With Marken Michel moving inside, Calgary Stampeders' receiving corps packs a ton of speed

Moving Michel to the slot position provides an answer to one of the big questions facing the Stampeders receiving group coming into the year

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Marken Michel doesn’t look any bigger than he did a year ago.

To this reporter’s eyes, he actually looked a little more slender, a little more sleek.

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But looks can be deceiving.

The veteran Calgary Stampeders receiver weighed in at 205 pounds when he arrived at training camp.

After an off-season spent packing on muscle in anticipation of a move to the slot receiver position, that little bit of extra weight was very much part of his plan.

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“I think it’ll be good, you know, being in the slot now and having to go in there and make those slot-blacks and d-ends and linebackers, I might need the weight to help me out a little bit,” Michel said. “I’m not moving any slower.”

Moving Michel to the slot position provides an answer to one of the big questions facing the Stampeders’ receiving group coming into the year.

Michel returned to Calgary last season after a lengthy stint around the NFL, but he only signed after Malik Henry was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. For all intents and purposes, he stepped in and took over the wide receiver spot where Henry was expected to play.

Henry is most of the way through his recovery and all indications suggest he’ll be able to return to something resembling the player he was prior to the injury — and he arguably was the CFL’s best receiver in 2022, so that’s a big boost for the Stamps.

But where does that leave Michel? With Jalen Philpot also available at wide receiver after missing all of last year with a hamstring injury, he has made the necessary changes in his off-season preparations and is ready to move inside to the slot receiver position.

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It’s something he has done before and, for the Stamps, having the ability to move versatile, speedy receivers such as Michel and Henry around should create some dynamic options when they’re looking to throw downfield.

“There’s versatility there,” Stamps GM/head coach Dave Dickenson said. “Different skill sets. Both can play on the line of scrimmage and off. Some guys, when they come from the U.S., are more comfortable without the downhill motion. I think both of those guys do that well.

“I think Malik is an underrated blocker. Marken is obviously thick, but his top-end speed is underrated, he had a 60- and an 85-yarder last year … You can move those guys. They’re smart, they’re hungry.”

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For Michel’s part, he’s happy to move around and was quick to point out that he has spent time at the slot receiver position in the past, so the learning curve shouldn’t be too steep.

All indications are that Henry’s Achilles tendon has healed properly and he should be able to return to form, but that’s a serious injury and the Stamps are being careful. While he has been an active participant in camp, the Stamps are slowly but surely ramping up his work rate.

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“It’s confidence and it’s building the load and being able to handle the load for a game,” Henry explained. “That’s what we’re building up to.

“I’m feeling really good, though. We’ve been slowly ramping it up and getting back into playing.”

Malik Henry
Calgary Stampeders receiver Malik Henry catches a pass during training camp at McMahon Stadium on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia

If Henry returns to his best and Michel picks up the intricacies of the slot position, the Stamps’ receiving room has the potential to surprise a lot of people.

Nobody in the locker room was willing to use injuries as an excuse last year, but the reality is that between Philpot being out for the year, Henry missing 90 per cent of the season and Clark Barnes getting hurt after an impressive start, the Stamps were dealt a tough hand.

Those guys are all back, while Michel should benefit from a full training camp. Add in Reggie Begelton, who is as good as it gets, and there’s real game-breaking potential in the receivers room.

“I think we do a great job as a receiving room of definitely embracing and appreciating the talent we do have,” Michel said. “We look at the film in the room and we’re deep at that receiver position. Every single person has been making plays at camp.”

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