At the start of the 2022 season, the Tiger-Cats had high hopes and championship aspirations. Championship football had become the norm for the Tiger-Cats after winning the East division in 2019 and 2021. But expectations can be a double-edged sword and do not always reflect the reality of the Tiger-Cats situation.
The Tiger-Cats finished the 2019 and 2021 seasons with losses to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and after an overtime loss in the Grey Cup championship game in 2021, it would seem reasonable that Hamilton would just need to take the next step to push themselves over the edge and win the Grey Cup. But the reality of the CFL is that each season is different from the last one, and the Tiger-Cats found themselves needing to make hard personnel decisions during the off-season. The result was a Tiger-Cats team that is in transition, and while the expectations were high the team’s on-field performance did not match those expectations.
The Tiger-Cats offence had been a high-flying, explosive offence in recent years. But over the off-season, the Tiger-Cats decided to re-build their offence. The best offensive units in the CFL are traditionally comprised of veteran players that have developed chemistry with one another over several seasons. The 2022 Tiger-Cats offence started the season with a new starting quarterback, a fleet of new unproven receivers, a group of uninspiring running backs, and an offensive line that had been heavily criticized over the last several seasons.
With all of these personnel changes happening at the same time, it is no surprise that the offence struggle to produce points and was a turnover machine. Throughout the season, receivers Tim White and Steven Dunbar Jr. stepped up as playmakers. And the offensive line experienced a revolving door of offensive linemen, but throughout the season did improve significantly. Ultimately, the Tiger-Cats offence showed growth and improvement but failed to become consistent enough to beat the best teams in the CFL.
Offensive Unit Grade: D-
In contrast to the Tiger-Cats offence, the Hamilton defence was built upon a unit of veterans that have played high-level CFL football in the past, and they have the advantage of having played well together. When the Hamilton defence was healthy, they were one of the best defensive units in the CFL. Injuries hurt the Tiger-Cats defence throughout the season, but Hamilton had enough roster depth to overcome those injuries in their defensive secondary and their linebacking unit. The defensive line was not as consistent and was affected more by injuries. The Hamilton defensive line struggled to stop the run most weeks and did not consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive Unit Grade: C+
The Tiger-Cats special teams started the 2022 season looking for personnel to improve their group of specialists. After acquiring multiple kickers and punters the team did find a successful combination. Kicker Seth Small emerged as one of the top kickers in the CFL, and Michael Domagala took on the punting duties and performed well. Lawrence Wood III showed the potential to be an explosive returner and made several key plays as the Tiger-Cats fought for a playoff spot. The Tiger-Cats most likely need to find a full-time punter, but the special teams’ units showed significant growth and improvement each week.
Special Teams Unit Grade: C
The 2022 Tiger-Cats did fail to live up to championship expectations. While the Tiger-Cats had a slow start with several disappointing losses, they were able to salvage the 2nd half of the season. Hamilton was able to put together enough quality football to make the CFL playoffs, and they had opportunities to defeat Montreal. It will be interesting to see how the Tiger-Cats will address their weaknesses through free agency and the CFL draft.
2022 Hamilton Tiger-Cats Grade: D+
Next Article: Part 2 Assessing the Tiger-Cats Coaches
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