CFL Off-Season Report: Tiger-Cats
TSN’s Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor take a closer look at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their series of team snapshots around the CFL.
Lalji: The big theme surrounding this team heading into the season is continuity. When you look at their coaching staff, it’s intact, all three coordinators are back. All their key players that were pending free agents that they wanted to keep, those guys are back. And on top of that, they’ve brought in a number of additional free agents that took less money to come to Hamilton. This team has been dubbed the ‘Dream Team’ this off-season, and there is only one goal for the Ticats, it is to lift the Grey Cup. It is boom or bust time in Hamilton.
Naylor: When you refer to them as the ‘Dream Team’ and talk about all the consistency on the roster, it seems strange that the most important decision that this team has to make is who’s going to be the No. 1 quarterback. Last season Jeremiah Masoli got off to a great start, he was playing at a level that put him in the running for the Most Outstanding Player award, or would have had he continued on at that rate. And then he suffers a season-ending injury, the torch is passed to Dane Evans, who hadn’t played that much, and he carries them all the way to the Grey Cup.
The Ticats have an embarrassment of riches at the game’s most important position. Masoli is more proven and more experienced, and certainly he will benefit from a delayed start to the season. When things get going, we think he’ll have the leg up, but it should be an interesting competition and a critical decision for head coach Orlondo Steinauer as he tries to decide which of those two quarterbacks will lead them in the season.
Lalji: Defensively, you look at that team and they are absolutely loaded. They brought in Larry Dean and Patrick Levels to their linebacking corps. Dean should solidify the middle, he’s been in Hamilton before. And consider what Levels is going to deal with, he’s going to go up against Rico Murray in a likely battle for the SAM linebacker position, which is so important in any CFL defence. The guy that loses that battle could probably start and be an upgrade for more than half the teams in the CFL, that’s how good the Hamilton defence could be in 2020.
Naylor: Offensively the Ticats are going to have some flexibility at the running back position. They signed American Don Jackson as a free agent from the Calgary Stampeders, but they’ve got a couple of strong Canadians as well in Sean Thomas Erlington, who suffered an injury last season after a hot start, and Maleek Irons.
Among the receivers, Bralon Addison is gone to the NFL and that’s a big loss, he produced so many yards after the catch for them last season, but they added DeVier Posey, who played last season in Montreal, to help fill that gap. The biggest hole I see on the Ticats’ offence is they really don’t have an elite Canadian receiver. There are so many good Canadian receivers in this league and yet the Ticats, unless they acquire one or develop one, really don’t have one that can fit in on that upper tier of player.
Lalji: Another issue might be kicker as they lost Lirim Hajrullahu to the NFL this off-season. They did select JJ Molson out of UCLA late in the CFL Draft this year, but he’s still holding out hope for an NFL opportunity before he signs in Hamilton.