For the first time in what seems like forever, the Calgary Stampeders enter a CFL season with more questions than answers.
The Stampeders ended their 2019 campaign in disappointment, losing to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in their playoff opener and failing to defend their 2018 Grey Cup title.
After the 2020 CFL season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary will finally try to get back to the top of the Western Division when it hosts the Toronto Argonauts in a season-opening game Saturday.
Head coach Dave Dickenson, who has a career 8-0 record against the Argonauts, and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell return as the foundation of a Stampeders organization that has gone 53-17-2 over the last four seasons, but the surrounding cast has undergone a transformation.
Wide receiver Reggie Begelton was a 2019 All-Star and was voted unanimously as Calgary’s most outstanding player but has moved on to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
Until another top threat emerges, Dickenson will lean on the known commodities of his returning players.
“I feel like our offensive line is starting to come together, which – to me – takes you where you need to go,” Dickenson said. “We’ll see who the playmakers are. That’s the big question mark.”
The Stampeders’ defense will need to fill several holes as well after the departure of 2019 leading tackler Wynton McManis, sacks leader Cordarro Law and interceptions leader Tre Roberson.
“We’re just going to be in ‘wait-and-see’ mode,” Dickenson said of his team’s new-look roster. “I still like our team. I like what we’ve done.”
Toronto, meanwhile, will look to get off to a good start after starting 0-6 in 2019 and sputtering to a 4-14 record.
A new regime, however, represents new hope for the Argos, with Ryan Dinwiddie ready to make his CFL coaching debut.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been named the starting quarterback for Saturday, winning a training camp battle over Nick Arbuckle, who played for Calgary in 2019.
Dinwiddie told reporters Thursday that Arbuckle is dealing with a foot injury but will still dress for the game and could still play an important role this season.
Bethel-Thompson led the CFL with 26 touchdown passes in 2019 and will be called upon again to spark the Argos’ offense as Toronto looks to snap its 12-game losing streak to the Stampeders.