Fans don’t like it but re-signing Cassius Vaughn makes sense for Ticats

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats re-signed defensive back Cassius Vaughn on Monday, a move that didn’t impress the Black and Gold faithful, to say the least.

That’s quite a bit of vitriol for a guy who started just nine games last season after being signed in mid-August. The stats are fine: 26 defensive tackles, one special teams tackle and five pass knock downs, 130 yards on five kickoff returns.

But there’s little question Vaughn struggled, getting beat on multiple occasions. He started his first game at the boundary corner on Labour Day, just a couple of weeks after being signed, but ended the season on the practice roster after losing his starting job to Cleshawn Page in the East Semi-Final. Players on the PR automatically become free agents after the season, which is why the Ticats had to re-sign Vaughn in the first place (CFL entry-level deals are two years so Vaughn would have had been entering his option year this season had he not been released.)

Clearly, the Ticats see potential. Vaughn had been on their neg list for some time and he’s played almost 70 NFL games over six season, including 23 starts. He’s got size (listed at 5-foot-11) and he can run (he’s also got a kickoff return TD in the NFL.)

So what happened last year? Well, Vaughn was thrown into one of the toughest spots in the secondary after six CFL practices and he had zero experience playing the Canadian game before that. That’s not a lot of time to learn the defence, adjust to the size of the field, scout receivers and quarterbacks…I remember speaking to him after a particularly tough game and he talked about his struggles with spatial awareness in the end zone: the sideline – a DBs best friend when defending routes like the fade – wasn’t where he thought it would be. I’ve talked to countless players over the years who have struggled with the differences in geometry as they go from the NFL-sized field to the vast acreage of the CFL. Things that have been hardwired into their brains after years of playing the game down south need to be unlearned and re-programmed. It takes time. It’s one of the reasons outgoing defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer preferred veterans. It’s why new American quarterbacks struggle.

I also think that Vaughn may have underestimated the quality of the CFL game. Defensive backs are, by nature, a supremely confident group – they need to be – and I sensed that Vaughn felt his NFL pedigree would give him an advantage. Some guys struggle mentally with the transition from The League to life in the CFL, the realization that this isn’t exactly what they dreamed of. Again, some guys get past that and thrive, others don’t.

With nine games under his belt and with the benefit of a full training camp, Vaughn may make those physical and mental adjustments. It appears the Ticats are, at the very least, willing to give him the chance.

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The Ticats also signed two other international defensive backs Keon Lyn and Axel Ofori Jr. Lyn, 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, has spent time with four NFL teams but didn’t appear in a regular season game and was at the Bombers mini-camp in 2015. He played his college football at Syracuse and played in the Arena League last year. Ofori played 32 games at the University of Maine but appears to have been hampered by injury his senior season. He’s got decent measureables (4.53 in the 40, 37 inch vertical) and the Ticats are likely hoping that athleticism translates well to the CFL.

 

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