Ticats keep secondary intact, hope for improvement

It might appear a little counterintuitive, given the lack of success so far this season, but the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will keep their defensive secondary intact for Saturday night’s home opener against the B.C. Lions.

Part of the reason is that Abdul Kanneh, inked in at one of the halfback positions when he was signed out of free agency in the off-season, isn’t recovered enough from injury to start this weekend.

But another part is to give the quintet, which was Kevin Glenn-ed last week, another chance to show whether it was largely game inexperience – together and individually – that led to far-too-easy pickings for the veteran quarterback.

So, even though SAM linebacker Will Hill must sit out the game with suspension, the team is avoiding replacing him with one of the defensive backs who played last week, which was definitely a tempting option.

Keon Lyn, signed in the off-season, will likely step in at SAM and get his first start in an outdoor regular-season game “since my last year of college (at Syracuse in 2013).” Lyn did play the pre-season game against Ottawa at corner, before going on the injured list.

That will leave Ethan Davis and Richard Leonard at the corners, Khalid Wooten and Justin Rogers at halfback and Canadian veteran Courtney Stephen at safety for the second straight game.

“At some point we’ve got to settle in and give guys a chance to develop who haven’t played a lot of football games, ” head coach Kent Austin said after Thursday’s practice. “If we’re going to make some changes and figure things out, we’re going to do it earlier rather than later. We don’t want to wait until week 14 or 15 to find out that the group we have isn’t working. We’d rather iterate through it now, then move it around and settle in a group we can trust.”

It’s highly unlikely that this quintet is the one we’ll see in the defensive backfield once, and if, the 2017 Ticats do find themselves. With two 2016 Eastern all-star halfbacks, Kanneh and Emanuel Davis, on the overall roster but injured – and Stephen deservedly entrenched in the unit – there will probably be only two starting spots really open, as projected when training camp began.

But that will be then and this is definitely now.

It’s imperative to find out who among the others can play long-term, and who can’t. And also, perhaps, to see who could eventually mount a challenge to Kanneh and Davis.

For a team showing a lack of cohesion, and desperately needing a win, if only for self-belief purposes, it’s better to make just one lineup change on defence, than two.

Five days after the Lions game, the Cats come right back to play Edmonton at Tim Hortons Field, so barring injury the secondary might get a third straight game together.

“It always helps to have continuity, in the short-term and the long-term, ” Stephen says. “It’ll be good just to get that chemistry flowing, get one more notch under the belt together.”

Lyn, who played Arena League football for Jacksonville last year, is a self-assured player and doesn’t think his recent dearth of regular-season game-time will prove too high a hurdle.

“You’ll probably be nervous a little bit., ” he concedes. “But after that first play, when you prepare well, there’s nothing to be nervous about.

“It’s the confidence thing that really helps you and boosts you to go out and play like you’ve been out there 10 years.”

The Ticats’ other change – making four starters changed since Opening Night – will be at right tackle. LaMarr Holmes, who started 19 games for the NFL Atlanta Falcons, but hasn’t played a regular-season game in more than two years, steps up for the injured Jordan Swindle.

He’s the heaviest player on the team at 333 pounds, and is just an inch shorter than Swindle’s team-high six-foot-seven. He was signed just three weeks ago.

“Coach (line coach Mike Markuson) and the offensive line, they’re been more than welcoming and are helping me a lot, ” Holmes said.

NOTES: The Ticats have signed international offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon, out of South Florida University, to a practice-roster contract. … Linebacker Will Hill will miss Saturday’s game to serve his one-game suspension, which he is not appealing.

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
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (153 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.

19 Comments on Ticats keep secondary intact, hope for improvement

  1. Kanneh has been a disappointment in that he never missed a game in 2 seasons in Ottawa and now it seems he can’t get on the field – we really need Butler, Davis and him patrolling the middle to solidify things.

    • Big Mike // July 14, 2017 at 10:10 am //

      If\when that happens, they can move Stephen back to cornet

    • Philski // July 15, 2017 at 5:29 pm //

      Agree. Last year it was Washington. Players come here from other teams, relatively healthy, then turn into glass before the season even starts. Don’t understand it. Frustrating.

