Sunday, August 31, 2008

Timmy, we hardly knew ye

So erstwhile Ticat saviour Timmy Chang has been released by the Cats. And then immediately picked up by Winnipeg. Having seen the Riders smothering Kevin Glenn in their victory over the Bombers, it is probably only a matter of time before the call starts to go out in the Winnipeg fan forums to give Timmy a chance. Good luck Timmy. For a Cat who never really did anything, I always hoped you and your superlative NCAA stats would do something.

In other news, perhaps a little more surprising, offensive tackle Marko Cavko was released (and totally too, no practice roster bullshit) before the Labour Day game. I guess we're going with Jonta Woodard and Charles Thomas at the tackle spots and I have no idea who is backing them up. No one really seems to know why Cavka got released. Seems odd considering how mediocre Woodard and Thomas are. I guess we will get the Cavka equivalent for this year when another tackle joins us after the NFL cuts are done, only to get cut half way through the season next year.

I watched a bit of the Riders game today and Bishop does what Bishop does: ride a good team defence to victory with less than a 60% completion rate. I really thought the Riders would bomb out the rest of the season with Crandell in charge along with all their injuries, however Riders GM Eric Tillman made a surprisingly good move. Don't look for Bishop to do much in the playoffs though. Hopefully the Riders will beat the Bombers next week in the Peg, giving the Cats a chance to break free from fourth place. Timmy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Assorted Ramblings

I just watched the last third of the Lions Alouettes game and I was shocked that Lions QB Buck Pierce (who has my infamous stamp of brittleness) was able to make it through the entire game, including a nice drive at the end. Of course the Lions managed to botch numerous tries on the one to get the winning TD as time expired, with some mediocre play calling. The Cats have the Lions at home after the Labour Day game. Perhaps if the Cats can get the brooms out, sweep the Argos, and then follow it up with a another win. One can dream.

In the Spec today, Steve Milton says that Printers, Lumsden and guard George Hudson will all play. I would expect Lumsden to play somewhat sparingly, with Terry Caulley getting plently of reps. With Hudson back, the ratio situation should settle down. I'm curious to see who of the three import offensive linemen will start: Jonta Woodard, Charles Thomas or Marko Cavka. I would prefer Woodard sit as he doesn't seem to have it anymore. Whether he ever did is a question. Safety Sandy Beveridge and cornerback Rontarius Robinson are injure however. Beveridge being injured isn't that big a deal, however losing Robinson hurts.

Still no word on the Cats' eighth overall pick Samuel Giguerre and whether he will stick in Indianapolis. The Cats could at least use him on special teams.

Finally, there's been a lot of talk of what city should be the next CFL expansion team after Ottawa hopefully comes back. There's talk of Quebec, Halifax and even Moncton or London. Let me suggest St. John's. I'm sure they have no stadium and probably no real football tradition, however with all that Hebron money starting to come in, Danny Williams can probably afford to build a BMO style stadium on the cheap. A team in St. John's could end up like the Saskatchewan Roughriders with a lot of community support and not a lot of other entertainment options. Sure the population of Newfoundland is only 508,000 and St. John's only has 118.000 inhabitants in its census metropolitan area, but a 27,000 stadium could be succesful. A Grey Cup in St. John's would be amazing. I think I'll email Mark Cohon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Midweek Musings

Unsurprisingly the Riders lost last week to the Eskimos rather handily. As I said last week, I have no faith in Marcus Crandell and apparently neither do the Riders, as they traded for Argos QB (and noted Ticat killer) Michael Bishop. Reports out of Regina also say that Crandell might even be released before the Labour Day weekend game, thus avoiding to pay him after the rest of the season (vets salaries are guaranteed after 9 games). Bishop might help the Riders out of their two game tailspin, although it is tough to see him starting this weekend. Bishop to me has always been rather underwhelming, however combined with the Riders good defence and his big play ability (22 TDs last year, although with an ugly 52.1% completion rate), Bishop has a chance this year to do ok. I still think the Riders record after their first six wins will be below 500. To many injuries. The Bombers have back to back games against the Riders starting this week and unfortunately for the Ticats I think the Bombers might win both.

