Ticats training camp preview part 1: the offence

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats finished last season by winning six of their last 10 games, injecting some much-needed optimism into the franchise after a dreadful 0-8 start. With much of last year’s squad returning – including head coach June Jones, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and star receiver Brandon Banks – the Ticats feel they have a strong nucleus upon which to build.

With that said, there are still a number of questions as the team gets set to open training camp on Sunday so here’s a position-by-position look at the 2018 edition, starting with the offence. We’ll follow up with defence and special teams on Friday.

Quarterbacks:

For the first time in his career, Masoli comes into camp as the undisputed No. 1 quarterback. His performance after taking over as the starter on Labour Day – 15 touchdowns against five interceptions and a 64 per cent completion percentage – was enough to earn him a contract extension that pays him like an upper-echelon guy.

The real battle will take place for the backup job. With Johnny Manziel still unsigned, the team has three contenders for the role: Vernon Adams, acquired via a trade with Saskatchewan, Bryant Moniz who has 38 games of CFL experience but last played for the Riders in 2016 and Dane Evans, who signed with Hamilton late last year.

Even if Manziel does show up, there’s no guarantee he wins what head coach June Jones says will be an open competition largely decided by performances in the team’s two exhibition games.

The big question: Who’s the backup?

Running back

Alex Green finished 2017 as the starter following the trade that sent veteran C.J. Gable to Edmonton but he’ll face some stiff competition from another former NFLer in Storm Johnson. The team also used Nikita Whitlock, who played defensive line last season but has some experience on offence, in the backfield during mini-camp.

The Ticats also have high expectations for national Mercer Timmis, who missed the second half of last season after suffering an injury on Labour Day. A former second-round draft pick, Timmis gives them a capable Canadian backup and some ratio flexibility with Sean Thomas-Erlington, who spent some time at receiver at mini-camp, providing even further depth.

At this point, the Ticats do not have a fullback on the roster having not re-signed Canadian C.O. Prime, who filled the role the last five years. Prime was used primarily as a blocking back in run sets but Jones may elect to forego that alignment this season.

The big question: Who’s the starter?

Receivers

The Ticats had three receivers with at least 1,000 yards last season and all three – Brandon Banks, Luke Tasker and Jalen Saunders – are set to return. Banks will have to show he can replicate last season’s remarkable performance, Tasker needs to stay healthy and Saunders will need to avoid a sophomore jinx but it’s a very solid foundation.

Canadian Shamawd Chambers, who had 28 catches in seven games after coming over from Edmonton last September, will likely fill one of the two remaining spots but whether the team elects to start a second national remains to be seen.

If they do, Felix Faubert-Lussier, who had a strong mini-camp, will be a candidate, as will Mike Jones, who started 11 games last season. First overall pick Mark Chapman was considered one of the most pro-ready players in the draft but remains a long shot to earn a starting role right out of camp.

If June Jones decides to start a fourth American then Terrence Toliver will have to show he’s all the way back from the torn ACL suffered in week one last season and second-year man Damarr Aultman should be in the mix. The team also has the usual crop of unknowns coming to camp and names to keep an eye on include Andrew Turzilli, Harvey Binford and Jarvis Baxter.

The big question: Can Toliver get back to the form that made him a 1,000 yard guy in 2016?

Offensive line

The Ticats looked set to bring back the line that finished last season intact but all that changed when the club dealt all-star guard Ryan Bomben to the Montreal Alouettes in exchange for a package that included the first overall pick in the draft.

That’s opened up a spot at right guard where several Canadians (and potentially an American) figure to be in the mix. Veteran Landon Rice, who has appeared in 53 games over the last four seasons primarily as a backup, is likely the leading contender though the unexpected return of Mathieu Girard, who unretired this week, is another solid option.

