Few quarterbacks have had the type of immediate success Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ pivot Dane Evans has experienced early in his CFL career.
For the QB wins crowd, Evans is 15-9, including playoffs, and this current losing streak is the first time he has lost back-to-back games in the same season as a starter since his NCAA days.
“It is a long season but we’re not here to lose,” Evans said. “That’s not what I signed up for.”
What Evans signed up for was being the face of the franchise when the Ticats inked him to a lucrative contract extension this past winter.
Despite leading the league in passing yards with 884 entering Week 4, Evans has struggled, especially when it comes to protecting the football. The 28-year-old has thrown six interceptions versus four touchdowns and completed 65.3 percent of his passes, second-lowest amongst quarterbacks who have at least 70 pass attempts.
Tiger-Cats’ head coach Orlondo Steinauer has said the team has not played consistent football so far in 2022, something with which his quarterback agrees.
“We’ve started fast in a couple games and had some great drives but we have just got to finish. We can’t get lackadaisical; we have got to just stay locked in the whole game,” Evans stressed.
One game the Ticats didn’t finish was their Week 2 home opener against the Calgary Stampeders. The Tabbies led that game by 21 points at halftime but let the lead slip and lost 33-30 in overtime in a game the team should have won.
A couple of third-quarter drives ended in turnovers inside the Calgary 10-yard line and it was that lack of finish that was a main reason why the Ticats took an ‘L’ against the Stamps.
“We’ve just got to execute, specifically at the end of the half and the end of the game,” said Evans.
The Ticats have been downright awful at the end of games, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime where the team has been outscored 49-17 in their first three games. If Hamilton is to avoid continuing their current losing streak they will need to find a way to correct that late-game scoring imbalance.
“Could we finish better? Absolutely,” Evans said. “In the second half but also in the first half at the end of the second quarter — we can definitely finish better.”
It would not be a Tiger-Cats game day without at least a few roster changes from the week before, but for the first time all season, it is not due to injuries forcing the team into those changes.
The Ticats will start their fourth different offensive line of the season on Friday against the Edmonton Elks but for a positive reason. Recently acquired Colin Kelly slots in at left tackle giving the Black and Gold an upgrade over rookie Tyrone Riley, who started the last two games.
While Canadian Coulter Woodmansey comes off the six-game injured list to start his first game of the season at right guard. All-star guard Brandon Revenberg also finds his way back into the starting lineup after mysteriously missing last week’s game with an undisclosed illness.
The Tiger-Cats are also making a change at running back, moving Canadian Sean Thomas-Erlington into a backup role and promoting American Wes Hills. With the Ticats starting four Canadians along the offensive line, the team now has the ratio flexibility needed to finally get an American running back into the starting lineup, even if it is not the one fans have been clamouring to see on the field.
The former Detroit Lion getting the call in the backfield means that fan favourite Don Jackson will miss his third straight game. Jackson was a healthy scratch in Week 2 but has been dealing with what looked like a leg injury in practice.
The Ticats have the league’s worst rushing offence, with the fewest total rush yards (132), fewest rush yards per game (44), fewest yards-per-carry (3.6) and the second-fewest rushing attempts of any team in the league so far this year.
Jackson was not a full participant in practice this week. With the Ticats on their first bye week after Friday’s game, giving him another week to get fully healthy for an important stretch of division games after the bye makes a lot of sense.