  2. Wtf is with all these players that the cats sign who have been out of football for 1 2 3 years can we not find decent players that have been playing the last couple years . Quick thought off topic after last nights officiating debacle and loss of a million bucks on a horrendous call it’s time for change that was embarrassing to say the least.

  3. Ticat Mike // July 14, 2017 at 9:09 am //

    The off season leading to training camp is when you recruit and add pieces. Training camp — solidify and get into a groove — regular season — play at a high level. But if you’ve been horrible for years and don’t improve things — then the regular season resembles an extended training camp –where you hope to slowly find, add, and build a solid group of players into something you can carry into the next season. I’m afraid the CAts have done neither well in recent past.

  4. They would be better of calling this a rebuilding year lol. Does Mr bob young have any football knowledge or is he just allowing Austin and co. To run this organization how they see best . (No disrespect to bob young) because things dont seem to be working all that great.

    • you guys kill me ,does Bob Young have any football experience,he is the owner he is not involved in day to day operations and have some respect if it wasnt for Young we wouldnt have a team !!!!

      • Hamilton doesn’t realize how lucky it is to have a passionate guy like Bob Young, an owner who is willing to stick by his staff and shell out some decent cash in a very small market. all we have to do is look down the QEW to see how to destroy a team and fan base. Thanks for being our Caretaker, Bob!

    • Bob Young is the owner, that’s why he calls himself the “caretaker” he has said since Day One that he is there to pay the bills, he leaves anything to do with football to the football people.

  5. RalphInTheCreek // July 14, 2017 at 10:38 am //

    Right on Gord, Bob Young is the best owner in the league. If it wasn’t for Mr Young the CFL would have left Hamilton years ago and between Toronto floundering and Hamilton weak with no owner the CFL would have ended.

    • Jeff May // July 14, 2017 at 12:15 pm //

      Ya! He’s not Bob Jones! And what team has been horrible for years. Man, I did it too last week, but given a bit of reason to be upset and everyone goes all negative negative negative. We have a good team!

  6. Is it the same intact secondary or the same out of whack secondary?

  7. I agree that at some point they have to let the players play, develop some chemistry with each other and see if they can learn from past mistakes. Eventually Kanneh (maybe next game?) and Davis – hopefully even Butler – will return to their starting positions but the players backing them up are at least going to have some game experience by then. Part of the problem as I see it right now is having only one experienced veteran in the secondary to help out the inexperienced players. Even getting Kanneh back would probably help.

  8. The Cats could use a little health in their secondary and a Heath (Bombers DB).

  9. These guys getting game reps is good for the team as a whole. Once Butler, Davis and Kanneh come back along with a more humble Hill our defense will be more than solid but injuries happen and atleast we will have options of guys who are in the system and have played some. Unlike most sports you don’t have a farm team to send these guys down to in order for them to get experience. If we can get into labour day with a win or two we can do just fine. The BC Lions won the Grey Cup starting 2-6 in 2011 with a team that everyone thought was awful. A little positivity and backing our boys and coaches would be a nice start. We all want wins and quick results but facts are facts we have new coaches and new players all learning new schemes and game play is the only way these guys will improve.

    • Han Jobbe // July 14, 2017 at 3:23 pm //

      “If we can get into labour day with a win or two we can do just fine.” Hey Garney, you have low expectations … wonder if Coach Austin & the players would agree with such a ridiculous statement !?! Do us a favour: please don’t post such goofy comments here.

    • "HAWKS" // July 14, 2017 at 5:22 pm //

      “The BC Lions won the Grey Cup starting 2-6 in 2011 with a team that everyone thought was awful.”

      This actually gives me hope. Thank you.

  10. RalphInTheCreek // July 15, 2017 at 7:59 am //

    I hope Ham isn’t cooked for the season, a win or two would help for now.

  11. Sending Out an SOS // July 16, 2017 at 10:14 am //

    This Secondary is an insult to the fans, the CFL and Professional football in general. They give up a CFL record in passing yards for a back up QB. All they do is get burnt left right and center. These guys couldn’t guard Sasquatch.

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