For Toronto, well Kerry Joseph is the man now at QB. The Argos also released former Cat Orlando Steinauer who played in the secondary. Apparently another victim of veterans released before game nine not having to be paid for the rest of the season. The money saved also is saved on the salary cap, so I wonder if this is a strategy if you know your team will be currently over the cap for the entire year to get under by the end of the season. Getting rid of Bishop helps the Argos salary cap situation as well. Perhaps they paid to much to Mike Vanderjagt coming back from the NFL.

In other news, the Cats eighth overall pick (received from Montreal for exceeding the salary cap), receiver Samuel Giguerre from the University of Sherbrooke may be released from the Indianapolis Colts. Or not. We should know soon however. Doubtful he could make much of a contribution the rest of the season, but who knows. Here's a Sportnets article on him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

CFL Web Ratings and Other Musings

With the bye week, I figured that rather than going on endlessly about last week's debacle against the Blue Bombers or the Labour Day clash, I'd go on about something else.

I've been interested for a while about the CFL financials. I've long felt that the CFL is leaving significant money on the table from various income streams. The internet is certainly one of them. The CFL and Ticats both have decent websites. Looking at the Alexa ranking, the CFL has a worldwide ranking of 67,170 with a Canadian rank of 1,195. The Ticats had a worldwide ranking of 239,017 with a Canadian rank of 11,457. Comparing, the Saskatchewan site, has a worldwide ranking of 265,729 with a Canadian ranking of 5,774. Looking at the Alexa chart for the last six months, the Ticats and Riders web popularity seems to switch back and forth. These stats aren't bad. One thing I wouldn't mind seeing at Ivor Wynne is a relatively big sign with on it. There probably is one, but the fact I've never noticed it means that it isn't prominent enough. Hell, put it on the field, there's enough crap as it is strewn all over it.

Another thing with both the CFL and Ticats websites is what ads they have on it. From what I can see, most of the ads are ticket buying related (makes sense) or sponsors. I'd like to see them add a discreet Google Adsense ad to their pages, especially the forums. From my experience which is a bit limited, often conventional sponsorship has the web component added in for cheap. Having an Adsense ad on all pages would allow some extra money. Other big Canadian websites have these ads mixed, although maybe there's a valid reason not to have them.

In other news, worse than mediocre nonimport defensive tackle Clinton Wayne, cut recently by the Cats has been picked up by Edmonton. Didn't they pick up Hitchcock last year too? Well at least we have one game left against them. Hopefully he'll get in and lamely try to gum up the middle. With Armstead getting picked up by Winnipeg, it makes one wonder what the Cats are doing.

Saskatchewan at Edmonton tomorrow. Edmonton is three points favourites, probably due to the Riders' injuries and the fact that Marcus Crandell is crap. Prepare to see the Riders to go below 500 for the rest of the season. Then again, the Esks are a bit beat up too. My God, the Riders luck may win out again. I'll pick the Riders to cover, but not win. How's that for fence sitting? Or boxing myself in.

Calgary at BC, with BC three point favourites. Uh. I'll probably take Calgary. I have no faith in Jarious Jackson and Buck Pierce has my infamous stamp of brittleness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Hamilton Tigercats, Worst of the Worst

So Hamilton the team with the second worst record, plays the team with the worst record. Hamilton is coming off a convincing win, Winnipeg off a convincing loss. A chance for Hamilton to somewhat move back into contention and continue to build momentum with two straight victories. Uh, no. Hamilton lost 37 to 24.

I think the key to this game was the inability to convert on two third and ones (actually one was second and one) via quarterback sneak in the first half. As Ron Lancaster says (and I'm paraphrasing), if you can't gain a yard, you don't deserve to win. Richie fumbled on one and the right side of the line appeared to be blown off the line for the other. For most of the first half, Winnipeg looked like the worse team and making these first downs likely would have led to scores (or in the case of fumble, not allow Winnipeg an easy way to the one yard line). Obviously in the CFL, teams that are ahead generally play a bit better than teams that are behind. Winnipeg was in a bit of turmoil this season with Glenn coming back. Getting ahead solidly in the first half could have easily led to a Hamilton win. Instead Hamilton was always just a bit behind and couldn't make the winning drive in the fourth quarter, when Williams' pass was tipped and then run in for a TD.

