Brent Monson should be preparing for the start of the 2020 CFL regular season.
Instead, the Calgary Stampeders sophomore defensive co-ordinator is trying to plan for a season that might not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the CFL plays — and that’s certainly nowhere near a given — it will be an abbreviated campaign that won’t begin until September, at the earliest.
“I prepared right away from the start of the off-season that we were starting in June so we had everything done and were ready to go,” Monson said during a video conference Wednesday. “Now what I’ve been doing is just adjusting based on what I might have, so, a week install, a two-week install, any different scenario that might come across where we might have to do.
“It’s been difficult but I’ve had the time to do it. It’s been good for me to look at the different ways to prepare and put a training camp install together.”
The CFL regular season was scheduled to kick off Thursday night with the B.C. Lions visiting the Edmonton Eskimos. Calgary was to open its ‘20 campaign Friday night hosting the Montreal Alouettes.
And like many CFL players, Monson admits he’s missing football.
“We’re supposed to play games, (the) best thing in the world is playing a football game, especially for players, coaches, all that,” he said. “Just the competitiveness of it … I was excited for the preseason games.
“We didn’t have them, so, it’s just what it is. If you’re not missing it then you shouldn’t be playing it.”
Calgary (12-6) finished second in the West Division last season, Monson’s first in charge of the defence. Following three straight Grey Cup appearances, winning in 2018, the Stampeders lost 35-14 to the eventual CFL-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West Division semifinal.
The ‘19 season was a mixed bag for Calgary’s defence. It led the CFL in forced turnovers (47) and interceptions (26) and was second in forced two-and-outs (97).
Calgary also finished third in fewest offensive points allowed (20.1 per game) but stood fourth in rushing yards allowed (96.3 per game), passing yards (250.5) and net offence (333.8). The Stampeders registered 35 sacks, tied for fifth overall with Toronto.
“To be honest I was disappointed how last season ended,” Monson said. “Winning Grey Cups is what we do and that’s what I’m here for.
“We had spurts of good play, we did well sometimes but we need to finish more, we need to do better in 2020. I’ve just been grinding away, the coaches have been grinding away … we’re kind of chomping at the bit to play.”
An area of need this off-season was the secondary with the departures of DeShaun Amos (Green Bay Packers) and Tre Roberson (Chicago Bears) and retirement of veteran Brandon Smith. The Stampeders did pick up Branden Dozier (B.C.) and Richard Leonard (Hamilton) in free agency and re-signed cornerback Jamar Wall.
“Obviously losing those three is a huge loss, I love all three of them,” Monson said. ”(Secondary coach Josh Bell) does a great job with those guys so I’m very confident in the guys we brought in.
“We brought in guys who can play multiple spots … I’m excited about where I can put each guy because I can play with different scenarios.”
Monson, entering his 11th season as a coach with Calgary, said that’s important in the Stampeders’ defensive scheme.
“The intricacies of the coverages we play, the more you know the more valuable you are,” he said. “That’s just how it’s been even before me being the DC … the more you know, the more you can do, the better you fit in our defence.”
Calgary also looked to shore up its defensive line in the ‘20 draft. The club took defensive end Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, a six-foot-two, 250-pound native of Dartmouth, N.S., who played at Southeastern Louisiana, with the third overall selection.
Monson, a Hamilton native, gushes about Adeyemi-Berglund’s potential.
“Great player, physical, great effort all the time,” he said. “You can tell he’s a very smart player.
“(Defensive-line coach Corey Mace) will definitely work with his pass rush and we’re going to improve that area of his game. But he’s already a solid pass rusher, rushing with effort and his physicality.”
Calgary also re-signed America defensive linemen Cordarro Law (10 sacks), Mike Rose (five sacks) and Folarin Orimolade (two sacks) as well as Canadian Derek Wiggan (four sacks).
“To me, having a good pass rush is the No. 1 thing on any defence,” Monson said. “We’re just excited about the group as a whole because of the versatility they bring, the athleticism.
“We’ve got it all coming in this year.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press