Stamps ad­dress O-line weak­ness against sacks

Pro­tect­ing Mitchell pri­or­ity head­ing into game against Rid­ers, writes Danny Austin

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - [email protected]­media.com

The Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers are look­ing at their op­tions on the right side of their of­fen­sive line.

After a game against the B.C. Li­ons that saw quar­ter­back Bo Levi Mitchell sacked twice and un­der reg­u­lar pres­sure, the Stamps have opted to take a look at both Nila Ka­sitati and Justin Ren­frow at right tackle dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice.

“We split it up be­cause we know we need to be bet­ter,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dick­en­son. “We’ve got to make sure. We’re eval­u­at­ing guys, even on scout team and let­ting ev­ery­body do that. The best play­ers will plays and give me that great work ethic.

“We’re al­ways try­ing to im­prove and we know we need to be at our best (to beat Saskatchewan on Satur­day).”

Randy Richards has been the Stamps’ start­ing right tackle for the past cou­ple of months and was still get­ting lots of reps at the spot this week.

It doesn’t seem that the Stamps are rul­ing him out as the starter for this week­end’s game against the Rid­ers.

That the coaches are even giv­ing other guys’ looks, though, is telling.

The Rid­ers are go­ing to bring a ton of pres­sure on Mitchell. They’re tied for the league-lead in sacks, and when the Rid­ers handed the Stamps their first loss of the sea­son back in Au­gust they took Mitchell down five times.

That can’t hap­pen again if the Stamps are go­ing to win on Satur­day and clinch a home date in the West Di­vi­sion Fi­nal, so Dick­en­son and his coach­ing staff are look­ing for im­prove­ments.

That’s some­thing Dick­en­son has been say­ing con­sis­tently since Satur­day’s loss to the Li­ons, when he specif­i­cally said that the of­fen­sive line needed to be bet­ter.

“We’ve got (Ren­frow) out there, as well, he’s more of our left-tackle, though,” Dick­en­son said.

“We want to make sure we’re com­fort­able with our guys. Nila’s proven he can play cen­tre, but we feel like Ucam­bre (Wil­liams) is healthy now so we want to make sure we at least have op­tions on the right side.”

Based on prac­tice Wed­nes­day, Ka­sitati would ap­pear to be the next-man-up. In his first year with the Stamps, Ka­sitati filled in at cen­tre last month when Wil­liams got hurt.

A guard in col­lege while with the Ok­la­homa Soon­ers, Ka­sitati ad­mit­ted he’s never had to play at tackle, but is so far en­joy­ing be­ing at the out­side po­si­tion on the of­fen­sive line.

“Chang­ing po­si­tions is kind of hard, but it’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence if your coaches let you do it,” Ka­sitati said. “I’ve never played tackle, so it’s fun get­ting to try a new po­si­tion.

“Guys on the edge are a lot faster, so your eyes have to be at the right place, hand place­ment, that’s pretty much (the ma­jor dif­fer­ences).”

COULD BE IN

Jameer Thur­man was back at prac­tice on Wed­nes­day after miss­ing Tues­day be­cause of an an­kle in­jury.

If Thur­man is healthy enough to play Satur­day, he’ll be in the lineup next to Alex Sin­gle­ton at line­backer. The guy is in the top10 in the league in both de­fen­sive tack­les and spe­cial teams tack­les, so the Stamps want him in the lineup no mat­ter what.

But with Thur­man tak­ing less reps than usual this week, Wyn­ton McMa­nis has had a chance to get some more time in with the first-team de­fence, and the sec­ond-year line­backer has made him­self in­valu­able, as well.

The 24-year-old leads the Stamps in spe­cial teams tack­les, with 18, and that’s got him only two back of the league leader, the Rid­ers’ Alexan­dre Gagne.

On Satur­day, McMa­nis also re­cov­ered a fum­ble on a punt that di­rectly led to a Stamps touch­down.

If he is called-upon to fill in for Thur­man this week — or any other week, for that mat­ter — there’s rea­son to be­lieve he could have a big per­for­mance.

“It re­ally just ex­cites me, it makes me want to tune in on my game more and hone in more,” McMa­nis said. “It’s ex­cit­ing to be able to come out and add some­thing new to my game.”

More than any­thing, McMa­nis’ im­pres­sive sea­son just high­lights how much depth the Stam­ped­ers have at line­backer.

NOTE­BOOK

Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice was the loud­est the Stamps have had in a while. Sev­eral play­ers said the high-en­ergy was a re­sponse to both Satur­day’s loss to the Li­ons and the high stakes of this week­end’s game against the Rid­ers … The Stamps seem to be ex­pect­ing the big­gest crowd of the year at McMa­hon Sta­dium this week­end. Not a huge sur­prise, given the op­po­nent and the fact the fore­cast is call­ing for a clear, crisp day for the first time all sea­son.

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