The highs and lows of the Ticats’ pre-season loss to the Argos

Thank Odin that it was only the pre-season because the Ticats looked as ugly Thor’s eye without the eyepatch in their 36-18 loss to the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night at Tim Hortons Field.

Let’s look at some of the highs and lows from the game.

Low: Masoli was (mostly) awful

While his final drive of the night was an impressive one that led to the only offensive score of the game for the Ticats, you cannot give Jeremiah Masoli passing marks for what was mostly an awful performance.

The plan was for Masoli to play sparingly and then cede the floor to one Jonathan Football, but Masoli played deep into the second quarter because the offense simply had no rhythm.

And they kept turning the damn ball over. The team gave the ball away either via interception, fumble or on downs seven times in the first half, with Masoli being responsible for two pretty bad interceptions. The first came when he overthrew Brandon Banks on a pump-and-go, while the second came when he tried to thread the needle to Luke Tasker in triple coverage.

The one aspect of Masoli’s game that he fixed the most during his inspired run late last season was in turning the ball over, with just four interceptions over the final 10 games of the season. Masoli reverted back into the turnover machine he was prior to his reascension up the depth chart against the Argos. I hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come.

High… ish: Manziel proves he belongs

The crowd roared when he entered the game — with a smattering of boos once he was introduced — and while he didn’t provide much in the way of excitement, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who said Johnny Manziel didn’t perform well in his first taste of CFL action.

His stat line wasn’t huge — 9 of 11 for 80 yards, two rushes for 10 yards — but he seemed relatively comfortable operating the offense and didn’t make any major mistakes. The grounding call on him was weak — if the ref truly did say his pass fell one yard short, that’s some grade-A bull dookie — and he was sacked twice, but he showed enough to prove that he belongs in the league.

Despite his solid-ish performance and Masoli’s less-than-stellar outing, there is still no chance (barring injury) anyone but No. 8 is under centre when the Ticats take on the Stamps in two weeks.

But much like Shady Records, the hype was real for Johnny Football and we all got a tiny glimpse of that on Friday night.

Low: Whitlock fumbles away his chance

The Nikita Whitlock experiment at running back has to be done, right? I’m not sure any player anywhere had a worse performance than Whitlock against the Argos. Whitlock finished the night with three carries for 13 yards, but only one of those carries ended with the Ticats still in possession of the football.

Yes, that means Whitlock fumbled on 66 per cent of his carries. That is… not good.

Other ball carriers, namely Storm Johnson and Mercer Timmis (more on both in a bit), vastly outplayed Whitlock, and with the current uncertainty surrounding Alex Green, the Ticats are going to need someone to tot the rock for them once the season really begins.

That person cannot and should not be Nikita Whitlock.

High: Timmis shines and a Storm is brewing

Sticking with the run game, both Mercer Timmis and Storm Johnson really impressed me. Timmis ran with power and purpose, and had a beautifully violent 18-yard run that helped to set up the Ticats’ lone offensive score of the ball game, while Johnson looked like a C.J. Gable clone. The two combined for 104 yards on 15 carries and that is the type of 1-2 punch that could really make the Ticats’ run game hum.

High: Speedy B picking up where he left off

For anyone who thought Brandon Banks’ emergence as a receiving threat was going to be a one-year aberration, think again. Banks scored the team’s only offensive touchdown and also finished the game with a team-high 72 yards on four catches. Speedy picked up precisely where he left off last year, and if that continues the rest of the CFL needs to look out.

High: Special teams gets it done

With the exception of Lirim Hajrullahu’s one shanked punt and the extra point that doinked off the upright, the special teams were stellar. Even Hajrullahu was great outside those flubs, and even boomed a 54-yard field goal later in the game.

But it was the return game that really deserves some praise. All three Ticats’ punt returners (Frankie Williams, Bryce Wilkerson and Chris Hubert) had one return of at least 30 yards, with Williams breaking one for a 74-yard touchdown. Special teams has been a hallmark of this team for years and it looks like there are plenty of talented players ready to contribute on that side of the ball.

High/Low: Defense was decent, but unspectacular

It is tough to truly evaluate the defense when the offense turned the ball over 10 times, but I think for the most part the unit was decent. They didn’t give up much in the run game, only gave up two plays of 20+ yards, and it’s not like the Argos threw for a ton of yards either. But there was that one play where they looked like a bunch of Keystone Cops trying to tackle Brandon Burks, who danced for an incredible 27-yard touchdown. I think the defense did enough good to not be too worried, but also still showed there are things to work on.