The team also has a bevy of youngsters, including 2017 second-rounder Braden Schram, fellow sophomore Brett Golding and 2018 first round pick Darius Ciraco as well as Everton Williams and Kay Okafor. From that group of seven, they need a starter and likely two solid backups.

However, Jones could decide to alter their ratio and start a third American on the line – a recent trend in a league where the health of the starting quarterback is paramount. Casey Blaser spent some time with the club at the tail end of last season and will be a factor either in a reserve role or as a starter at tackle with Ryker Mathews moving inside.
The big question: who starts at right guard?

Coaching staff

Jones’ decision to return as head coach – he also has full say over the roster – was the first domino that led to several potential free agents returning in the off-season. Masoli, Banks and others have talked about the culture change that Jones brought about after taking over last year.

Whether Jones can maintain the good vibes throughout the up and downs of a full season is something of an unknown, as is the CFL coaching acumen of 76-year-old Jerry Glanville, who joins as defensive coordinator after a long career in the NFL and NCAA.

The return of Orlondo Steinauer, back as assistant head coach after a year in the NCAA, should provide a steadying hand and plenty of CFL experience.

The big question: Can Glanville get it done in the CFL?

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1569 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

42 Comments on Ticats training camp preview part 1: the offence

  1. almost don’t want to drop the ‘m’ word here, but enquiring minds want to know: have the ticats reached out to manziel or has manziel reached out to the ticats, in order to have him here for training camp?
    any negotiations ongoing? (if he’s not here for camp, there is almost no point thereafter.)

    • The only “M” we need is Masoli

    • I’m wondering too! Hope it hasn’t fizzled out! I’d really like to see him play.

      I agree with some of the points below… Masoli is a GOOD QB, not a great QB – so I”m not sure if he’s a franchise QB yet. I made the comparison to Darian Durant… same build, a lot of the same characteristics. If he can have similar success, he’ll be a hero in Hamilton.

      • And um, like…Manziel right now is a ZERO QB…done nothing…won nothing…so Masoli, “good” is better than Manziel ZERO…you dig?

  2. Jim Harvie // May 17, 2018 at 3:38 pm //

    I’m liking the Cats this year. First time in my 63 years I’m not disappointed they didn’t bring me in for training camp

  3. The question mark is at the backup QB.
    The 3 import receivers are good but no proven Canadian receivers, but the same question could be said for all the other CFL teams except for Ottawa.
    The running back is another question mark? who will be the starter? no proven Canadian running backs or full backs either.
    O-line is in question too, Rice has been around for 5 years or so and always a backup but now he’s expected to start.
    Defense looks set, although the DBs could be the weak link there.

  4. I just hope we don’t have the same amount of injuries we have had the last few years.

  5. Glanville better wear that cowboy hat on the sidelines ALL season long. Ha. That’s all I ask.

  6. Still can’t believe the Hamilton braintrust traded away s legit franchise QB like Collaros for a 2nd round draft pick. ESPECIALLY when his replacement is a no-talent hack like Jer Masoli.

    Apologists will point to his 6-4 record as “proof” that Masoli is going to be the new saviour. Guess what, my friends – – Tim Tribe won some football games, and so did Jon Crapton. Masoli is just as useless at QB as those two scrubs were.

    Masoli has the weakest arm of any CFL starter and his “deep ball” is laughably bad. He’s also inconsistent with his accuracy – – sometimes he’ll locate a pass in a tight window, other times he’ll miss the receiver by 5yds. Masoli couldn’t read coverage in the NCAA so expecting him to do so at the pro level is wishful thinking.

    The guy is terrible. Hamilton Fan is about to find that out the hard way.

    • Ice-hole // May 17, 2018 at 6:13 pm //

      Who holds the record for most completed passes in a row in the CFL

      Masoli. Frankly I don’t agree with your comment. Could you back it up with facts

      • The facts are right there in the film.

        That’s why you have to watch the games, my friend.

        • Ice-hole // May 17, 2018 at 8:29 pm //

          I haven’t missed a game in 20 years and attend most in person

          Please provide facts.

