Red and White Game gives Stampeders chance to learn

Coach Dickenson gets good vibes from receivers, running game, defence in afternoon of simulated game situations

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Dave Dickenson got what he wanted out of the Calgary Stampeders’ annual Red and White Game on Sunday at McMahon Stadium.

While he had a quick look at his 80-plus players put in several simulated game situations, he feels his campers got a crash course in understanding what he wants from them ahead of the 2024 Canadian Football League campaign.

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And that’s especially important for the fresh faces at main camp.

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“We ran a good 50-plus plays,” said the Stampeders GM/head coach of the live-action afternoon. “The goal was 50 to 55. So I think we got what we needed out of it and — hopefully — some good learning.”

Offensively, Dickenson praised his receivers for having a solid showing. His emphasis focused on “slashers on the inside — probably three or four guys — that did well.

“I thought our running game was good, as well,” continued Dickenson. “I’m not sure whether that’s a product of the backs or the offensive line.”

Tough to tell when there was no tackling on the day.

“It’s hard to really say you got some YAC yards (without tacking),” agreed Dickenson. “But it looked like we had some chances to split some coverage to get some big plays offensively.

“And our kickers (Rene Paredes and Campbell Fair) kicked well.”

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As far as quarterback play went, all five pivots — Jake Maier, Matt Shiltz, Tommy Stevens, Logan Bonner and Kyle Vantrease — saw action.

“One thing that’s very evident is, with the tempo of the clock and all that, the quarterbacks have to speed things up — we’ve got to get in and out of the huddle,” Dickenson said. “And the other thing is we operate a lot on wrist-bands, and it’s easy to study the plays (on the game-script). But when you actually call a game and they don’t know what’s coming, they have to find them on their wrist-bands. Or sometimes I just go off-script and call plays.

“It felt like we need to get in and out of the huddle and the communication has to be better out there.”

Defensively, the coach saw a ready-to-go group, saying they “were playing fast.

“The linebackers took away stuff immediately — like they took the air out of things,” Dickenson said. “I enjoyed seeing that.”

Canadian defensive back Malcolm Thompson — who returns to the Stamps after attending training camp with them in 2021 — stood out, says Dickenson, with his step up for a dynamic interception.

“I saw some ballhawks and some good plays,” the coach continued. “We had some downfield throws, as well, and some contested catches.”

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On the downside, receiver Cole Tucker — the Stamps’ 2023 first-round draftee, limped off the field with a calf strain. A foot injury limited Tucker in his rookie campaign last year.

“Nothing crazy there,” Dickenson said. “I was worried about that with the weather. We went through a full warm-up, but it didn’t play out for him.”

That makes it tough on camp time — especially to be seen — for the young receiver.

But Dickenson has emphasized again and again that getting enough reps in for everyone would be the most difficult aspect of camp.

“We have too many people here,” Dickenson said. “You won’t see everybody play a lot in pre-season. For some guys, you’ve got to take advantage of your reps. And this was as close to a game-like situation as we could get.”

The Stamps don’t need to make cuts until after their two pre-season games. The first comes Saturday against the BC Lions at McMahon (2 p.m.), and the second follows on Friday, May 31, versus the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6:30 p.m.).

The regular season then opens for the Stampeders on June 7 against the incoming Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon (7 p.m.).

“It was a lot of learning,” added Dickenson, of Sunday’s scrimmaging. “We really needed that, though, before our pre-season game.”

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