The Hamilton Tiger-Cats opened their 2017 season by getting absolutely demolished by the new-look Toronto Argonauts in a game where the final score of 32-15 actually flattered the visitors. Here is what we learned.
The secondary isn’t fixed (with an asterisk)
With the caveat that three projected starters — Abdul Kanneh, Emanuel Davis and Craig Butler — missed the game due to injury, the Ticats revamped secondary may have looked even worse than last year’s unit. It wasn’t just that Ricky Ray threw for over 500 yards — which, don’t get me wrong, is still worrisome — but the fact that Ray and the Argos were so easily able to convert pretty much every 2nd-and-long situation they got themselves in.
Prior to the game I wrote about what we could expect from Jeff Reinebold’s defence based on his previous stint as a defensive coordinator in Montreal. His Als team was one of the worst against the pass and in touchdowns allowed. After the first week of the season, the Ticats have given up the most years through the air and the most points.
And here is the thing: it could have been much worse. The Argos dropped two sure-fire touchdowns in the game. That is why the 17-point margin of victory for Toronto actually flatters Hamilton.
The offence was offensive
No first downs in the first quarter, no touchdowns scored all game and basically no life until the game was well out of reach. This was one of the worst offensive performances by the Ticats under Kent Austin with Zach Collaros at the helm.
Just 221 total yards of offence and 12 first downs is putrid. Zach Collaros had at least four balls batted down at or near the line of scrimmage, was sacked three times, but was pressured and hurried countless others. Even the most positive Ticats fan couldn’t find anything good to say about the offence in this game. Just horrendous.
Injuries bite again
A team already dealing with injury issues might be dealing with a couple more as both Terrence Toliver and Ryan Bomben left the game due to injury. Toliver’s injury sounds like it is serious, while Bomben’s happened late and his status is unknown. For a team that has dealt with more than their fair share of injury problems over the last few years, this feels like piling on.
Neither injury is good, but the Ticats can ill afford to lose Bomben especially. Hamilton’s national depth along the offensive line is thin as it is, and to lose a lineman the calibre of Bomben would put the team severely behind the eight ball. Hopefully we can find out the extent of both players injuries and they aren’t too severe. Until then, many in Tigertown will be holding their breath.
Will Hill came to play
Special teams was the lone bright spot for the Ticats today. Sergio Castillo was a perfect two-for-two on field goals and had a decent day punting. The coverage units were strong, with the longest kickoff return being 24 yards and the longest punt return being 13 yards.
And then there is Will Hill.
The former NFL starter played magnificently on Sunday, blocking two field goals, one of which was returned for a touchdown. It is the first time in 15 years a player blocked two kicks in one game, and just the tenth time it has been done in league history.
Hill, who also starts at SAM linebacker and had seven tackles on defence, was easily Hamilton’s best player against the Argos. Of all the questions this team had heading into the season, we at least got the answer to one of them. Will Hill can play ball.
S.J. Green is still a beast
I don’t know what the Ticats did to tick off S.J. Green, but it seems he always saves his best when he suits up against the black and gold (many probably still remember his three-TD performance against the Ticats in 2014 East Final). Green finished with seven catches, a couple of the highlight reel variety, and 124 yards. If anyone questioned whether Green would come back as good as he was before, that was emphatically answered on Sunday afternoon. The trade to get Green from Montreal is going to look better and better for the Argos, and worse and worse for the Als, as the season goes on.
The Ticats head into their bye week with a lot of things to fix. Everything except for special teams need to be looked at hard. The good news is the Ticats have a week off to maybe get some guys like Ryan Bomben and Abdul Kanneh healthy before heading to Regina to take on the Roughriders in the second-ever game at new Mosaic Stadium.
After this demoralizing loss, the Ticats will need a much better showing, if not an outright win, in Saskatchewan in two weeks or the worrywarts and negative Nellies will grow louder and larger.
And probably rightfully so.