    • OMG…get over it. You and the rest of the Collaros lovers. Besides getting injured all the time he has won NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING as the TC’s QB. Brief blimp of success in the summer of 2015, everybody, including myself, seduced into thing he’s the next Faloney or something. Bottom line is that he took that big fat 1.4 m dollar contract (on one leg – ha, you suck Austin) and did squat…0-12 and counting. Masoli, while the not most technically sound QB, has the heart of a lion, or in this case a TC…will guide this team to a GC…and then you and your anti-Masoli comments will disappear like Atlantis.

  7. Really like Alex Green – – but it remains to be seen if the braintrust realizes what a stud RB they have.

    When he debuted against BC last year, it was obvious that Green could play. Very tough runner and hits the hole hard. One concern that I had was that his running style is a bit upright but he’s got enough bulk to be able to take the hits from the undersized LBs in the CFL.

    Green is 30yrs old but there’s not much wear on his treads so he should have at least two to three very productive years left.

  8. TicatTO // May 17, 2018 at 4:54 pm //

    I’m not sure anyone is going to take the bait.

    • I just call it as I see it, my friend.

      When you’re scratching your head in October wondering where it all went wrong for the TiCats, remember what Area51 explained to you in May.

    • Purrfect // May 17, 2018 at 6:38 pm //

      I like your response. Diararea 51 clearly needs a lesson in finances regarding overpaid QBs

      • Yes please, let’s talk about Masoli’s contract.

        The last time an unproven mediocre scrub was handed this kind of money, it was Drew Willy in Winnipeg. And we all know how that turned out.

        Masoli’s base is $235k plus another $90k in “playtime” bonus – – notice how it’s not a performance bonus – – and he’s already cashed a $125k signing bonus.

        That’s $450k for this year, my friends.

        Horrible, HORRIBLE, boat anchor of a contract.

        • $235 + $90 = $325…$450?

          • Check your facts, my friend.

            You forgot the $125k signing bonus.

          • Suggest you check your facts…I did…his max salary in 2018 is $325…and I am not your friend

          • Educate yourself, my friend.

            The $125k signing bonus is already a sunk cost for this year on Masoli. Paid in full and counted in full against the salary cap.

            In addition to his $235k base and $90k in “playtime” bonuses.

            Even if Masoli sits on the bench for the entire season holding a clipboard and never takes a snap, he’s still being paid $360k.

          • I’m here to educate and enlighten, so I’ll explain further for your benefit.

            The $125k signing bonus is already a sunk cost for this year on Masoli. Paid in full and counted in full against the salary cap.

            In addition to his $235k base and $90k in “playtime” bonuses.

            Even if Masoli sits on the bench for the entire season holding a clipboard and never takes a snap, he’s still being paid $360k.

          • Reported 2 year deal just over $700k…included $125k signing bonus…2018 $235 + $90…2019 $335 + $45…$235k + $90k + $335k + $45k = $705k…confirmed
            2 sources…math is hard

  9. timbits // May 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm //

    any of the draft class close to signing other teams seem to be signing theirs who is doing the negotiations

  10. Ari Katz // May 17, 2018 at 7:23 pm //

    Area51. Ticats have only 4 quarterbacks on their roster right now. Usually when there is silence, things are up and right now Manziel has been silent on twitter for over one week. Ticats have hedged their bets that Manziel will be here and fill the fifth quarterback that is here in camp. I happen to agree with you. We are in big trouble if Masoli does not perform. However and the big however is that I expect Manziel to be here and that would change my opinion. We have not heard any news regarding our signing of draft picks nor Manziel. I suspect that there is some big news on the horizon and Manziel will be part of that.

    • For the love of God, you do NOT want John Manziel in Hamilton. I don’t think much of Masoli’s ability as a QB, and I can tell you that Manziel is even worse.

