With the draft over and training camp on the horizon, the Ticats are looking to put the final touches on their 2015 squad. With the recent acquisition of Ryan Bomben, the team addressed one of their biggest areas of concern, especially following the season-ending injury to free-agent signee Spencer Watt: finding a seventh Canadian starter. With that out of the way, and with a vast majority of the team’s roster returning from last season, the Ticats look poised to once again challenge for the Grey Cup.
But there is still one big question the team needs to answer: who will start at short-side corner?
From the looks of it, that question will not be answered until after training camp. The team has assembled a plethora of players who will vie for the spot formerly occupied by Delvin Breaux, who signed with the New Orleans Saints this past winter. The Tiger-Cats look to have a number of options available to them to find Breaux’s replacement, with both veterans and newcomers alike vying to fill the hole left by Breaux’s departure.
One such veteran player is Brandon Stewart. Prior to signing with Hamilton last offseason, Stewart spent the majority of his five years in Winnipeg playing the wide-side corner position. Stewart played short-side halfback last season with mixed results. A move to the the corner could do wonders for Stewart in his second year with the Ticats.
Ed Gainey, Emanuel Davis, Rico Murray and the recently signed Johnny Sears, Jr. could also be in the mix. Murray is unlikely to move from his wide-side halfback position where his ballhawking skills — he led the team in the interceptions last season — are put to better use. Sears played a number of positions during his five-year stay in Winnipeg, most of them at linebacker, but he could make the transition to short-side corner.
The two most intriguing prospects, at least among the veterans, are Emanuel Davis and Ed Gainey. Both have starter’s experience, and both have filled in for Breaux at times during the last two seasons. Expect these two to be deep in the mix and do not be surprised if one of them gets the job, at least to start the season.
There is also a group of newcomers who will have a chance to win the job. Nick Brassell, Drayton Calhoun and Arthur Williams were all signed in April and participated in the team’s mini-camp last month. These players arrive in Hamilton with very little known about them, but Breaux was a virtual unknown when he came to camp in 2013 and quickly became one of the best short-side corners in the CFL. Perhaps lightning strikes twice and the Cats develop another unknown into a CFL all-star.
There is one final trio of players that will be vying for Breaux’s old spot, a group that consists of players with some NFL experience: Julien Posey, Ellis Lankster and Michael Coe. Posey played a couple games with the Miami Dolphins in 2012 and a handful more with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 before signing with the Ticats in mid-September last year. Coe spent all of the 2014 season with the Tabbies, playing in three games before an injury ended his season. But prior to that, he played with the Indianapolis Colts (the team that drafted him in 2007), Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants (where he won a Super Bowl in 2011), Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. Lankster spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, with practice roster stops in Washington and Tampa Bay. NFL experience can only go so far, but all three have proven they can play at the top level, and should be right in the thick of things to take over for Breaux.
Just who replaces the 2014 league all-star remains a mystery right now, but the team has plenty of options for trying to fill the immense hole Breaux’s departure has left. For a team with so few questions heading into the season, answering the biggest one they have remaining might be the difference between going to and winning the Grey Cup.