Final Thoughts

So here comes the requisite “it’s only pre-season, so don’t read too much into it” comment, but it was only the pre-season, so everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

That said, it was still a little more than worrisome that it took the Ticats’ starters to really get a rhythm going against what was essentially an Argos team that was playing entirely backups. Hamilton have traditionally been slow starters — both in the season itself and in games — and some of that went away when June Jones took over, but if Friday’s game is any indication, the slow starts are back and that is not something any Ticat fans wants to see.

With the first pre-season contest in the books, the Ticats will now turn their focus to the province of Quebec and their final pre-season game against the Montreal Alouettes. I hope we see a much more focused and determined team in that game and while the “it’s only the pre-season” comment will apply to that game as well, you best believe that a poor showing against what many believe is a vastly inferior Montreal squad will lead to a lot of anxiety before the real season begins in Calgary in June 16.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
Josh Smith

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Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

45 Comments on The highs and lows of the Ticats’ pre-season loss to the Argos

  1. Doug Mc Clintock // June 2, 2018 at 1:32 pm //

    Toronto’s “B” team beat Hamilton’s A team very nicely with the help of 7 turnovers from the cats. So really the Tiger Cats beat themselves ! Which proves the Argo bounce was working quite well !
    Hey, Toronto’s Burke run back and forth was very specular !

  2. Hard to find anything to disagree with in this write up.

    Post game I was thinking that maybe Masoli came out trying to prove too much rather than settle in and get comfortable back on the game field where they’re coming faster and hitting. Maybe a bit of a sense of pressure he hadn’t had before given that Manziel is everyone’s favourite to take over should Masoli falter.

    Manziel certainly showed flashes. I’m not sure how long before he gets a bit testy with the media given how little he’s done in games but how much he’s questioned every day by the media.

    • I don’t mean to belittle by the “how little” he’s done – what I mean here is that he’s just had a chance to run 21 plays and practice for two weeks. It’s not about the quality of his play – but just that there’s not much volume yet to judge anything.

  3. Shawn Goldwater // June 2, 2018 at 1:40 pm //

    Yes a good assessment. But on his last drive in the first half, where they scored, I thought Masoli looked really good. Yes, it took a while but I thought he deserved more credit, for that. He was then pulled in favour of giving Manziel a chance but I wonder what might have been if Masoli had stayed in?

  4. Does history repeat itself??? Last preseason the Argos came to THF to play what many thought was a Grey Cup bound Ticat team… last year’s Argos dominated the Ticats and the season just went down the toilet from there… so now we have the 2018 version of the Ticats with June Jones having full control and Johnny Manziel on the team… with much hype the Ticats took to the field against the Argos backups and we get the same results as last year so where does the season go from here???

    • I agree, Snake : stink,stank,stunk .

    • I think it’s going to be the same this year.
      The Ticats took a gamble in hoping that the same team as last year will be better.
      Their first team against the Argos B team.
      It would be ironic if they go 0 – 8 and then decide to bench Masoli and Manziel finishes the season and they go 6 – 4 to finish the year.

    • I didn’t like the horrid interceptions (throws into triple coverage) Orville Redenbacher ‘butter fingers’ fumbles, giving up the big play, taking stupid penalties, not finishing drives, crappy tackling, dropped passes, the QB running for his life, failed 3rd down conversions…yep, sounds like last year all right.

  5. JoeARGOS81Fan // June 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm //

    We will see what the ticats do in the beginning of the season. Ti-cat fans say that they were a different team after they were 0-8. If the cats can keep the game against Calgary under 60 points (it is a win). Masoli will be under pressure to play well, if not the chants of “Johnny Football” will be sung by Ti-cats fans.

  6. Doug Mc Clintock // June 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm //

    Masoli is in a tight spot, he must play at a very high level because of the presence of Manziel ! It should not be like that. Sure hope Masoli plays well !

    • But friendly competition is a good thing within teams. If you have talented backups that can push the starters to be their best, everyone wins.

      We’ll see how that plays out at QB in the coming games.

  7. Who’s surprised that Jer Masoli looked horrific?

    As I’ve explained numerous times, Masoli is a terrible QB. Laughably weak arm, can’t read coverage and struggles badly with inconsistency on his throws.

    • Area51 is a dbag // June 2, 2018 at 3:49 pm //

      Entertain us again with your expert (non)explanation about the completions in a row record from Masoli. I guess that was his record inconsistency?
      Go back to your hole.

  8. The little experiment with Juice Pig Whitlock is a complete disaster.

    Unplayable at DT because he’s too small and equally useless on offence. WTF is the Hamilton braintrust wasting an Import spot on a no-talent scrub like this?