Williams play was decent, he ran for 99 yards, although he only passed for 14 completions out of 27 attempts for 204 yards. Still those failures to execute on those third and ones can at least in part be hung on Richie. Caulley was decent running for 99 yards on ten attempts for two TDs. JoJo Walker was again the top receiver with five grabs for 73 yards. Apparently he's good. Who knew? Both Bauman and Mitchell had no catches. Thanks. The three import offensive line? Mediocre at best and poorly matched against the Winnipeg front four. We're probably stuck with this variant for a while, despite the need for imports elsewhere. Hopefully George Hudson can come back for Labour Day.

On defence, good early, mediocre later. Moreno had a big game with eight tackles and an interception ran back for a TD early in the game. The defensive line? No pressure. Glenn had tons of time to throw and the Cats got burned. Hell Glenn managed to track down a botched snap and make a throw to prevent intentional grounding without being sacked by our sorry line. The Cats have released so many people on the defensive line, that the only one I really know is McKay-Loescher and I only know him because he is Canadian. Maybe some NFL cuts will help out, although I have a feeling they will do a little, get invited to camp, suck early in the regular season and then be booted in July. Maybe we can clone Joe Montford. I thought the secondary didn't play bad considering.

I don't have really a lot to say about the game. They certainly didn't get blown out, but the Cats just don't seem to be able to get their offense and defence synced to win games. Probably why they are two and six. At least Toronto lost against Montreal last week, so if we win on Labour Day, we're tied for second, with a sweep of the season series. Still good, hell decent teams find ways of beating the Winnipegs of this world. The Cats still have a ways to go.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Battle of the Truly Mediocre CFL Teams

Yes it is the clash of the two worst teams in the CFL tonight, Hamilton and Winnipeg. With a combined three and eleven record, a battle between two such teams, both with terrible records, is a rare event and should be savored. Ok, perhaps not, but there is redemption to be had for both teams, especially the Cats. If the Cats win and the dreaded double blue loses, the Cats are tied for second. If the Cats win, they will be even at two and two on the road and can lay claim to the title of Road Warriors (in the sense that, overall CFL teams have better home records).

Somewhat surprisingly, the Peg is a 3 point favourite, which usually indicates that on neutral ground the teams would be even. Considering the momentum the Cats have after smashing Toronto with Richie Williams starting and Winnipeg losing handily 39 to 11 to Montreal, one would have thought that the Cats would have been the favourite (the last time we were favourites, I think it was versus Saskatchewan). However in Winnipeg, Dinwiddie goes back to bench and Kevin Glenn comes back at quarterback, plus Milt Stegall, a known Hamilton killer should play. Further their starting center, Dominic Picard returns to duty to shore up a crappy Winnipeg offensive line. Still further, Stanford Samuels returns to Winnipeg to play at corner. Finally Jason (cut by both Hamilton and Montreal) Armstead comes in as a return man.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, guard George Hudson' injury causes some chaos in the ratio, with Lumsden being out adding to the chaos. Caulley is definitely a capable back, but Lumsden's nonimport status would have been valuable tonight. So all this combined probably explains Winnipeg being slight favourites, despite them being so sucky last week.

A note about Williams and Printers. Cat scribe Ken Peters has written about the Cats possibly releasing Printers before the Labour Day game, I guess due to relative ineffectiveness and his high cap cost. As a veteran, after nine games, his pay for the full season is guarranteed and applies against the salary cap. Just a rumor, however probably not a good idea. Williams could easily get injured and then where would we be, Timmy? Having two reasonable starters is imperative for a team with a mediocre cast. Plus I'm not sure what we could do with the extra cap space for this season if Printers was released. Sure it would have been useful before the season, but I'm not sure what could be done with it now. Maybe you could renegotiate some other player's salaries and pay some money this season rather than next. I don't know the policy. One thing the CFL could do, is release the salaries for all players making over $100,000. It would make it easier to analyze situations like this and I think the fans would want to know.

