re starters or backups, the Stampeders’ defensive linemen are off to a great start this season. The Bombers o-line is no joke, though, so their biggest test lies ahead.
Out-of-town media seem intent on forcing me to acknowledge that Bo Levi Mitchell probably won’t be leading the CFL in passing yards by the end of the weekend, so let’s give the Riders radio guys (Hi Jamie!) what they need and just put that out there straight away.
But let’s also just make a statement of fact: As of Friday afternoon, Mitchell was leading the CFL with 1,112 passing yards.
He’d have a lot more if the Stamps hadn’t been blowing the Elks out and Dickenson hadn’t pulled him from the game and replaced him with Jake Maier on Thursday. Mitchell had completed 17-of-22 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns at the time.
I get that there are lots of people outside of Calgary who are probably sick of Mitchell being an elite CFL quarterback, but he’s been on-form to start the season. After a tough 2021 and a lot of criticism in the off-season, he deserves credit for the way he’s playing this year.
Whether he’s leading the CFL in passing yards on Sunday or not, he’s playing like a superstar again.
The Stamps allowed two sacks on Thursday night, which doubled their season total.
It’s worth noting, though, that the first came on a play where Mitchell held on to the ball for a really, really long time. The o-line wasn’t at fault for that one.
The second was probably their fault, but if your o-line is only responsible for one sack a game, you’re probably not sweating it too much.
The o-line also did a terrific job opening up holes for Carey and Logan to run through, so all-round you’d have to give them high marks for their performance against an Elks defensive line that looked like it might be really coming together prior to Thursday.
Again, it’s very weird to write 10 Takeaways about a 49-6 win because you just wind up saying nice things over and over again, but the Stamps o-line is on its game so far in 2022. It’s at the root of a lot of their success.
Rene Paredes missed a field goal.
The fact that that is notable tells you all you need to know about how good Paredes has been this season.
He’s hit 12-of-13 field goals that he’s been tasked with kicking this season. He’s good, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 11 years.
Elsewhere, Logan had his huge return touchdown off a missed field goal and the fact that he didn’t get touched by a single Elks defender tells you what you need to know about the Stamps’ blocking on the play.
Dickenson was very happy with their coverage on kicks, too, and arguably the most disappointing thing about the game was that the Elks didn’t score more, which meant we only got to see Jalen Philpot return two kickoffs. Boy, he’s fun to watch.
I remain unconcerned with the numbers Reggie Begelton is putting up.
If teams want to focus-in on keeping the ball out of his hands and the Stamps can take advantage by putting the ball in the hands of guys like Jorden and Luther Hakunavanhu, then do that. They’re winning games, it’s working.
But look, do I understand why some fans are hoping to see Begelton get targeted more than twice in a game? Of course. He’s proven that he is one of the top receivers in the CFL and has caught 12 of the 13 passes that have been thrown his way in the last three games.
I don’t really know that I have a point here, other than to say that I would be completely unsurprised if Begelton sees his usage sky-rocket in the two upcoming games against the Bombers. He’s a guy who comes up with big catches in big moments, and the Stamps are going to need that against the two-time reigning champions.