10 takeaways from the Stampeders' pre-season win over the Lions

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It might not matter come November, but it’s still awfully nice to get a win.

Playing a depleted B.C. Lions team on Saturday afternoon in CFL pre-season action, the Calgary Stampeders cruised to an impressive 30-6 win.

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The Stamps played most of their should-be starters and got valuable reps in. They’re hoping to hit the ground running come Week 1 of the regular season, so building chemistry and putting in work together can only be a good thing.

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Here are 10 takeaways from Saturday’s action:

  1. MAIER LOOKS CONFIDENT

Jake Maier’s numbers didn’t jump off the page, necessarily.

The Stamps’ presumed starter at quarterback this season completed 7-of-12 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown through a quarter-and-a-half of play to start the game.

You only want to read so much into those numbers, though. This was a pre-season game against a Lions team that left most of their recognizable names back home.

But Maier did look confident and composed in the pocket. He got the ball out quickly and his connection with receiver Marken Michel — more on him later — was encouraging.

This is a big season for the 27-year-old Maier, who looked great in 2021 and ’22 but struggled at times last season when, it should be noted, the Stamps’ tackles didn’t provide great production and his receiving corps was decimated by injuries.

It was an encouraging first look at the new-and-improved Maier.

  1. SHILTZ LOOKS LOCKED IN, THOUGH

I don’t believe there’s a quarterback controversy at McMahon Stadium, but Matt Shiltz gives the Stampeders something they didn’t have last year: A reliable backup who might actually be able to win you some games.

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And on Saturday, Shiltz looked great.

Coming in midway through the second quarter, Shiltz completed 11-of-15 passes for 79 yards.

He was decisive in the pocket and looked completely in control of the playbook. On the few occasions where he was under pressure, he kept his head. His accuracy was where you’d want it to be, too, and he brought the crowd to its feet when he scrambled for a 25-yard gain late in the third quarter.

The Stamps wanted an established veteran backing up Maier last year and it hurt them when they couldn’t find one. In Shiltz, they appear to have found a quarterback who fits the bill.

Calgary Stampeders vs. B.C. Lions
Calgary Stampeders running back Marken Michel carries the ball against the B.C. Lions in pre-season action at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia
  1. DON’T SLEEP ON MICHEL

It’s a little silly to pretend that Michel having a big season would be some sort of surprise.

But the move from wide receiver to the slot might mean he’s in for a breakout campaign.

Michel’s route-running is second to none, and he repeatedly found ways to make himself available to his quarterbacks throughout Saturday’s contest. He scored the game’s opening touchdown with a heads-up play that saw him get open, make a nice catch and then recognize that no Lions defender had touched him when he went to the ground.

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In the end, Michel finished with three catches for 48 yards and his touchdown.

  1. LABROSSE LOOKS READY

The Stamps took defensive back Ben Labrosse in the first round of the CFL Draft earlier this month and while he’s got a lot of learning still to do, he had a good week of practice in training camp and definitely flashed at times throughout Saturday’s game.

Again, the Lions were not dressing any of their stars, so we’re not going to come out here and confidently declare that anyone is or is not deserving of a starting job or anything like that.

But Labrosse was tight with his coverage and clearly likes putting his head down and throwing a hit.

  1. LAST-SECOND CHANGE

This is less of an observation or a takeaway than just an explanation for why Malik Henry and Jalen Philpot didn’t play.

The two receivers had difficult seasons in 2023, with Philpot missing the entire campaign with a hamstring injury and Henry missing most of it with a torn Achilles tendon.

Their health is one of the big questions heading into this season. Both have been ramping up their work in training camp and were expected to play on Saturday, only for the Stamps to make the last-second decision to scratch them after a weather delay pushed the game back by more than half an hour.

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I’m not sure there’s anything to debate here, really. When Philpot and Henry are back, they’ll give the Stamps explosive options at wide receiver. But being careful as they recover only makes sense.

