VANCOUVER – The reinforcements have arrived.
There were few surprises when the Calgary Stampeders revealed their 46-man roster for Friday’s game against the B.C. Lions (8:30 p.m., TSN/News Talk 770).
After being removed from the six-game injured list on Tuesday evening, Canadian receiver Juwan Brescacin is back in the mix.
Defensive linemen Ja’Gared Davis, Junior Turner and Reuben Frank are all back, too, while linebacker Deron Mayo will have to wait at least another week from making his 2017 CFL debut.
It was about what anyone paying attention to Stampeders practice would have expected and should provide some immediate relief for a squad that was seriously beat-up over the first seven weeks of the season.
“We’ve got to see how they play, but it is nice to get options,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “We were running out of people just to practice with — we just didn’t have bodies. These are veteran guys who have done well. They just have to get back to being themselves and playing the game they’ve played many, many times.”
With three d-linemen making their return, the Stampeders moved Michael Kashak to the practice squad, while Bryan Hall was placed on the one-game injured list.
Hall, in particular, seems to have found a home on the Stamps d-line in recent weeks, but the Stampeders suddenly have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal – at least for the time being.
Mayo will likely be the next big name to return to the lineup, but none of the Stampeders want it to be taken for granted that they’re suddenly just going to magically approve because of the players coming back.
“We’re just trying to keep everything going in the right direction,” said Stamps defensive lineman Micah Johnson. “There’s so much improvement, so much little stuff we can do better assignment-wise. There’s a lot of areas to improve.”
Rob Cote is also coming back into the lineup, but it’s Brescacin who is the closest thing to a surprise.
The Canadian wasn’t supposed to come off the six-game list for a couple of weeks, but he was brought back after recovering quickly from a leg injury and should provide some important cover with Lemar Durant out for the season.
“We weren’t sure he was going to be ready, and we definitely feel like our draft pick, Julan Lynch, is capable of being a good player,” Dickenson said. “But Juwan, I think, had taken a nice step forward in training camp and was playing well in pre-season. I hadn’t given him a ton of opportunities when he’s playing, but I thought he’s playing well.”
Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell knows that running back Jerome Messam’s numbers have shot through the roof over the past couple of Stampeders games.
And while that might indicate that Messam has worked through whatever seemed to be ailing him in the early-going, Mitchell doesn’t believe that’s the case.
“Mess has been Mess as of late, but honestly, just so you know, it’s not that Mess wasn’t playing well,” Mitchell said. “We just weren’t giving him the ball that much.”
Messam is currently leading the CFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and with the Lions’ Jeremiah Johnson sitting in second in yards and third in TDs, the ground-game figures to be a major factor in Friday’s result.
That simply wasn’t the case in the Stamps’ first couple games of the year, when they were facing an Ottawa Redblacks team that the Calgary crew rightly suspected would put a lot of points on the board.
PLAY FOR THIS
When most of the Stampeders were asked about playing their two biggest West Division rivals in four of the next five games, they insisted that their minds were squarely focused on only the game ahead of them.
No surprises there.
But while Micah Johnson agreed, he didn’t deny that playing two games against the Eskimos and two games against the Lions had him excited.
Beating up on East Division opponents is fun, but there’s a very real sense that what happens between now and two weeks after Labour Day could define the West Division pecking order at the end of the season.
Who wouldn’t get excited for that?
“It’s the best part of the schedule,” Johnson said. “It’s going to test a lot guys, and every game is going to be a meaningful game. Every game is meaningful anyways, but you know what I mean … Edmonton right now, really, is the team beat.”