Alouettes and Stampeders tangle during opening weekendJun 27, 2012 - 3:26 PM Calgary, AB (Sports Network) - Another year of Canadian Football and another season for Anthony Calvillo to defy the odds and continue to rewrite the CFL record books. The ageless signal-caller didn't see much action during the preseason, but he will be the one calling the shots on Sunday night when the Montreal Alouettes hit the field against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.
As has been the case now since 1998 when he came over from Hamilton, Calvillo is the catalyst once again for the Als. As someone who now owns almost every major passing record not just in the CFL, but in all of professional football, the Utah State product was used sparingly during the preseason this year because head coach Marc Trestman already knows what he has in this national treasure.
Even though he took a few more hits than usual last year and saw his completion rate drop to 61.8 percent, the lowest since 2003, Calvillo again threw for more than 5,200 yards and tied for the league lead with 32 TDs. Say what you will about growing old, this football player just gets better with age.
Because of the efforts of Calvillo, Montreal led the league in scoring with 28.6 ppg, but the Als struggled down the stretch as they dropped their last three regular-season bouts and then came up short in a 52-44 overtime affair in the playoffs against Hamilton. Needless to say, Calvillo and company have something to prove right out of the gate this year.
Helping to make Calvillo's job a bit easier is slotback Jamel Richardson, a four-time East Division All-Star who erupted for a staggering 112 receptions for 1,777 yards and 11 TDs in 2011. Richardson has now posted four straight 1,000-yard campaigns and has landed in the end zone 43 times during that span.
Even though he recorded just four majors through the air last year, S.J. Green is another valuable weapon for the Als who posted career highs with 87 catches for 1,147 yards and is poised to put up similar numbers again this year.
The Stamps, led by head coach John Hufnagel, have made a major change heading into this season, trading quarterback Henry Burris in order to give either Kevin Glenn and/or Drew Tate more time under center.
Glenn, acquired from Hamilton in the trade that sent Burris to the Tiger-Cats in early January, has plenty of experience and should be a valuable asset for Calgary moving forward, but a career quarterback rating of 88.5 isn't all that impressive in a league that is predicated on the pass almost exclusively.
Tate doesn't have as many miles on him from a CFL standpoint, but that's partly due to being a backup and having worked through injury last season which had him on the sidelines for the first five games.
The player who should be taking the majority of the hits coming through the line of scrimmage for the Stamps is running back Jon Cornish, who finished fifth in the league last season with a career-best 863 yards and nine touchdowns. Averaging better than seven yards per carry, the good news about Cornish is that he is someone who takes great care of the football, fumbling it away just four times in 256 career carries.
A former rookie of the year and a CFL All-Star in both 2010 and 2011, receiver Nik Lewis has spent his entire career with Calgary and has registered no less than 1,000 receiving yards every season since 2004 when he broke into the league. A clutch possession receiver who may not make the flashy plays or always end up in the end zone, Lewis will help the Stamps transition to life after Burris.
The bigger question for the offense is how well receivers like Ken-Yon Rambo and Romby Bryant will respond. Rambo, who spent some time in the NFL early in his career, isn't getting any younger so he'll need to step up his efforts in order to remain a key part of the offense for the Stampeders moving forward. Bryant, someone who has never missed a CFL game due to injury, registered a modest 51 catches and five touchdowns a year ago. He will need to elevate his play to continue to get looks down the field.
The teams met twice last season, with the Stamps claiming both matchups. The first, held in late August, turned into a 38-31 victory for the hosts and then two months later, Calgary again took care of business on the road with a 32-27 decision.
Dating back to 1946 and only taking into consideration regular-season meetings, Calgary owns a slight 32-31-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Alouettes, taking three of the last four and five of the last eight matchups overall.
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