On to the game. Williams needs to occasionally run like last week (eight rushes for 59 yards), whether it is planned, or taking opportunities to pick up a first down. With Caulley, same as last week (14 rushes for 127 yards), and stick with him, even if he gets stopped for two yards on first down. Previously the Bombers defensive line was known for run stopping, but I think those days are done, so have at them. This should help the line as well, which is pretty mediocre for having three imports. For the receivers, Walker and Mitchell were the top gainers last week, so look for Williams to continue to use them. Miles was in the depth chart this week, I have not idea what will happen to him. Getting the ball to Bauman wouldn't hurt either. Interestingly, last week Piercy, a fullback had a pair of 16 yard receptions and the other fullback Pavlovic had a TD reception. That is indicative of some creative play calling which will hopefully continue this week, as it has been rare this season.

On defence, no Dinwiddie, but Kevin Glenn. Glenn has always seemed to me to be a decent enough quarterback, but nothing remarkable. He is not the threat to run that Joseph was last week, however he is less likely to make boneheaded passes that have no chance to be caught. Obviously, the Cats will need to get some pressure like last week, likely with some occasional blitzes. Charles Roberts hasn't done much this year and the Cats have generally been good against the run, except for when they are losing late. Stegall has certainly killed Hamilton in the past, however he doesn't seem to be the same player anymore. I keep saying Moreno will have a big game, maybe this week is it.

I think the Cats have a decent chance to win, although getting Glenn back could give the Bombers a lift. If the Cats can get ahead and establish their running game, this could be a thrashing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Assorted Injury Stuff

First off, congratulations to Richie Williams being named the offensive player of the week and to defensive back Chris Thompson being named defensive player of the week. When was the last time, the Cats took those two awards in the same week? Beats me and I'm too lazy to look it up.

The injury to starting nonimport guard George Hudson in last week's Winnipeg game apparently means we are back to three imports on the offensive line according to this week's depth chart. Jonta Woodard comes back to play left tackle after sitting out last week, a Ticat victory. Cavka, an import goes to guard and import Charles Thomas plays the other tackle position. Dyakowski and Hage, both nonimports play the remaining guard and center positions respectively. Last time the Cats started three imports on the offensive line, I was excited and figured the Cats running game would bust out all over. Instead the offensive line sucked Argoly and gave up eight sacks.

Hudson's injury along with Lumsden still being out, brings a load of ratio madness. Tre Smith has to sit out this week due to the ratio and nonimport running back John (no not the Star Wars guy) Williams gets to see the field. Whether he gets to actually carry the ball is questionable, but I'm a firm believer that in the CFL the running backs are a fairly fungible commodity anyways. Although in five years in the CFL, the most yards he has gained in one season was 39 with the Argos in 2006. Cauley I assume will carry the ball the most this week against Winnipeg. Admittedly injuries have hurt the Cats offensive line, but the Cats have to do a better job of stocking up on Canadian talent in that area. Starting three imports there is a waste of an import spot.

On a better note, Jykine Bradley is back at corner back, after recovering from his collision with Edmonton's Jason Tucker. Printers is still out with his thumb thingy, however with the bye week next week and the Labour Day Classic being on a Monday, I assume he and Lumsden will be back (depending on his ankle thingy, which is also a bit mysterious).

I could go through Winnipeg and their injuries, but apparently their center comes back this week and takes over from former Cat and Mac product Ryan Donnelly (who probably would be useful for the Cats as a backup/inevitable starter this year). However I think their line is still hurting. Apparently Stegall will play too.

More game analysis tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Get Out the Brooms! Ticats Thrash Argos!

So the Ticats have proven that they can thrash the Argos this season after the 45 to 21 beating down at lovely Ivor Wynne. Get the brooms out for Labour Day (if security allows them in, which is unlikely). No Printers, no Lumsden and no Miles either which is a positive. Plus we win the Ballard Cup, which nobody can seem to remember. Plus we still have three games left against Winnipeg.

We also finally scored a receiving TD, by the unlikely fullback Robert Pavlovic. On a nice bit of play calling too, when the big guys went in and everyone expected a run and Pavlovic was wide open. Followed by two more receiving TDs. When it rains it pours.

On offense, Richie Williams was superb in relief of Casey Printers, going 15 of 24 for 293 yards and three TDs and 59 yards on 8 rushing attempts. The completion rate was ok at 62.5 %. Terry Cauley in at running back was solid with 127 yards on 14 attempts, proving that the Argos can't stop the run. Perhaps other CFL teams should take note of the double Blue team's suckiness in that regard. Cauley made a couple of plays showing off his elusiveness, where he seemed to be surely doomed, but somehow kept going and racking up the yards. Again, perhaps Argo run defence suckiness. I guess the Cat line is sometimes good at run blocking. No Jonta Woodard (who used to live in my apartment building) at tackle either. Hmmm.

