Ticats offence sputtering out of the gate – again

If they knew the answer, we wouldn’t be asking the question.

Had the Hamilton Tiger-Cats been able to figure out precisely why their offence hasn’t been able to start quickly – or start at all, so far this year – in the first quarters of games, they’d have fixed it long ago.

So it’s not surprising the head coach and quarterback, plus a star receiver, are mystified as to why the offence hasn’t managed a first down in the opening 15 minutes of both of their early-season losses.

This is not a new problem, of course, but a continuation of a 2016 pox:

Four times last year the Ticats’ offence did not score a point in the first quarter, and another six times they were held to three or fewer.

That’s no touchdowns in the first quarters of 12 of their last 21 games.

If you’re looking for an adjective to describe that, don’t wander too far past “bad.”

“The problems go year to year: even though the problems are the same, the reasons are probably different, ” said receiver Luke Tasker.

“I wish I could give you a really smart answer about it. Football is a complex game. I think to a certain extent we need to try to make sure we take what we can get early.

“I can’t speak to exactly what that is, other than being really mentally relaxed and ready to go from play one, and not needing drives in order to feel that you can get into the game.

“That’s a very natural thing about sports, and sometimes it’s inevitable that you feel a lot better by the third drive than you do in the first drive, but do what you can to make sure that you’re in it for the very first drive. Which I want to do this week.”

The Ticats’ offence, missing 1,000-yard receivers Andy Fantuz and Terrence Toliver and unsettled at right tackle, hasn’t been struggling only in the first quarter this season (they’ve scored only one touchdown overall).

But the flabby starts are striking a negative template. And, well, it’s disconcerting that a 2016 problem has become a 2017 one.

And how about this stat?

Tasker has played 48 games for the Tiger-Cats in his four-plus years here, averaging nearly five catches per game, and last weekend in Regina was the first time he has not caught a pass.

His previous low was two catches and he had seven in the season opener in Toronto.

In Regina, he was targeted only twice by Zach Collaros, which equals a career low and indicates how much pressure the Ticat quarterback was under to get rid of the ball quickly. He did miss Tasker on one toss but, most times, didn’t have time to find him.

“I just have to do my part, trying to have better releases and getting more separation, ” Tasker said. “I’m not going to kill myself over it. We just weren’t where we wanted to be as an offence as a whole.”

Not by a long shot.

Collaros is like Tasker: He wishes he could give us all a definitive answer about why an offence that practises well comes out of the gates wearing lead boots.

“It comes down to execution and making plays, ” said Collaros.

“If 12 guys aren’t on the same page doing the right things at the right time, in a league like this and an offence like ours where time and space is very important, you’re not going to execute at a high level, ” he said.

“You might have some one-offs here and there but until we can get very precise at that, I don’t want to say expect the slow starts. But we need to get better, obviously.”

No argument here.

NOTES: The Tiger-Cats continue their parade of new arrivals. Wednesday they signed Terrence Frederick, who started nine games at cornerback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last year. … Injured defensive back Abdul Kanneh, who hasn’t played yet, practised Wednesday, as did centre Mike Filer and linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who were hurt against Saskatchewan on Saturday. Kent Austin says they’ll continue to be assessed to see if they can play against B.C. at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (93 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

23 Comments on Ticats offence sputtering out of the gate – again

  1. I guess we are in real trouble if a knowledgeable guy like Steve does not have the answer.

  2. Problem solved. Mazoli STARTS the game. He can innovate on the fly when the other guys screw up. This is not rocket science.

    • It it was as easy as that then Austin would start him.
      You seem to forget that Austin sees his QBs every day in practice and knows what they can do.
      The problem is more than the QB.

  3. Cat brass had lots of time to find a decent import right tackle and they choose Swindle. I’m sure he is a nice guy but;
    The american scout can’t find decent db’s or O linemen in the US, a country that is full of them. Other teams do. Usually it is Canuck talent that is hard to find. With the cats its opposite.

    • oh yeah I agree with above; Start Masoli. He thrives on chaos. Coach says start the players that give you the best chance to win.

  4. Lindsay Wilcox // July 13, 2017 at 9:22 am //

    IMO – still unsettled re who will call the bulk of O plays ?;
    – maybe Collaros under orders not to run ? OR he has weaker confidence re ability to handle hits when he does run ?
    – still same old-same old issues re run game – Gable and Scheuerman need 15 carries/game, and not just 2nd and short; both are capable blockers and pass-catchers, but… And how about running the FB, instead of using him as a lineman in the backfield ?
    – was replacement at RT merely to get a cheaper body who isn’t (so far) as good as the more expensive RT he replaced ?
    – maybe jettisoning Dyakowski who played well for Sask was too soon ? Could have used him at guard, giving more depth for Canadians on O-Line ?
    – maybe insert Masoli BRIEFLY to give Collaros a look at what D is doing ? Risk of QB controversy low in locker room, but high to fans ?
    – pass routes seem to be too predictable ?