Calgary Stampeders vs. B.C. Lions
Calgary Stampeders running back B.J. Emmons rushes for a touchdown against the B.C. Lions in pre-season CFL action at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia
  1. ON THE GROUND

Running back Dedrick Mills didn’t have a single carry on Saturday and Dave Dickenson had this to say about it.

“I probably don’t need to go into it, Dedrick and I had a conversation,” the Stamps GM/head coach said. “We’re going to clean a few things up and for the most part, I know he’s still a guy I want to be the starter, but I do feel for him and I, we just had a little understanding that he was going to have to watch this one. I feel like he’ll grow and we’ll go from there.”

With Mills sidelined, that meant we saw a lot of the Stamps’ other options.

And boy, do they have options.

We know that Peyton Logan brings speed and elusiveness. He hasn’t lost a step, and he ran the ball nine times for 36 yards.

I was really impressed by LeVante Bellamy, too.

The Western Michigan product got some snaps in last year, but Saturday might have been the best look at him we’ve gotten. He bobbed and weaved and wasn’t afraid of contact. He ran the ball six times for 34 yards.

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We’ve got to mention B.J. Emmons, too. He might have been the most impressive of the bunch.

I admittedly knew nothing about the 26-year-old prior to Saturday, but he was on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ practice roster last year and looked dynamic in limited playing time on Saturday.

He scored a brilliant touchdown, where he went right, broke a tackle, and then went all the way left before summersaulting into the end zone. It wasn’t his only big play – he scored a six-yard TD later. Look, I’m no scout, but he definitely left me wanting to see more.

The Stamps have some fun options at running back.

  1. DEMERY HAS INSIDE TRACK

I’m going on-record right now and saying I expect D’Antne Demery is going to have a really strong second season with the Stamps.

Demery had basically been out of football for a year-and-a-half when he was thrust into the starting left-tackle position at the start of last year following Derek Dennis’ release and injuries to Josh Coker and Caleb Benenoch.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for him in his first year with the Stamps and left tackle was a persistent issue for the Stamps throughout last season.

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But early reports from camp should give fans confidence that the Stamps’ offensive line should be able to provide better protection for their quarterbacks this season.
Demery is going to be a big part of that.

Calgary Stampeders vs. B.C. Lions
Calgary Stampeders receiver Erik Brooks battles the B.C. Lions in pre-season CFL action at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia
  1. YOUNG RECEIVERS

If everyone’s healthy, I assume the Stamps’ starting receivers will be Michel, Henry, Philpot, Reggie Begelton and Clark Barnes, with Tre Odoms-Dukes next on the depth chart.

But I really liked two of the young Americans the Stamps trotted out onto the McMahon Stadium turf on Saturday.

Cameron Echols-Luper and Erin Brooks both flashed against the Lions in a big way.

Echols-Luper hauled in five catches for 69 yards, while Brooks recorded three receptions for 54 yards.

Those catches weren’t in busted coverage, either. They were fast, made sharp cuts and were extremely confident catching the ball.

There’s real talent there, and it’ll be fun to see if they can push for not only regular-season jobs, but potentially playing time a little down the line. When we remember how badly banged up the receiving corps got last year, it’s exciting to see the depth the Stamps appear to have.

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  1. STILL RENE

We’ll keep these next two points short, but if anyone was doubting whether kicker Rene Paredes still has it, we can confidently tell you that he does.

The 39-year-old connected on two-of-three field-goal attempts, including a 47-yarder.

I’ve been writing about Paredes for eight years and don’t have much more to say about him other than that his consistency is remarkable and the Stamps are lucky to have him for as long as he’s around in the CFL.

  1. ONE BIG CAVEAT

We’ve mentioned this, but any takeaways from Saturday’s game need to be taken with one big old grain of salt.

The Lions left almost every single one of their stars at home. They didn’t even bother to bring a fullback. They were nothing like the team the Stamps will face in the regular season when they play them on June 15.

It was a good win and a fun look at a lot of young players, but it only tells us so much.

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