For the receivers, I know I've mocked him, the Cats have cut him, but JoJo (my name doesn't help me on the resume) Walker was the leading receiver with 86 yards on 5 catches. Way to go JoJo. Hopefully you won't get booted out of the lineup when Miles comes back. Mitchell was next at 81 yards on three catches (I can't remember if he dropped one in the first half). Bauman had a nice TD reception for 63 yards too. Seven Cats had receptions.

Pass blocking, the Cats weren't too bad, with only a couple of sacks against them. Rempel came into to play for the injured Hudson at guard in the second half and didn't look too bad to me (ie give up multiple obvious sacks). With Hudson injured, the Cats are pretty weak for Canadian offensive line talent.

On defence, the Cats looked mediocre in the first half, where Kerry Joseph seemed to be able to complete fat crossing routes at will, especially during their last minute of the half drive for a TD. However the Cats managed to mostly shut down Joseph in the second half (no doubt helped by Joseph's propensity to make goofy throws along the line of scrimmage that were nowhere near the receiver) and also bagged two interceptions, one for a TD. Inexplicably, Joseph only ran for 31 yards on three attempts. Not good Argo strategy. The Cat line had some decent pressure, with some surprisingly well called blitzes. As per usual, the Argo running game did nothing. Perhaps if recent NFL cut and Harvard graduate and Canadian Clifton Dawson signs with the Argos (who have his rights), they still won't have a running game.

All in all a pretty solid victory and the Cats first win at home this year and a mighty two and four over their last six games. Winnipeg lies ahead on the road and is currently even worse than Hamilton. If Hamilton wins that game, we'll be a 500 road team and perhaps back in the race for a playoff spot. Amazing.

Biggest disappointment: when Quinton Porter went in to mop up at QB, instead of Chang. Timmy! I still believe!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Double Blue Team Rematch

So here we are again against the Toronto Argonauts, having beaten them handily in the first meeting of the year and gotten the monkey of beating the double blue off our backs. Now the last time we won at home versus the Argos. I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up. The Argos are currently 2.5 point favourites, which means we have a chance, although we don't have our best quarterback, running back or receiver (arguably Tony Miles). However the Argos would seem to be equally beat up, with receivers down left and right, forcing the start of one of their backup quarterbacks at wideout. Erstwhile Argo hope wide receiver Bethel Johnson is still out after being injured in the first Ticat Argo tilt. Richie Williams doesn't seem to be much of a dropoff from Printers at this stage, so we will call the injury situation even.

For the Cat offense, the offensive line has been shuffled once more, with left tackle Jonta Wordard (who once lived in my apartment building, but I never recognized him or had the chance to berate him) being cast aside to be replaced by Charles Thomas who was benched last week. Mediocre import tackles are surely one of the banes of my existence. Cavka stays at right tackle and nonimport Dyakowski stays in at left guard. So who will be the better turnstile, Woodard or Thomas? I say it is a wash, but a better line than two weeks ago with three imports starting. The Argos seem to run a three four defence, succesfully against the pass and not so successfully against the run. Not sure how things will turn out with Terry Caulley starting at running back this week in place of the injured Lumsden (and the noninjured Tre Smith). I don't expect a lot out of him, although he wasn't bad last year (again replacing Lumsden, I sense a theme). What I am hoping for and may get is a lot of Richie Williams legging it himself, especially if the Argos have good coverage down field. Hopefully Williams will remember where the first down marker is this week and time his slides accordingly. Sometimes he may even have to take some punishment to move the ball. The Cats won't win otherwise and Richie, you're not Anthony Cavillo, you won't break if you get tackled.

For the Cat receivers, Bauman is listed ahead of Woodcock, with the usual imports Rodriguez, JoJo, and Scott (I like to drop one in the first quarter just to get loosened up) Mitchell. Somehow Mitchell now leads the Cats in receiving, so maybe we'll get something out of him and Rodriguez, as they appear so far to be favourite targets of Williams. Maybe even a TD pass! Ok lets not get ahead of ourselves. Rushing TDs are fine and worked against the Argos last time. Williams has to be careful of the Argos secondary, as they are noted ball hawks.