  5. mrincomprehensible // July 13, 2017 at 10:08 am //

    Just relax guys, Horsey will be along shortly and he’ll tell you all exactly what to do. Probably blame Jones for your ills!
    The guy is a genious. (virtually)

  6. Sea of Dead // July 13, 2017 at 10:08 am //

    Steve, you answered what ails the TC offence in your own script … Collaros does NOT HAVE TIME to execute the plays that are called. There are two main problems that I can see with the offence:

    (1) The entire OL is not providing adequate protection for our QB (it’s not just a single tackle position problem) and that is a carry-over from 2016 so should NOT be a surprise to anyone since we have virtually the same guys here again. Our QB needs at least 4 seconds of protection on a passing route and is getting less than 2 on most snaps.
    (2) The playbook does not complement the current offensive roster i.e. The passing routes take too long to develop and our QB does not have enough protection to complete the play. We need to see more shorter pass patterns and run plays in order to enhance the probability of success on the longer pass routes.

    It’s unlikely that problem #1 can be fixed this season because a complete overhaul of personnel is required on the OL in order to give our QB adequate protection. So the focus should be on executing the solutions suggested in problem #2; an easier fix … something that most of us have been calling for over a year now.

    • Ticat Mike // July 13, 2017 at 10:35 am //

      Agree completely. Offense is sputtering as a result of weak OL, and poorly designed plays + no run game (likely a function of weak OL). Defense can’t stop anyone consistently — DBs worse in league, opposing QB’s have far too much time in pocket.
      We’re so easy to read on both sides of the ball. That’s on our OC, DC, and Head Coach — all the same person — Kent Austin.

    • I agree with #2. Simplify, and adjust. The protection issue is one thing, but there’s no excuse for not adjusting to both mitigate that and give the skill players a better chance to succeed (and we know what many of them are capable of).

      We’re still missing too many good players on D and there’s not much that can be done about that until the big names are healthy (or the new faces step up). But the defense has been on the field far too long in both games so far, so some sustained offensive drives and possession time would be a big help.

    • If Collaros is as great a passer as Austin thinks, a carefully selected group of NFL-cuts on the o-line could take the Cats to the Cup this year.

      Austin will likely do this but his scouts will have to beat out other teams with the same ambitions.In the meantime a few wins is a necessity for this plan to work.

      A dual Masoli-Collaros attack format along with a running game is a great way to start.

  7. Ticat Mike // July 13, 2017 at 10:36 am //

    The frustration is that fans have been noting Ticat deficiencies for years — but not addressed and not even acknowledged as an issue by the coach. The clock is ticking.

  8. Marc Aubrey // July 13, 2017 at 10:54 am //

    Does anyone know the approx date for Greg Butler and Emmanuel Davis?

  9. Jeff May // July 13, 2017 at 11:09 am //

    HEART! That’s what is missing. We had it when 1 and 6 and we ended in first. But so far it’s the other teams making diving catches. Not us! Until we find that again, we will be getting comments like today’s “I’m not going to kill myself over it” and Zach basically saying expect more slow starts? It’s a long season. Hopefully with a much more passionate ending!

  10. Collaros doesn’t have condell running the offence and the 2 people calling the offence plays aren’t that good

  11. The answer to the Cats nightmare is already a star player on their team.Big and strong and has years of football smarts.Yes, this move would be difficult and fraught with problems but that is what they already live with.

    Player John Chick is to be trained to be an offensive linemen, pronto, to give Collaros time to throw the ball.Chick is the solid player to anchor that front line and give it new life while Chick could cement is career, if it works, as one of the greatest players in league history.

    This is the time, for John Chick to take on a new role of offensive linemen and give a new life to the Hamilton Tiger-cats.

  12. solara2000 // July 13, 2017 at 4:20 pm //

    Have to like the out-of-the-box thinking regardless

  13. Angel 1 // July 13, 2017 at 7:08 pm //

    Problem is, it starts at the top. Bob Yoing dose not want to pay for a winner. He lets players go when there due a pay raise or a bonus. He only wants to sign players and cordinators or who ever else minimum or base salary. The offensive coordinator has to go. But he’s probly working for the minimum pay. Is George Cortez still available???? Im tired of players leaving hamilton who are aperntly not good enough to play in hamilton or the team (bob young) is to cheap to pay them what there worth! Well there are interviews of bob young saying “winning a grey cup is not whats import, its making the ti cats a money maker”. They sell the sizzle sound of the steak, but there no meat on the bone. I won’t pay to wathch this.

    Cheers everyone.

    Disgruntled long time Tiger Cats fan.

    • Mr. Young likely pays out the whole salary cap every year and does not involve himself in football personnel decisions. People like Mr. Austin decide which players to spend that money on.

  14. ticats63 // July 13, 2017 at 7:10 pm //

    Its really amazing reading these comments – we fans can see the problem, but the coach apparently can’t.
    Start games fast by throwing off the opposition defenses. Do this by alternating two QB’s who have different styles.
    Zach is a pocket guy (clearly spooked by his last injury, so cautious to roll out), while Masoli thrives on the pressure, as noted above. Throw in CJ Gable carrying the ball 25%+ of the time (instead of 5%), and that’s a much better game plan than we’ve seen in….years.
    How hard is that to figure out and execute??? Kent???. For the big bucks Bob is paying you, we all expect more, NOW!

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