Back in February, Calgary Stampeders president/GM John Hufnagel was asked about the state of his defensive backfield.
He specifically brought up Javien Elliott’s name.
“Javien Elliott was a young man that came on to our roster last year, he got into a game or two later in the season and we have high hopes for him,” Hufnagel said.
This was back before a series of injuries to players in the Stamps secondary caused a mini-crisis. Back before the team’s depth was tested and they started 13 defensive backs in the first 12 weeks of the season.
The Stamps had let a couple big-name DBs walk in free agency, but having Elliott in the mix was a major source of confidence.
Elliott might not be a name that casual fans were aware of, but he was a big part of the Stamps’ 2022 plans.
Unfortunately, those plans were put on hold. In training camp, Elliott suffered a serious groin injury that sidelined him ever since.
Finally, though, it looks like Elliott should be returning to the lineup. He practised with the defensive starters on Tuesday and was listed as a full participant on the team’s injury report.
Finally, one of the Stampeders’ brightest young lights is ready to contribute in game action.
“Just a little adversity, you know?” Elliott said Wednesday when he was asked about the injury. “I’ve just got to overcome it, that’s all.
“Just getting back out there, that’s all that really matters. That’s really the main thing. It doesn’t matter where the coaches put me, it’s just about me controlling what I can control and doing my job.”
Elliott should provide some badly needed relief to the banged-up defensive backfield. They’ve been without most of their expected starters for a while now. If you’d built a pre-season depth chart, Jonathan Moxey would have been the only probable starting DB who actually played against the B.C. Lions last weekend.
It’s possible that Branden Dozier will be back, too. The addition of those two high-end talents should be a big boost for the Stampeders in their rematch with the Lions in Vancouver on Saturday (8 p.m., TSN/770 CHQR)
While it may have taken Elliott a while to finally get his season going, expectations remain high.
“All these guys who have been hurt a long, long time, he got hurt in the first pre-season game against B.C.. But our back end, we’ve always felt he’s one of our best, is still young, still has to find his spot,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson.
Elliott will most likely be slotted in at one of the team’s half-back positions, although he played at the SAM spot in his lone start last season.
He knows the system well, though, and may very well be a guy the Stamps can move around if their injury situation doesn’t improve.
For now, Elliott’s enjoying the moment, knowing he finally gets to play the game he loves again, whether that’s this weekend or next.
“Just taking everything one day at a time,” Elliott said. “That’s it.”
KEEP AN EYE ON IT
Malik Henry didn’t practise on Tuesday because he was sick and the Stampeders’ injury report listed him as being out again on Wednesday.
Fortunately, being sick shouldn’t keep Henry out for long. It’s not an injury, after all, but it’s still up in the air whether the club’s leading receiver will be available for what could be a big game on Saturday as the Stampeders (8-5) try to chase down the Lions (9-3) for the second place in the CFL’s West Division and a home playoff game.
“Still under the weather, not-COVID-related, which is good,” Dickenson said. “He needs to have his energy if he’s going to play, we need him out here tomorrow if he’s going to play.”
The Stampeders do have a high-end replacement for Henry in Shawn Bane, should that be necessary, but Henry had 107 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Lions last weekend. They’re a better team with him in the lineup.
HOPING IT GETS FIXED
After last Saturday’s 31-29 loss in overtime, Dickenson called out his team’s propensity for taking penalties on opening kickoffs of games.
It happened against the Lions, and it’s not the first time they’ve been penalized on the first play of a game this season.
It’s not entirely clear why it’s happening, but it remains something the Stampeders want to get fixed.
“Keep it penalty-free, but it doesn’t seem to necessarily hit home,” Dickenson said Wednesday. “We’re dealing with men, not boys, they have to understand there’s a standard. Do you want to win? Yes, effort’s great, technique’s poor. Play by the rules. Are we going to go in the tank if we get a penalty on the opening kickoff? I hope not, but it’s certainly made life more difficult for us.”