Milton: Ticats’ playoff hopes dependent on Masoli’s progress

On the same day the trade deadline passes without Zach Collaros being traded, his replacement is named one of the Canadian Football Leagues’ top three players of the week.

That’s Jeremiah Masoli’s present tense.

The future? Who knows, but it could even improve.

“He’s gotten better, it seems, every week,” says June Jones, who will lose the ‘interim’ from his head coaching description if he and his quarterback-of-choice can somehow urge the Ticats into an unlikely playoff berth.

“He’s better in practice this week. Hopefully, he’ll just continue to do that on game day.”

When Masoli took over the starter’s role from Collaros on the day Jones became head coach, he started winning. And, really, that’s all that counted and all that still counts, even more so as the season funnels toward its conclusion.

But a couple of the classic indicators of CFL quarterback success – completion rate and passing yardage – weren’t there. In his first three games at the helm he didn’t reach a 60 percent completion rate, nor compile a 300-yard game.

But in the past three games, he’s recorded a 65.7 per cent rate (in BC) and a whopping 81.8 (in Winnipeg), a 338-yard passing game (Winnipeg) and a 288-yarder (Toronto).

And it’s not likely he’s Peter Principle-ing here. When he ran the offence for another six-game stretch last year – to open the season with Collaros recovering from surgery – he was below 60 per cent accuracy in just one game, and four times reached 300 passing yards. His career average is 64 per cent.

Different coach, different system, and somewhat different receivers, which explains some of the lower numbers in this stretch of a half-dozen games compared to last year’s six, but also why he could trend up for the crucial four-game remainder of the season.

Last year, he was a backup who had to start. Right now, he is the starter who used to back up. Nowhere is it ordained that Collaros returns under centre, and that makes a big difference psychologically.  So does familiarity with a different system of reads for him and his receivers.

“I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with the offence,” Masoli said after Wednesday’s final full practice before Calgary arrives here Friday night. “With coach (Dan) Morrison being here, it helps me out, just clearing up some of the simple stuff that make the difference in some of the throws and reads. Just the little tweaks that me and coach Morrison are making in my drops, and in my eye placements, I just feel a lot more comfortable and confident.”

And that, Jones feels, makes for better accuracy. Especially, it says here, on the deep balls.

“We’ve changed so many reads and so many keys, it’s like the first third of the season for him, really,” Jones says of Masoli. “He’s getting better, and that’s good.

“I think it’s playing together and knowing what the receiver’s going to do. A couple of the misses he had earlier, he was thinking the receiver was going to go a certain spot, and he just guessed wrong. Now he’s knowing where he’s going to go.”

He’s also learning to depend upon what was previously undependable: the commitment to the running game; the precision of the receivers’ routes; the vastly improved play of the edges of the offensive line; and the speed of the deep threats clearing room for the possession plays underneath.

One of the Ticats’ most important drives, if not the most important, of Friday’s game in Winnipeg was a 100-yard march that took a valuable eight minutes and 35 seconds to result in a touchdown.

On that drive, Shamawd Chambers, Luke Tasker and Andy Fantuz (twice) each caught second-down passes of eight yards or less to merit a new set of downs. On most, there was room short because fast guys like Speedy Banks and Jalen Saunders were occupying defenders farther afield.

“I wouldn’t overstate it because I would think every offence has some clearing routes to open up underneath, but I think our deep threat has increased, and that helps everything,” says Tasker who also likes the opportunity he and Fantuz are getting to occasionally run longer patterns themselves.

“And the run game has increased, so that helps the passing game. We’ve got some balance, both overall in the offence and inside the passing game as well.”

If they’d only had that balance even a week or two earlier, the razor’s edge of this final four weeks wouldn’t be quite as lethally sharp.

NOTES: The Tiger-Cats, not surprisingly, were inactive before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline.

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 (174 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.

28 Comments on Milton: Ticats’ playoff hopes dependent on Masoli’s progress

  1. Righy now Masoli is Jones guy and collaros is insurance who would of thought with one another’s pay scale. Gonna be a tough go against stamps if Masoli and Jones pull it off Jones with be a goddam genious

    • Calgary is a measuring stick … but adding both a deep threat and a run again (aka being multi dimensional) makes it tougher on the Calgary defense.

      • Randy… Jones is already a genius. He has proven that at Portland State, Atlanta Falcons, Univ. Hawaii, Southern Methodist Univ. and now a magical mid season turn around at Hamilton. It was his TV profanity tirade against Jeff George that banned him from the NFL after the Falcons.

    • Love how Mazoli is playing, but it wont just be him. Ticats playoff hopes in hands of officials

  2. RalphInTheCreek // October 12, 2017 at 8:44 am //

    Maso gets the rock as long as he’s winning lads.

    • Not that its important- but if that were the measuring stick- collaros would have been in a few games back. Masoli has lost 2…

      • True … it is more like “Masoli like gets the rock until he consistently is the reason for losses”.

        • Beating the Argos was a must win and the Masoli-Jones combo failed to deliver.The Argos gave the Cats a sound defeat just like in the season opener.Cat fans are giddy with a few wins but the same problems still linger with this team. It must be addressed and fixed for the next season.It’s the Argos, choke-choke, that have greatly improved with Trestman.The Argos caged the Tiger with Austin and with Jones.

    • are they curling now?

