New Tiger-Cats open training ground this week

And so it begins.

An offseason that was longer than they wanted ends for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when the rookies take the field at McMaster University on Thursday and full training camp begins at Ron Joyce Stadium on Sunday morning.

is another one hometown Gray Cup yearand how the team was brutally fired in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, the Ticats’ front office has altered a considerable portion of the roster. Even before the loss to the Alouettes, team executives had seen enough and decided to make some changes for this season, looking for better chances that they would be the representatives of the East on November 19, when Tim Hortons Field receives the championship. national. .

So a team that, just two years ago, clearly revolved around Jeremiah Masoli and, last season, clearly revolved around Dane Evans, now clearly revolves around Bo Levi Mitchell. There’s some understandable local concern about putting so much faith in a quarterback who’d lost his starting job in Calgary and suffered injuries, but the Cats and Mitchell are adamant he’s back in shape. And have a solid backup on re-signed with Matt Shiltz.

With Mitchell under contract and several other major signings, the Ticats were considered by most analysts to be the CFL’s offseason winners. But that, plus two bucks, will give you a double-double at Timmy’s. The Ticats, coming off a Gray Cup home loss in overtime, were the favorites to win the East last year, but, you’ll remember, that was never close to a reality.

The Ticats lost several starters and familiar faces in the off-season to trades (Evans), other leagues (offensive lineman Colin Kelly, linebacker Kameron Kelly) and, primarily, free agency, including leading middle linebacker and tackler Jovan Santos-Knox, star defensive backs Jumal Rolle, Cariel Brooks and Ciante Evans, defensive ends Julian Howsare and Micah Johnson, possession receiver Steven Dunbar and running backs Wes Hill and don jackson. Some of it was the sheer nature of the modern CFL offseason, some of it was the salary cap, and some of it was an acknowledgment that things had gone off course and needed a reset.

Ergo, come in new troops, most of them with strong CFL résumés: offensive left tackle Joel Figueroa, who began his CFL career here; power running back James Butler; standout defensive linemen Casey Sayles, Kwaku Boateng and Ja’Gared Davis, who returns after one season and one championship in Toronto; middle linebacker Jameer Thurman; veteran catchers Duke Williams, Richie Sandini and Llevi Noel; defensive backs Javien Elliott and Chris Edwards.

Most of them will be starters, which makes training camp even more important than it usually is because there won’t be as much familiarity with teammates and playbooks as the Ticats have often enjoyed.

It’s a short timeline for social acclimation, talent allocation, and systems installation: The first exhibition game is May 27 against Toronto, and once again, the Ticats open the regular season on the road, in Winnipeg, on June 9, and in Toronto nine days later.

You may have noticed that the first two opponents turned out to be the reigning Gray Cup finalists and that, for the most part, the Cats have been notoriously slow to come out of lockdowns. Last year, they were 0-4 before notching their first win.

But Ticats fans who like to worry about such things can take some comfort in that, if the season started today, Hamilton has a good idea of ​​what the starting lineup would look like, and that there’s probably only one starting point: the limit. cornerback, which is really a competition for everyone. Orlando Steinauer’s coaching staff, of course, wants plenty of training camp battles and some unlikely (and cheaper) candidates to emerge at other positions.

But there are plenty of young talents coming back, especially Canadians and on special teams, a reliable field goal kicker in little setha dynamic returner (and high school starting candidate) in Lawrence Woods II, and depth on both sides of the ball. The latter is especially important because this team also has some age, which probably means a higher chance of injury. So they actually have too many people in some positions, even in the trenches, to guard against that. Wrecked by injury on the offensive line last year, and to a lesser degree on the defensive front, the Ticats are doling out a large chunk, approaching $1 million, of their $5.45 million salary-cap allocation to the offensive line to protect its most important players. investment: Mitchell.

At first glance, it looks like the Ticats will allocate five of their required minimum of seven Canadian starting spots to offense and two to defense: one at safety, the other at the front four. But they have a lot of flexibility to adjust from week to week or within a specific game. Assuming, of course, that they don’t sustain too many injuries in the same position.

So, let the foreplay begin.


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