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July 16, 2019

WORK IN PROGRESS

This is definitely a glass-half-empty group.

A good thing – a very good thing – given their particular line of work.

“Yes, we’re getting closer. For sure,” echoes Stampeders’ SAM linebacker Jamar Wall. “Even with the outcome last week, realistically we did a pretty good job of shutting down a high-powered Hamilton offence. They hadn’t reached 100 yards total offence by halftime. They didn’t reach 100 yards passing unit the fourth quarter. Things of that nature, you just don’t expect from that team.

“So the proof’s in the pudding.

“Did we play well, over-all? Yes, we did.

“Did we finish in the fourth quarter? No, we didn’t. Three good quarters, three-and-a-half good quarters … isn’t what we’re after. Isn’t what we’re about.

“Which means there’s definitely room for improvement. In our eyes, we feel like we should’ve been good enough at the end to make a play to win that game.

“Didn’t happen.

“That doesn’t sit well with us.”

 

Jamar Wall in action against Ottawa this season. (Photo by Candice Ward)

 

The Work In Progress/Under Construction sign has definitely been up on the defensive side of the football down at McMahon Stadium since the Stampeders reconvened to open defence of their 2018 Grey Cup title. New uber boss. New linebacking mentor. More cast changes that you’ll find in a national touring company of Les Miz, and in the big singing roles, to boot.

Unsurprisingly, then, through the opening two games the Stampeder D – now being marshalled by longtime linebackers coach Brent Monson – surrendered an average of 423 yards of offence per, along with four touchdowns, to the Ottawa Redblacks and B.C. Lions. Both games, significantly, were contested in the comfy confines of home.

The last two, both outside the 403 and in decidedly difficult bailiwicks – Mosaic Stadium and Tim Hortons Field – the territory surrendered was whittled down to an average of 254 and only a pair of TDs.

What drove a rusty stake into the Stamps’ ambitions in Hamilton on Saturday were a pair of spirit-killing returns – one off a kickoff, the other a missed field-goal attempt – for major scores.

And then the capper from a Ticat perspective: A nine-play, 83-yard drive engineered by largely-frustrated QB Jason Masoli that ended on a 20-yard TD pass to Brandon Banks with 2:44 remaining.

That dropped Calgary to 2-2 heading into Thursday’s tilt versus the gasping-for-air Toronto Argos.

“Every series, what we want to do is our job,” says middle linebacker Cory Greenwood, one of the first-season Stampeder conscripts, whose 29 tackles leads the way. “Which means getting a two-and-out and then watching our offence work. The game’s all about field position.

“We really only gave up three plays that hurt us on defence against Hamilton. So, yes, I think we have been improving every week.

“But a lot of us on defence play special teams, too, and that’s where we let the team down. Big time. Those two returns.” A slow, morose, horror-show shake of the head. “That sucked. We had all the momentum and then gave it right back again.

“We’ve got to learn how to put teams away.”

 

Cordarro Law tackles Lions pivot Mike Reilly back on JUne 29. (Photo by David Moll)

 

Even a three-sack, five-tackle evening wasn’t enough to brighten Cordarro Law’s mood.

“Stats,” rumbled the marauding rush end, “don’t matter. Wins do. Saturday night, we didn’t do a good enough job on that last drive. We didn’t finish the job. You don’t build a house and leave off the roof, do you?

“Getting better don’t cut it. With this organization it’s all about wins. The years I’ve been here, we’ve jumped out to a hot start. We’re going to get there. We’re going to string some wins together here.”

Starting with the 0-4 Argos, who have scored less and given up more than any team to be found across this land. Thursday marks the middle of a three-game western odyssey that began in Winnipeg and ends July 25th at Commonwealth Stadium.

“This is a trap game,” cautions Greenwood. “You hear this all the time I know, but it’s still true – they’re desperate. They don’t have a win yet. I’ve been on that side before ( both during his days as an Argo and a Kansas City) and you want it bad.

“Over there, they’re probably getting yelled at, all that, know what I mean? It’s no fun. You’re like a whipped dog, sick of getting your a— kicked.”

Being the antithesis of good samaritans, the Stampeders intend to prolong that misery, keep those Argo posteriors ripe for the kicking, backstopped by a Work In Progress/Under Construction gang getting ever close to completion.

“It’s early. Only Game Five,’’ predicts Wall. “We’ve made some headway lately but we’re not there yet.

“We’re going to start clicking.

“It’s gonna come.

“I know.

“It always does.”