On defence, things may not be too bad. The Argos have no running game to speak of, as they always seem to half heartedly try a couple of runs in the first half that go nowhere and then give up on the running back for the rest of the game. This doesn't include Kerry Joseph, who I'm sure will run and the Cats better try and limit him from reaching the first down marker. Perhaps this is where Moreno will have a big game. The defensive line has reverted to using nonimport McKay-Loescher on the end, with Lewis starting at the other end in place of Cornelius Anthony who started last week. I'm guessing that Anthony will come in on second and long situations to try and chase Joseph down, like he did once last week for a Cavillo sack. With the Argos receivers in chaos, maybe the line won't be revealed for the mediocrity it is.

For the secondary, Bradley is out a second week, which isn't good since Tisdale is young and seems ready to be lit up. Hopefully the other cornerback Gordon will cover Arland Bruce and things won't go poorly.

One thing about this game is that with the feebleness of the Argos offense, the Cats are in less danger of falling way behind. If the Cats can keep it close, they can run on first or second down, make first downs, and eat up the clock and wear down the rather crotchety Argo defence (O'Shea). A sure recipe for a Cats victory? Perhaps not, but I like the Cats chances in this game.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Aftermath of the Battle of the Mediocre Football Teams, Part Two

Well another game, another Cats loss, surprise, surprise. Obviously the most important thing to take from the result, a 40 to 33 Montreal victory, is the fact that we covered the spread! So effectively we exceeded our expectations. I'll take my positives where I can.

I've waited a while to write up this postgame report, as I'm never enthused about righting up a loss. So here goes. I was a little concerned going in with Williams starting, however I felt that there really wasn't a big dropoff compared to Printers and it wasn't like we won more than one game with Printers in anyways. Richie went 18 for 24 for 260 yards with two interceptions. He also ran 13 times for 79 yards, including two TD runs. That 75 % completion rate isn't bad and was no doubt helped by the times that Richie ran, rather than make a poor passing attempt. His 6.1 yards per rush was a little disappointing, considering I felt that if the Cats were going to win, Williams was going to have to run. Tre Smith and Jesse Lumsden combined didn't do a lot rushing, with 77 yards on 12 attempts (with a respectable 6.4 yards per rush), although combined with Williams' total, not too bad. Lumsden being hurt surely didn't help, as he is a superior back to Smith. Lumsden has got to find a way to stay in the game and do some damage in the second half when the defences are tired (and as so many teams have done to the Cats this year).

Receiver wise, Mitchell managed to prove me wrong by making three grabs for 89 yards, including some yards after the catch. Rodriguez was solid with six receptions for 85 yards and even tigercatatonia favourite (and cut from the team a few weeks ago) JoJo Walker had five grabs for 52 yards. Woodcock and Bauman didn't do much, so our import receivers were our best receivers for once.

On the offensive line, Thomas was out at right tackle, Cavka shifted over to right tackle and Dyakowski in at left guard. So down to only two imports from the week before and their play was marginally better. Still five sacks were allowed and Williams didn't seem to have loads of time.

On defence, Calvillo went 26 for 36 for 326 yards for a 72 % completion rate. Likely Jykine Bradley being out didn't help this. Cobourne rushed 17 times for 119 yards, which is not good enough. The Cats forced some Montreal turnovers which probably helped keep the score somewhat close. The defensive line got a bit more pressure than last week, including a sack by Cornelius Anthony that I pretty much predicted in my last post by running down the slowfooted Cavillo, however not enough pressure to win a game. Four imports on the line now and really a mediocre group. We'll see what next week brings.

I thought what really killed us was the TD from Cavillo on the first play of the third quarter that went 81 yards. With the score close, you can't give those up. Especially since through the first and second quarters, the game was kept close, with a surprisingly reasonable Ticat start. The other killer was on special teams with a few long returns that gave Montreal great field position and some gimme points. The Cats defence is not good enough to survive short field position.

Not much more to say. The Cats weren't blown out, but they're going to have to play better in all facets of the game to win.