The Hamilton Tiger-Cats head into the 2017 Canadian Football League Season with lofty expectations.
The team had a compelling offseason as well as training camp, with big key moves to strengthen the secondary and a kicking competition in which it had question marks going into, and still now heading for the season opener.
Here is the look of the three phases of the team….
Quarterback Zach Collaros comes into the season as the ace of the franchise. Despite the great talent and memorable performances ever since he dawn the black and gold, Collaros’ kyryponite has been injuries. In his past three seasons with Hamilton, the Cincinnati, Ohio native has never played a full season. With great talent and entering the prime of his career, Collaros needs to stay healthy. If he can accomplish that, both he and Tiger-Cats are destined for an oppurtunity to compete for the Grey Cup in Ottawa. Jeremiah Masoli has proven that he can be a primary insurance policy, but afterwards, there’s a logjam of third string quarterbacks. Everett Golson (currently on the IR), and Logan Kilgore will do recurring duties as the third stringer this season.
Running Back C.J. Gable appears to be more healthy than he has been since his stellar 2013 rookie season. After his respectable season last year, the USC alumnus will look to retain his good health, and put together a thriving 2017 campaign. If so, it will benefit not only him, but the Tiger-Cats offense that is counting on his production and protection. Ross Scheuerman will be the prime backup, along with second year Canadian Mercer Timmis. Carl-Oliver Prime
The receiving core should be good this year. The core consisting of Terrence Toliver, Luke Tasker, Brandon Elliott, Mike Jones and Bryan Tyms should provide speed and reliability for Zach Collaros to ulitize. After a great showing at camp, Felix Laubert-Laussier and special teams ace Brandon Banks are the most notable backups for the receiving core.
Regarding the Offensive Line, this is the most important question for the offense this season…Can they consistently protect Collaros? All things considered, this O-Line is better than the previous years. The core consisting Xavier Fulton and rookie Jordan Swindle anchor the blindside (Tackle) areas, while second year Brandon Revenberg and Ryan Bomben is at Guard, and Mike Filer in the Centre position. 2017 draft pick Brayden Schram and Landen Rice provide the backup.
At the Defensive Line, Johnathon Chick, Ted Laurent, Michael Atkinson and Adrian Tracy anchor the line that can cause a ton of damage and headaches to the opponents offense this season. Justin Capicciotti will serve as a primary backup to Chick and Tracy, and should be a beneficial contribute this year. Rookie D-Linemen Hamiltonian Justin Vaughan, first round 2017 pick Connor McGough, and Davon Coleman will play a critical role this season as they bring a lot of promise. Look for Evan Gill to also play a factor, when healthy.
For the Linebackers, Simoni Lawrence will anchor a tenacious trio with Larry Dean at the middle, and newcomer Will Hill at the SAM. Second year Terrell Davis and McMaster alumnus Nick Shorthill is expected to play a role in certain defensive formations throughout the campaign.
In the secondary, Emmanuel Davis, prized free agent Abdul Kanneh, Craig Butler, and Courtney Stephen anchor what could be a special group that can cause repeatable damage to the opponents. Cornerbacks Justin Rogers and Richard Leonard will get to play a key role, while Ethan Davis and recent signee Aaron Berry will join Jay Langa and Mike Daly as valuable backup pieces, but just as important at special teams.
Under a familiar face in Jeff Reinebold as Defensive Coordinator, expect a lot of aggressive pass rush, and lot of in your face coverage this season.
Returner specialist Brandon Banks is looking to re-establish himself as the dominant special teamer he can be. Sergio Castillo overcame multiple kickers to win the kicking job after an impressive showing during preseason albeit there was no field goals. With new Special Teams Coordinator Dennis McKnight, and the unit already showing great strides at camp and preseason, all good things can be delivered.
Hamilton finishes first place in an interesting Eastern Division, with them going to the Grey Cup. If the team gets fully healthy down the stretch, they can contend as advertised for the Grey Cup, with the record of 12-6.