  3. Peter Griffin // October 12, 2017 at 9:20 am //

    Always enjoy Steve’s submissions. This team really looks like a professional football team now. The first 8 weeks (and the end of last season) were horrible and difficult to watch. Why oh why didn’t Kent step down earlier, and replace himself and the D Coordinator with two people who know what they are doing?? This team wouldn’t be in the position of trying to squeeze into the playoffs. Big game tomorrow (actually 2 big games – Cats and RBs).

  4. go get-em cats

  5. Sea of Dead // October 12, 2017 at 11:16 am //

    Masoli’s play, especially in the last few games, shows 1st string potential and he deserves to start until the end of the season.

    I’ve liked Collaros based on his 2015 performance up to the injury but, as I’ve stated in a previous post, don’t expect that he’ll see the field again in 2017 even if the Cats are eliminated from playoff contention. And that is because the financial burden on the team would be too high if he happened to be seriously injured again and unable to play in 2018.

    The Cats aren’t saying it but Collaros is definitely NOT in their future plans and he will be dealt prior to the 2018 season (Hope that doesn’t come back to bite us). So those of you suggesting a competition between Masoli, Collaros and possibly Manziel … Good luck, that’s just a pipe dream that will never happen. Collaros was written-off by the organization some time ago and it’s likely an irreversible decision. Too bad, it would have been nice to see what he could do with the current line-up in JJ’s system.

    • Not so sure the Cats, post playoff elimination would give up the opportunity to see how Collaros fits the new setup plus potentially increase his trade value.

      Unless there is some inside info that no other teams are interested in Masoli and/or that Masoli will only sign with the Cats … FA is a bit of a crap shoot.

      Time will tell.

    • Sea of Dead – I’ve definitely gotten the opposite impression – that Collaros isn’t going anywhere. Masoli is the pending FA and there’s no reason Collaros couldn’t start in this offense next season – assuming that Jones is still here. Jones is impressed with Collaros and has said as much on a number of occasions. Masoli got the start ahead of Zach IMO because he had more familiarity in the run and shoot offense and Jones needed to get things turned around quickly. I don’t think anyone in the organization has “written off” Zach. Opinion shouldn’t be stated as fact.

      • Sea of Dead // October 12, 2017 at 2:45 pm //

        @TFMCB Everyone’s comments on this site are ‘opinions’ … Don’t think everyone needs to start each sentence with ‘IMO’.

        Hope you’re right but would bet against you. The Cats had several opportunities to insert Collaros when the offence stalled for prolonged periods of time and JJ never gave him a look, not one snap. That is telling as are the financial considerations associated with long-term injury.

        I can tell you that I’d rather have Collaros on the team at a fraction of the cost that the team owes Austin going forward (of course the QB’s is a factor in the team salary cap while Austin’s is simply a hole in the Caretaker’s pocket). Both apparently are just token keeps of better times in the past with little to no team value now, IMO of course.

      • be a shame if Masoli left Ticats. Chemistry is very good right now. Masoli could go to another team and not have same success. I like Zach, but Masoli should be Hamilton future

      • great response. Zach is under contract Masoli isn’t

  6. Don’t factor in what Collaros makes in starting or not starting. June Jones is too old for that. He just puts in the best fit for his system. Full stop. I also think the TiCats can carry Zach’s salary even if he is just a back up or mentor. Evans is super cheap and as I said before here I think Manziel will play for the minimum just to show everyone he is in it for Football and not money, fame, girls, blow, or booze.

    • Chicken and egg argument. June’s system demands a duel threat QB so Zach would get beat up no matter what. Masoli’s actual running ability and the threat thereof is what is giving him more time not some magic dust on the Offensive line.

      • Having the triple threat of a running game, running QB *and* speed to keep the defense on it’s heels is definitely more potent.

        The running game plus speed may be enough, with selective running by the QB. Glenn isn’t a great runner yet when he selectively runs – he has sewed the game up. (Why he didn’t do that in the ESF against Argos that the Cats would eventually lose was a mystery to me.)

  7. I’m no football coaching genius but all I’ve ever heard was you gotta have a balanced attack. The run game is critical to keep the defence honest and Austin refused to do that leaving Collaros vulnerable most of the time. I give em credit, they almost won a Grey Cup but the current system has a lot more chance of success, too bad it came after 8 losses. Who knows who will be back next year.

    • The Argos with James Wilder are the definitive example of a balanced attack.Do the Cats have that with Green or did it end with the trade of Gable? James Wilder looks like a real find and they do not need Green or Gable.That’s the type of scouting I would like to see by the Cats.

      • Guess you missed the Ticats win over the BBs IN WINNIPEG last week! And who do you think brought BOTH Gable and Green into the league? It sure wasn’t the Argos or any other team!

      • have you played a lot of contact sports without a helmet? You make zero sense?

  8. Masoli has played awesome on the road. Some slow starts at home. Sask and TO games at home should have been wins. The stamps will crush us if we start slow. Secret to beating the stamps is putting points on the board early, controlling the clock, no big plays for BLM, qb pressure with a 4 man rush, wrap up the runners. Those are the keys to beating Cowgary.

  9. Masoli is the man. He’ll keep getting better with more experience. Tillman needs to get him signed up long term.

  10. Does anybody out there remember when the Cats beat the Stamps last?

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