The Ticats closed out the pre-season Saturday with a 30-15 win over the Montreal Alouettes. It as an up-and-down game as the team got off to another slow start, but fought their way back by scoring 30 of the game’s final 31 points and somewhat cruising to victory.
Let’s take a look at the highs and lows from the game.
High: Sorry haters, Johnny Football can play
I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it, but it is impossible to ignore: Johnny Manziel has looked pretty darn good in his two games in the CFL.
No, he is nowhere near ready to compete for the starting job, but in going 12 of 20 for 88 yards and a touchdown in this one (to add to his 9-of-11, 80-yard performance against the Argos) Johnny Football has shown he has the chops to play in the CFL and play well.
Sure, all the caveats are there: it was pre-season, it was against Montreal’s second unit, etc. But be honest: if I would have set the over/under on Manziel’s total stats for the pre-season at 65 per cent passing, 150.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns, you probably would have taken the under on all of them, expect maybe the TDs. So for Manizel to go 21 of 31 for 168 yards and a touchdown is about as much as you could ask for from a guy who just arrived in Canada three weeks ago.
Manziel is probably right where he needs to be in his development as a CFL quarterback, and while we probably won’t see him on the field taking meaningful reps for some time, he has done more than enough to prove himself a capable second-string player.
Low: Is it too late to not trade Vernon Adams?
Same caveats apply here, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse QB performance in a pre-season game than what we saw out of Bryant Moniz against the Alouettes.
Moniz didn’t get any reps against the Argos, so the team opted to start him against the Als and it was bowling-shoe ugly. Moniz finished three of seven for 17 yards and an interception. The interception was particularly bad as it looked like he stared down his receiver, Shakeir Ryan, and Mitchell White read it the entire way.
Dane Evans didn’t see much action, but he looked a lot better than Moniz did. Evans finished five of six for 65 yards and missed out on a touchdown pass by a few feet. Evans looks like a guy the team will keep around at worst on the practice roster, but given his showing in both games it would not surprise me if he was the team’s No. 3 heading into Calgary next week.
High: Whitlock’s redemption and Hamilton’s commitment to the run
The total rush yards won’t pop out at you, just 85, but the number of carries might: 22. That’s right, folks, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats ran the ball 22 times against the Alouettes, and while four of those came from Johnny Manziel (and none of them were designed), that still means the Ticats handed the ball off 18 times. You can probably count on one hand the amount of times Kent Austin ran the ball 18 times in a game.
Nikita Whitlock also got a measure of redemption after a poor outing against the Argos a week ago. Whitlock only touched the ball four times — two carries for 18 yards, two catches for 14 yards — but the one thing he did not do was turn the ball over. The Ticats as a team only turned it over once, a far cry from the 10 they had a week ago.
Maybe the Whitlock experiment could work after all.
High: Jackson Bennett is a keeper
His name doesn’t show up a lot on the stat sheet, but rookie Jackson Bennett made an impact in this game. He had just one special teams tackle, but he also forced a fumble (and technically gets credit for a sack) and all of those things happened in a three-play span!
Bennett also saw some time at SAM linebacker and for a draft pick playing in his first CFL game (he missed last week’s game with an injury) he did not look out of place. I get the feeling that Bennett is going to be a fan favourite in the Mike Daly (who also had a great game against Montreal) mould before too long.
Low: Injuries bug bites
Hamilton did not leave la belle province unscathed and it was a couple of important players that went down, too.
It was on the opening kickoff when second-year man Justin Vaughn saw his afternoon come to an end. The Fordham product took a hard hit and fell to the turf.
Later in the game, potential SAM linebacker Don Unamba went for a tackle and took a knee to the head. Unamba went on Twitter after the game to ensure fans that he was OK.
Thanks everyone for their concerns on the hit in today’s game ! I’m fine 👍🏾👍🏾 moving on to week 1 !
— Don TheDeal (@Don_Unamba1) June 9, 2018
The Ticats have been fairly healthy during the pre-season, but seeing two players who will have a role on this team in 2018 go down was tough. Hopefully both will be back sooner rather than later.
Low: Henoc Mumaba’s stupid penalty (and the stupid reason he took it)
Athletes have been known to say some stupid stuff from time to time, but Henoc Muamba’s comments to Didier Orméjuste of RDS to rationalize his late hit on Johnny Manziel might be one of the dumbest I have ever seen.
In his French halftime interview with @DidierRDS on @RDSca, Henoc Muamba just admitted his late hit on Johnny Manziel was to show Manziel “We’re here, and we’re not going to back down” #AlsMTL #Ticats #CFL
— Matthew Scianitti (@TSNScianitti) June 9, 2018
What? Everyone knows Manziel has a target on his back because of who he is. He knows, players on the other teams know it, fans know it. And I get it, I do, but honestly, has Johnny Manziel said or done anything since signing with the Ticats to warrant being singled out? It’s not his fault the media wants to cover his every move (and if you want to heap blame on this site for a lot of that, so be it).
But it is also really stupid to take a 15-yard penalty to prove a completely useless point. If Johnny Manziel ever does get on the field during the regular season, I’m sure the Ticats will be more than happy to take the free yardage so people like Muamba can show Manziel that they’re here.
The pre-season is now over and cut-down day looms (as of this writing, the Ticats had not made any cuts). While the Ticats probably don’t have a ton of moves to make regarding their starting lineup, the last two weeks likely went a long way in deciding who will snatch some of the few openings on the roster.
While there is always a surprise or two when it comes to cuts — just look at what is happening in Saskatchewan — I’m not sure Ticats fans will see many familiar names among those who will not be a part of the team in 2018. Anyone who didn’t play against Montreal is likely safe (unless they were injured), so the guys who won’t be Ticats in the regular season likely saw their final action on Saturday. Who those guys are, no one knows, but cut-down day always sucks as some players’ dreams of being pro football players comes to an end.
Once cuts are done, the Ticats will go about starting the preparation for the Stamps, whom they play next Saturday in Calgary. McMahon Stadium has not been kind to the Tabbies over the last decade-plus, with their last win at McMahon coming all the way back in 2004. Can the Ticats break that long losing streak? Believe it or not, we are going to find out very soon.