    Can’t believe they got rid of Davon Coleman for getting into a fight with this hack.

    • Area51 is a dbag // June 2, 2018 at 3:46 pm //

      “Juice pig” huh? Whitlock is a classy guy. You pride yourself on your research you asshat, read up a bit on the guy. Read the one about his getting recruited in HS. For a guy who thinks he has more intel than a League GM, you should have more of a file on a rookie than calling him a “juice pig”.
      He fumbled, give him a break.

      • Would you prefer “acknowledged PED user” rather than “juice pig”?

        Whitlock was suspended for TEN (10) games by the NFL for getting caught juicing.

        He’d been previously suspended for an undisclosed violation for FOUR (4) games – – which is the punishment for afirst time juicing offence.

  9. Dundas dude // June 2, 2018 at 2:47 pm //

    After 2017, the Cats need a decent start to this season. Not time to panic yet, but a team which stood relatively pat in the offseason, isn’t going to be shown a lot of tolerance if they go 0-4 in the first month. No pressure boys, but heads start to roll sooner rather later in 2018.

    • Yea, they did nothing in FA and are expecting the same team to build on the 6 – 4 finish.
      The problem is that Ottawa finished their last 10 games with a 7 – 3 record and was active in the FA to improve their weakness on defense.
      I don’t see the Ticats challenging Ottawa or the Argos, it’s going to be a battle to stay ahead of the west crossover.

  10. Jones is an experienced coach and should nave been cognisant that merely switching quarterbacks and tinkering changes like making Banks a receiver may have been good for a few wins but does not prepare the team for a new season.
    Johnny football if he can get into shape,and be a player, which will not be easy, may be asking himself where is my new team ?

  11. It’s a good thing you guys do not play for or coach the Cats. Writing off the season as some of you are want to do based on yesterdays game is a bit much.

  12. Anthony Kaduck // June 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm //

    Over the eight games he started in 2017 Masoli led the league in every QB statistic except TD to INT ratio, which he tied for first with Nichols. Not good enough for Area51, but good enough for me.

    • Area51 is a dbag // June 2, 2018 at 3:51 pm //

      A51 has complex analysis and ratios that he’s running in his mom’s basement in etobicoke.
      He’s explained to us many times…

    • That’s why you have to watch the games instead of just looking at the stat sheet, my friend.

      Masoli is an atrocious QB. That’s why he’s been a clipboard holder for his entire career.

      The debacle you saw last night is what you’ll see from Masoli throughout the season. But if Hamilton Fan is happy with that then I’m happy for Hamilton Fan.

      • Area51 is a dbag // June 2, 2018 at 11:38 pm //

        “Inconsistency”, but that’s something you get from your feel for the game. Easy way for you to stand behind a qualitative analysis which can actually be refuted using stats. Last year he wasn’t carrying a clipboard in the second half of the season and the Cats were actually one of the strongest teams in the second half. You’re really bouncing around.

        I actually don’t like Masoli, Never have. I look forward to seeing how Manziel pans out. But FFS, I appreciate logical consistency. And yes dbag, most of watch the games.

    • That’s okay. Area51 would rather prefer a 100 year old QB on the verge of collecting CPP piloting his team at QB…isn’t that right Area51?

      • But that 100 year old QB loves his nice new ring. Are you aware of the statistics that 99 year old QB put up last season?

        • Couldn’t care less…your franchise is dying my friend…last year the CFL bent over backwards to accommodate them…matter of fact they should put a big, fat * beside “GC Champions, 2017” (the * stands for “league intervention”).

    • It will be interesting to discuss qb’s st the mid season point. Johnny M will be starting, zac will be having an mvp season and Hamilton will be 2 and 7 at best

  13. I have to agree that the experiment to make Whitlock a “Swiss-army-knife’ type of player on both offense and defense appears to be a failure. He did well enough on the D line when given a chance to play last season and if they want to use him as a FB in blocking schemes, that may work well enough, but for goodness sake DON’T give him the ball! His ball security leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, I have to agree that both Timmis and Storm Johnson looked MUCH more effective at RB and with the loss of Chambers for the season in the receiving corps, using Timmis might well help to solve that problem. They do have Thomas-Erlington who can back him up.
    I was glad that Masoli finally got a drive going, but concerned that it took close to a half for that to occur. Hopefully that’s not a sign of things to come.

    • Agreed. Though I think they needed to see what he could do if given the opportunity to take a hand-off.

