The good and bad of Hamilton’s loss to the Argos

The Ticats fell 25-16 to the Toronto Argonauts in their first preseason game of the year, and the first Canadian football game ever played at the Argos new home, BMO Field. There is a lot to unpack in Hamilton’s loss, so let’s get to it.

Good… No, GREAT: The BMO experience

While not perfect — I was seated on the east side of the stadium and the sound system over there apparently was not working today — after just one preseason game, you can already tell that BMO Field is a massive improvement over the SkyDome. Something as small as the refillable collectors’ cups coming with Argos logos on them is a major step up from how the team was marketed at the Dome (any type of item bought at concession stands came with Blue Jays logos on them). The crowd was fairly decent for a preseason game as well, and those who were there seemed interested and engaged, and perhaps most importantly, they were young. I saw a lot of younger people in the stands. Twenty-somethings, teens and kids, and they were excited to be there. There are still some kinks to be worked out here and there, but this is going to work. You can just tell.

Good: Jeremiah Masoli plays mistake-free football

Jeremiah Masoli didn’t see the field much, but when he was on there he was solid. Going six for nine for 43 yards and no touchdowns is hardly anything to write home about, but the big thing was that he did not commit any turnovers. One of the knocks on Masoli up until last year’s very good playoff run was that he was prone to mistakes and turnovers. If this afternoon was any indication, that is no longer the case. He seems relaxed behind centre and looks poised to be the guy to lead this team until Zach Collaros is back from his torn ACL.

Bad: Jeff Mathews continues to frustrate

Jeff Mathews picked up right where he left off last year, and that is both good and bad. Much like in last year’s preseason opener, Mathews threw a beautiful omg touchdown pass on the run, this time to Tiquan Underwood. It was a great escape by Mathews as the pocket collapsed, and by keeping his eyes down field, he spotted an open Underwood behind the defense. Six points for Hamilton.

But he followed that up with a pair of very bad interceptions, which became kind of his calling card last year. It seems as if Mathews is still holding on to the ball too long and not consistently making good reads and throws. Kent Austin preaches consistency as being perhaps the most important trait he wants his players to have and Mathews seems to only be consistent in his inconsistency. He is not a bad player, but in the QB battle, Masoli clearly outshone Mathews today and looks to have the inside track to the starting quarterback job.

Bad: Mental errors

Another Austin pet peeve is mental errors and the Ticats committed more than their fair share of those tonight. John Chick was called for offside that took the Argos out of a second-and-long on their opening scoring drive, a breakdown in coverage in the red zone allowed a wide open Vidal Hazleton to score the game’s first points, Alex Hoffman-Ellis took a very bad unnecessary roughness penalty on Argos QB Logan Kilgore, and the entire special teams unit had a brain fart when they allowed a punt to sit on the turf and be picked up by Argos punter Zackary Medeiros after two Ticats collided. The last one can be chalked up to rookies not understanding the league rules — it happened in the third quarter when almost all of the veterans were out of the game — but the first two came from vets who should know better and they helped allow a pair of Argos drives to extend beyond when they should have.

Good: Worry not about the defensive line

Fans need not worry about the team’s defensive line following the mass exodus of talented players this offseason. John Chick’s motor is as advertised. On the game’s first play, he blew by his man and nearly brought down Logan Kilgore. If this is the John Chick we are seeing during the preseason, I cannot wait to see him in the regular season.

Another new addition that made quite the impact was former Argo Delano Johnson. All reports are that Johnson is having a fantastic camp and he added to that by picking up a sack in the second quarter today and just being a general menace while he was out there. Johnson is making a strong push to Ted Laurent’s defensive tackle mate to start the year and performances like this will push him closer to that starting spot.

Another defensive tackle that had a very good game was former No. 1 overall pick Linden Gaydosh. You won’t find his name on the stat sheet, but he was constantly taking on two linemen and doing so rather well. If Gaydosh can become the player many envisioned when he went No. 1 overall three years ago, the Ticats will once again have an embarrassment of riches along the defensive line.

Good: Nor the offensive line

The Ticats starting offensive line looked spectacular today. When Jeremiah Masoli was in the game, he had a lot of time to make his reads and faced very little in the way of a pass rush. Masoli also made quick reads, which helped the line look so good, but even with that and without a pair of starters, Hamilton’s hogs looked very good. This offensive line could be the best we have seen in Hamilton in some time.

Good: Young guys make plays

Preseason is about guys proving something and we saw some of that today as well. Matt Coates, who is one of those guys everyone roots for, made one of the nicest catches I’ve seen from anyone. He had a DB draped all over him — honestly, I do not know how a pass interference penalty wasn’t called — and managed to make a one-and-a-half-hand catch while falling down. Every time Coates gets an opportunity, he makes plays and while he is definitely behind Andy Fantuz and Spencer Watt on the depth chart, he is a guy that can contribute if called upon.

Coates wasn’t the only Ticats receiver to make a nice catch today. Newcomer Anthony McClung had one of his own in the second quarter. Hamilton’s receiving corps is very deep, so McClung will be in tough to make the roster, but plays like that could see him earn a spot on the practice roster.

There was one more young fella flying around out there this afternoon and that was rookie defensive back Chris Davis. Davis seemed to have a nose for the ball, finishing the game with three tackles and he seemed to be around the ball every time he was on the field. A nice afternoon for the young man.

Good… maybe: Kicking battle could be decided

The kicking competition between Brett Maher and Cody Mandell may have inched closer to ending in Maher’s favour after today’s game. Both players got the opportunity to kick a pair of field goals and a pair of punts. Maher went two for two, while Mandell went went one for two, missing from 50 yards. But it was in the punting area, where Mandell should have the upper hand, that saw Maher outperform him as well. If the decision had to be made after today, and it doesn’t, Maher would be the man booting balls for the Tabbies to start the regular season.

Good: Brandon Revenberg looks legit

One of the best aspects about preseason games is getting to see those drafted players in action. One such player that looked great was first-round pick Brandon Revenberg. It is hard to see offensive line play sometimes, but on the few plays I focused on Revenberg he looked very stout, albeit not against the first-team defense of the Argos. This kid looks to be as good as advertised and fans will no longer quibble about trading picks to get him. He is the real deal.

Bad-ish: Mercer Timmis looks like a rookie (at least on offense)

It was not, however, a great first game for Mercer Timmis, at least not on offense. He did contribute on special teams, picking up a pair of tackles on kickoff duty, but his output on offense left a lot to be desired. He whiffed on a block in the third quarter that got Jacory Harris hit hard, and he dropped a pass that hit him square in the hands. We all knew that Timmis would have to make his mark on special teams, and that he did, but to see him given a chance on offense and produce so little was still a tad disappointing.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was not a great game by the Ticats. They made too many mental mistakes and allowed the Argos to stay on the field too long. But even in defeat, you can find some things to like about Hamilton’s performance.

The team now begins preparations for their final preseason game this upcoming Friday at Tim Hortons Field against the Ottawa Redblacks.

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