      Forgetting about his drug and alcohol problems, the first issue with Manziel is that he’s lazy. At least two former teammates – – Burleson and the consummate pro Joe Thomas – – called him out publically on his terrible work ethic.

      In addition to that, he’s just a flat out pisspoor QB. You saw how brutal he was in the NFL – – weak arm and telegraphs his throws. That’s a recipe for disaster.

      Manziel got away with it at A&M because he had two pro level receivers who could physically dominate the coverage and the by far the best OLine in the NCAA to give him all kinds of time in the pocket.

      Go get a small conference guy or a D2 guy who’s actually got some potential instead of wasting time and money on Manziel.

  11. Area 51 are you a Hamilton tiger cat fan. If so hang onto your thoughts and come back on here once Manziel becomes the starter. If you are a cat fan and want them to win you should be wanting him to light it up. Why be negative if he signs. You should be hoping he contributes as he will on leading the team to the grey cup.

    • Steve J. // May 18, 2018 at 7:28 am //

      Get some help, John. Your obsessive compulsion regarding John Manziel is embarrassing. Let it go,

      • Steve you as well hang onto your thoughts as I will. Let’ this play out and we can discuss the team ethics leadership and talent of Manziel should he sign. We can also talk about the benefits financially to CFL. We should be having an interesting comment at that time.

        • Steve J. // May 18, 2018 at 8:59 am //

          Agreed John. Some of my comments toward you are just internet banter. i know you want what’s best for the Cats, as do I. If he does show up, I’m willing to let it play out and will be man enough to eat some crow if you are right. GO CATS!

  12. I’m an Argonauts fan, so I’d love to see Manziel as the starter in Hamilton so he can fall flat on his face just as he did in the NFL.

    But because I objective assessments for all teams in the CFL, I must caution against doing something so dumb as signing John Manziel.

    If and when that comes to pass, believe me, I’ll be sure to check back in and remind you of my comments.

  13. Jeez… All of these Ticats fans seem to forget that the whole team under KA’s watch was just terrible. You can not pin this solely on Collaros. Kent Austin destroyed that team. You guys literally downgraded in QB by sticking with Masoli. He will never be an Elite QB, Collaros at least has the potential to bounce back to that form. Masoli doesn’t even have half the talent as him. You guys are going to be sad panda’s once you realize that. I feel the same about Brandon Bridge. He will never be an Elite CFL QB.
    Long story short, thanks for trading Collaros to my Riders. We will enjoy him very much so in Riderville. PS, I’ve always like him since he entered the league with the Argo’s, I was chapped we stuck with DD as opposed to go after him.

    • “Sad panda’s”…WTF? I can only attribute your comments to the gases that escape the fields of manure come planting season in the great Saskatchewan prairies…make you dissociate yourself from all your senses. After gobbling up your prairies dollars this guy will soon depart into the CFL sunset…

  14. patlynch // May 18, 2018 at 6:15 pm //

    Area 51 is doing a Donald Trump/Carnack the Magnificent impression . He knows all! He sees all! When in doubt, he makes it all up because he just has to be the centre of attention . Go troll somewhere else.

    • MJ Bandit // May 18, 2018 at 7:32 pm //

      The guy has found a real home here – enjoy!

      No other site would put up with his pompous, know-it-all, hater schtick.

  15. Ari Latz // May 18, 2018 at 8:33 pm //

    RobE hope you get what you are expecting from Collaros but I don’t think you will. He is the most overrated quarterback in the entire league and is one good hit away from calling it a career. He played last year without any desire to win or any kind of motivation. The first game of the year he was fighting with Austin and it will be no different with Chris Jones. The Riders offensive line is weaker than in 2017 and that is one lurking problem that Collaros will not be able to overcome. There is a reason that the Ticat braintrust gave up on him and the Riders are about to find out. Don’t forget what I said when Collaros is running for his life due to your weak offensive line.

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