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.
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