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Too much depth? Stamps loaded at weak-side linebacker
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All things considered, having too much depth in a particular position is probably a good problem to have at training camp.

It’s still something that needs to be managed carefully, though.

The Calgary Stampeders have something of an embarrassment of riches at weak-side linebacker this year.

Deron Mayo retired a few weeks ago, but the Stamps are still rolling out a training camp lineup that includes Jameer Thurman and Maleki Harris, both of whom were impressive in stints as the starter in 2017.

Behind them – not by much, necessarily – Wynton McManis, Tyler Stoddard and Keith Reineke have all impressed, while the likes of Riley Jones and Dwayne Norman are listed as middle linebacker options and are also fighting for minutes.

And that’s not even all of the options.

“That’s one of those positions where we’re trying to give everybody equal reps– we don’t even know who the starter’s going to be,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson. “It’s probably too much depth, to be honest. At some point, you’ve got to get the guys you think are the starters a few more reps.

“(Linebackers coach Brent Monson) is doing that. He had a plan going into camp.”

Based on their performances last season, Thurman and Harris are likely deserving of a second look next to 2017 Most Outstanding Defensive Player Alex Singleton at middle linebacker.

That’s not written in stone, though, by any means, and Monson has been balancing the need to make sure his veterans get the reps they need to be ready to go on Week 1 of the CFL’s regular season with the equally-important need of getting a good look at the rookies.

“Obviously, the vets have to get a little bit more just to get back in the swing of things and then just to keep them on point, being ready to go,” Monson said. “I calculate the reps as they go. I’m looking at it at the end of each day– who has what – and then trying to keep them even.”

With Mayo missing all of last season due to the leg injury that eventually ended his career, Harris got the call as the starter for the first six weeks of the season before a wrist injury ended his year. In that time, he collected 21 defensive tackles, two special-teams tackles, one sack and one interception, while also scoring two touchdowns.

Once Harris went out, Thurman took over. By season’s end, he was garnering Most Outstanding Rookie consideration and had 65 defensive tackles, 14 special teams tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

McManis contributed, too, playing in 12 games and adding two defensive tackles, seven special teams tackles and two sacks.

In other words, there are established, proven options at weak-side linebacker. With the rookies looking good, as well, finding a quality starter during training camp may be less challenging than finding enough reps to go around.

“So far, so good as far as injuries go,” Dickenson said. “There’s a lot of depth, probably too much. What happens sometimes when you don’t get a lot of reps in practice is you end up trying a little to hard, meaning that every play you try to make a play instead of just doing the system.”

For the players’ part, this year’s crop of linebackers seem well aware of just how competitive the fight for playing time is going to be.

Harris, though, said they all seemed to be embracing it.

“Everybody’s out here rocking,” Harris said. “It’s tough, but it’s not dog-eat-dog competition. It’s more just that we’re all trying to help each other and do the best we can do and then let the coaches make the decision.

“Your margin for error is smaller because it’s so deep that you’re only getting a certain number of reps because they have to evaluate everyone equally. But that being said, when you do get your chance, even if it’s few and far between, you’ve gotta make the most of it.”

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