      Timmis looked like a really strong runner and Johnson seems like a keeper. No worries about the running game, or that Jones will use it liberally.

  14. bigplay // June 2, 2018 at 4:28 pm //

    This disaster of a team better get fixed in a hurry(yes it was pre-season but we had a lot of starters Argos played all back ups)1.Run Collaros out town for Masoli? 2.Run Emanuel Davis out of town kept Kanneh he was terrible last night 3.Run Coach Lolley out of town and hired 76 year old Glanville no CFL experience the Defence was terrible 4.Gave CJ Gable away to start Alex Green has been gone for a week now where the hell is he on vacation? One more sub par season and good luck filling Tim Hortons Field or for that matters bidding for a Grey Cup Game(the problem ’96’Team sucked not in playoffs and had to give away tickets)Time to Dump Scott Mitchell!

  15. While the offense needs to cut the mistakes and get more organized (looked like there’s lots of work still to be done to not only execute the plays, but get set up for them in a proper and timely fashion) the defense did well aside from a couple of plays, albeit against a squad of backups and training-camp trials.

    Note to receivers: please get BEYOND the sticks before making the catch.

    Dean showed why he was an important player to re-sign, always around the ball and his tackling was sure-handed. Laurent and McGough looked good. The secondary’s coverage was decent, though Kanneh got scorched on one Argo TD (please keep him at HB). I’m not sure a couple of the D-line try-outs will stick, but the Cats are deep at the LOS. Some of the new guys need to be better tackling at the point of contact.

    I’m not sure I’d agree the special teams were a “high” – despite his success later in the game Hajrullahu needs to be consistently better, and only one of our returners looked good to me (Williams). Our coverage units had mixed results as well.

    The team has a lot of work to do. Trestman looks like he has his units running smoothly early on… Jones does not.

  16. From a Hamilton point of view, imagine if John Manziel was an unknown rookie being tried out in the pre-season. Would his play have been enough to keep him on the team for another week or two. I think so.
    From a Toronto perspective, both of the contesting second string QBs looked very capable, and the whole Toronto squad, B team or not, appeared to be disciplined and quite good for the first outing. Some work to do in the secondary maybe, and special teams preventing big plays, but the advantage at this point seems to be with Toronto.

  17. Barry McCawkiner // June 2, 2018 at 4:55 pm //

    Happy this was a preseason game. The fumbles are correctable. Losing Shamawd sucks huge, but they need to stop screwing around and get Chapman here. Quite a few ticat starters didn’t play so to call them the 1’s is stretch. Vanilla offense and playing 4 Canadians at Dline is a clear sign this was a feeler game for the Cats. Everyone relax!

  18. bigplay // June 2, 2018 at 7:03 pm //

    Barry the only penciled in starters not to start was Adrian Tracy , Mathew Ryker and of course Chambers who is now gone for the season and maybe Cooper who was not a starter a the Sam spot last year and I do not think that has been determined yet now tell me other than one Argo starter other then their kicker Waters and he did not even play the entire game !

  19. Michael Kulyk // June 2, 2018 at 8:33 pm //

    the writer should thanking norse gods and focus on the ticats poor showing

  20. We need Whitlock on the D-line full time…he’s a beast there. Also, I loved the play of 77 Aultman. He did a great job last year when he played too. They need to get him more involved this year.

    • I said in previous comments that he’ll be the TC’s leading receiver this year. Led in YAC last year albeit played little. That will change.

  21. josh you have no credibility. You savagely attacked Manziel now you say he belongs? Go stuff it you third rate hack.

    • Dale you should not be hard on Josh. If someone sees potential actually happening then it is great to state the facts. There were so many and I can list people on this site and writers who have a more positive view. That is good

  22. Horde111 // June 3, 2018 at 1:03 pm //

    Give Masoli the undisputed starting job and he is a pretty good QB as the end of last season showed us.
    But with anyone looking over his shoulder, he trys too hard and makes mistakes. Coaching staff can say what they want about him being the #1 QB, we all know that only lasts as long as he plays like he did last year.

  23. TicatTO // June 3, 2018 at 10:20 pm //

    Thanks Josh for the article. You’re the only one that is talking about the Ticats.
    We have lost Drew and Steve to the inane Manziel hype machine.
    This is a ridiculous side show. The coverage of the entire team has been largely nonexistent. This team looked like sh*t against the Argos and not a peep from Drew and Steve except for how amazing Johnny did in his first game.
    Obviously, Drew and Steve are moonlighting as Manziel’s PR representatives.
    Perhaps we should refer to the team as the Hamilton Manziels.

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