June 27, 2019

New Challenges For Stamps Secondary

CALGARY, AB - MAY 31, 2019: The Calgary Stampeders won 37-1 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium on Friday night's preseason game. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders)

The relocating of Emmanuel Arceneaux to the prairie flatlands from the evergreen playground is kind of similar the Cheers gang uprooting from Boston or if Homer Simpson somehow landed a job at a nuclear power plant outside of Springfield.

“Ah, yeah, but if you check, we usually missed The Manny Show here at McMahon,’’ teased defensive backs coach Joshua Bell, with a roguish wink. “We never ran The Manny Show in Calgary.

“The Manny Show never got aired in Calgary.

“Serious. Look at the stats. Whenever it was supposed to be on here, we’d shut it down for the day. He always played, but as for The Show …

“We’d just get up and turn off the remote.”

The B.C. Lions arrive at McMahon Stadium for Saturday’s date against the Calgary Stampeders in the early stages of their own reimagining.

The most familiar absentee from recent seasons being the angular, prolific Arceneaux, who logged eight years, 556 catches, 8,169 yards and 55 TDs before trading in orange-and-black for green-and-white, signing on in Saskatchewan this off-season.

In what amounts to a vastly-different-looking Lions’ attack, Arceneaux is out among the receiving corps, while former Stampeder Lemar Durant and the quixotic Duron Carter are in, Shaq Johnson and Bryan Burnham remain.

Tungsten-tough Mike Reilly, as if anyone needed reminding, is the new but familiar captain at the rudder, steering the ship.

“Burnham is a damn good receiver, a high-target guy,’’ says Bell, following the final morning of practice preparation in advance of Saturday’s late matinee/early evening 5 p.m. start. “We know how dangerous he can be. Everybody around the league does. He always – always – comes to play against us.

“Durant is balling right now. Canadian MOP in the Grey Cup, right? No need to tell us. We were there. And he’s getting better. He did something last week on a corner route TD that I’ve never seen him do before – he set up real nice, put a guy in press to get him opened up and … boom!, boom!, got it.

“And you can tell that Reilly trusts him already. You watch the film, he’s in the same spot, the right spot, all the time. Shaq Johnson is a dangerous guy, a Canadian with a great skill-set.

“When you have guys like that, the rest of the group complement them. And within the scheme, everybody’s live with Reilly, so you might have to cover for seven or eight seconds cause that guy is tough to get down and he lets his receivers make plays.”

Over B.C.’s opening two outings, Burnham has accumulated 186 yards, while Carter and Durant have latched onto 12 and nine Reilly tosses, respectively.

“It’s a whole different armed attack over there,’’ cautions the grand old hand of the Stampeder secondary, DB Brandon Smith. “A whole new regime. New head coach. New QB. New receivers. New running back.

“Manny was a great receiver for them for a lot of years but things change. That’s life. That’s the game. Nothing lasts forever.

“We have to go in prepared to play a completely different B.C. team. And here, it’s a whole different defence, too. We saw them in pre-season but now it counts.

“Which means both of us need to go out and start creating a new identity for ourselves.”

The idea of a first meaningful tete-a-tete with a teammate of such recent vintage as Durant, one with whom they’ve scaled the heights, is certainly intriguing.

“We’ve never been able to tackle Durant before,’’ muses Smith. “In practice, it’s hands-off, right? So he’d make a good catch on us and we’d be like: ‘If this was a real game, we’d have had you.’

“Now we really get to see, in a setting that actually matters, what would happen.”

For corner Tre Roberson, whose three interceptions highlighted the Stamps’ Week One loss to Ottawa, the equation doesn’t change, even if the personnel has.

“To me, it’s all about offensive co-ordinators,’’ he says. “Athletically, I’m not really worried about receivers. Whatever their co-ordinator calls, that’s what they’re going to run.

“That concerns me.

“I’m worried about schemes. I’m going to watch and try to figure out how to beat it.”

Asked if he plans on continuing his thieving ways at the expense of the Leos, Roberson only smiles in reply.

“I’m just working from what I see on film and the defensive calls we make,’’ he protests, shrugging. “That’s what I do. I didn’t go out of my way and gamble on those interceptions. They were all within my coverage.

“If the chance comes along to, I’ll try and take it.”

The Manny Show have moved to a different network but the Lions’ aerial threat remains very real as both they and and Stamps go in determined search of an inaugural seasonal success.

“Manny’s gone but they’ve got other receivers – the guys I’ve mentioned, who can put on a Show of their own,” cautions Joshua Bell.

“We’re the Calgary Stampeders. When people come into McMahon, they come with their A game. Because know they have to.

“Which means we have to bring our A game, too, because if we don’t, we could lose.

“So they’ll come out, we’ll come out, and we’ll see who’s A is better.”