The Calgary Stampeders’ defence is stingy and so is DeVone Claybrooks’ public praise of it.
In his three seasons as Calgary’s defensive co-ordinator, Claybrooks has never been one to heap love on his players for them to hear or read, even now when the Stampeders are averaging just 11.3 points against per game.
“I don’t think we’ve played a great game yet,” Claybrooks said Friday. “We’ve played some good solid football, but there are tests coming up and it’s a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ business.”
Claybrooks says he’ll use Toronto’s 24-point comeback to beat Ottawa 42-41 in the last second Thursday as a reminder for the Stampeders (6-0) ahead of Saturday’s game against the B.C. Lions (2-3).
“(That’s) a perfect example of a CFL team is never out of a game,” he declared.
The Stampeders have allowed just four offensive touchdowns so far this season and lead the league in forced fumbles (10).
Calgary is tied for first in sacks with Edmonton (17) and also tied for first in interceptions (7) with Winnipeg.
Calgary is currently under the club record of 13.1 average points against per game set in 1970. The CFL record of 10.5 was set by the Lions in 1964 ahead of Hamilton’s 10.9 in 1965.
“Our guys know our standard and our standard is pretty high,” Claybrooks said. “We’ve been the No. 1 defence for the last two or three years statistically speaking, so this is not uncharted territory for us.”
Middle linebacker Alex Singleton, the CFL’s defensive player of the year in 2017, says the defence doesn’t expect pats on the back for a job well done in mid-season.
“If we keep playing how we’re playing and we win a Grey Cup and then finish that way, I think he’ll give us all the love in the world,” Singleton said. “We don’t want it until then.
“Until you finish that season exactly where you want and play the way you want, it’s all just numbers and words.”
When defensive back Emanuel Davis dropped a catchable interception July 21 against Montreal, he went to the sideline and did pushups as his self-punishment.
Both Claybrooks and backs coach Josh Bell both nodded with satisfaction because that wasn’t a directive from them.
“It’s an external expression of accountability and it shows our expectation,” Bell said.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeder offence may lean a little more on the defence’s contributions Saturday with star wideout Eric Rogers and No. 1 running back Don Jackson out with injuries.
Rogers, who ranks second on the team in receiving yards, went on the six-game injured list after knee surgery Wednesday.
He has 21 catches for 329 yards and five touchdowns this season. Jackson will miss a second straight game with an upper body injury.
The Lions are coming off a bye week following a 29-25 loss July 20 to Ottawa.
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay says avoiding second-and-long situations is key against Calgary’s defence.
“Just as a competitor, you should want to play against the best,” Lulay said. “Calgary’s been the best team in the league through the first six weeks and for our side of the ball, we’re playing against a defence that has been playing at a crazy pace.
“It’s actually exciting. If you’ve got the right sense about you as a competitor that kind of elevates your own game, knowing you’re going to have to play well to win.”
B.C. (2-3) at Calgary (6-0)
Saturday, McMahon Stadium
Lions QB Travis Lulay, who is coming off back-to-back games of over 300 passing yards, gets his first start against Calgary since Nov. 7, 2015. That regular-season finale ended 28-7 in favour of Calgary.
At 6-0, Calgary is off to its best start since 1995 when the Stampeders opened 7-0 under current Lions coach Wally Buono.
Defensive end Shawn Lemon (51 sacks in 80 career games) will play his first game in a Lions uniform since he was acquired last week from Toronto.
Lions middle linebacker Jordan Herdman gets another start in place of injured Solomon Elimimian, the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2014. Herdman recorded 12 tackles in his first start July 20.
HOME SWEET HOME:
Calgary is 6-0 at home against the Lions since a loss Aug. 1, 2014.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press