Ticats will rely on two rookies to protect Collaros’ blind side against Montreal

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will make some line up changes when they face the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, some because they have to, others because they want to.

They’d likely make more but a cash crunch – one that virtually every team in the CFL is facing – is making that difficult.

Let’s deal with the injury-related moves first. Running back C.J. Gable missed practice for the second straight day on Wednesday and while head coach Kent Austin held out hope he’d be ready, it’s seems exceedingly unlikely he’ll play. American Ross Schuerman, who started two games early in the season, could get the nod, though the Ticats could also use Canadian Anthony Woodson with rookie Mercer Timmis as a back up.

Veteran guard Peter Dyakowski is likely out as well, meaning rookie Brandon Revenberg – who has looked good since being drafted third overall last May – will get his first start. On the plus side, receiver Terrence Toliver practiced with the first-team offence and looks good to go, despite suffering a lower body injury in the loss to Toronto last Sunday.

The most significant non-injury move involves left tackle Brian Simmons getting benched in favour of first-year American Terrence Campbell. Simmons would appear to be the fall guy for an offensive line that did not play well – at all – in front quarterback Zach Collaros last Sunday against Toronto, though his demotion and Dyakowski’s injury means the Ticats will be counting on two rookies to defend Collaros’ blind side against Montreal’s blitz-happy scheme.

Gulp.

That isn’t the only leap of faith: after giving up 33 points and 441 yards of offence to the Argonauts, defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer has elected to roll with the same 12 defensive starters – including boundary corner Cassius Vaughn, who gave up a pair of touchdowns in his debut on Labour Day, then took four penalties in the re-match.

“It’s time to settle in and see if we can’t jell at little bit,” Steinauer said. “We’ve done a decent job of not judging guys too quickly. If there’s no improvement from the previous week, then you have a challenge. But I feel like there’s improvement.”

It’s not like he has much of a choice. The Ticats have exactly two extra American defensive backs at the moment: Chris Davis, who started three games earlier this season and is now a back up, and Travis Lee, another former starter currently residing on the practice roster.

Gone are the days of bloated one-game injured lists where teams around the CFL could allow players to practice and develop while still drawing a paycheque. But those players count against the salary cap and with a number of clubs up against it – the Ticats among them – those one-game lists are razor thin.

The Ticats currently have two players on the one-game injured list but as recently as mid-September 2014, they had 10. In 2013 it was 12. And the Ticats are hardly alone: across the CFL, there were 61 players on the one-game injured list at this time two years ago. As of right now, there are 20.

So either the CFL is having an unprecedented drop in injuries or teams are using the one-game much differently than they used to.

Help is on the way – eventually. The Ticats have the ability to expand their practice roster from 10 to 15 for a period of 30 days any time between now and the end of the regular season. Money paid to those players doesn’t count against the cap but the players are often brought in with an eye to next year, not for immediate help.

No, the Ticats likely need to find their solutions in-house. Which means they need to know in a hurry just what they’ve got.

Must Read