It was another year, another disappointing season for the Tiger-Cats. 8-10 and bumped from the playoffs in the East Final. And it’s another off-season of big names moving to Hamilton. Henry Burris, Andy Fantuz, Martell Mallett, and finally the arrival of the long-awaited Sam Giguere. But this year also brings something the last few years haven’t, and that’s a new head coach in George Cortez. Joining him is Casey Creehan, who just might be the biggest wildcard in all of this. But we’ll get back to that… first, let’s take a look at the roster breakdown:
Total: 78 (including 5 non-counters)
Players under thirty: 68
Players thirty or older: 10
I think these roster numbers reflect really well on what Hamilton is doing right now. Although they consistently bring in big names each off-season, they’ve also been growing from within. Ten players aged thirty or older, which is one of the lower totals. Nowhere is this more evident than in their receiving corps. Fantuz and Stala were obviously acquired as free agents, but their American counterparts have come from within for the most part. Chris Williams and Bakari Grant in particular are very impressive, with Aaron Kelly also showing flashes.
One continuing area of concern is the secondary. Hamilton has had one of the weaker secondaries in the league for several years now. The addition of Casey Creehan could help here or it could backfire. It sounds like he wants to run something similar to Winnipeg’s defence, which involves a lot of man coverage. Man coverage is great… when you have the guys to do it. I’m concerned that if he tries to force these defensive backs into something they can’t handle, it will really hurt the defence.
Luckily though, with fifteen defensive backs coming to training camp, this looks to be one of the most highly contested places on the roster. Ryan Hinds is a rare breed as a Canadian defensive back and he is a good starting point to build around. Other than that, I think all four other spots in the secondary should be up for grabs. Another interesting point to note is that only one DB on the roster stands below 5’11″, and that is Chris Rwabukamba at 5’10″. It’s rare to see so many big defensive backs on a CFL roster, but they’ll need them if they want to play that aggressive defence.
Defensive line is another area of concern with the departures of Garrett McIntyre and Stevie Baggs. They took a step towards replacing them with Greg Peach, but he has had injury problems in the past. He is a good player when healthy but they’ll want to keep another guy on the practice roster just in case. To me it doesn’t look like they’ve brought in enough competition here, but it’s possible that a couple young guys step it up. Beyond Maurice Forbes, Eddie Steele, and Greg Peach, it’s hard to know who will end up on the roster.
5 Clawing Questions
- Does Henry Burris still have what it takes? Wouldn’t be the first time an older QB had a bit of a renaissance…
- Can Martell Mallett step back in to the CFL and perform like he did in 2009?
- Do the Ticats have the right players to power Casey Creehan’s aggressive defence?
- Can Andy Fantuz regain his Most Outstanding Canadian form?
- Can the Ticats finish above .500 for the first time since 2004?
Once again, the Ticats look really good on paper. It will be interesting to see if they can finally break out of the rut they’ve been in for the last 3 years. The East division hasn’t been this wide open in years, so now would be the perfect time. The 61-year-old George Cortez finally has his first head coaching job after over 30 years of experience. Either he takes that wealth of experience and turns it into victories, or we find out why the man has gone 30 years without a job as a head coach.