The most competitive battles for roster spots in the 2022 pre-season for the Tiger-Cats took place with their specialists. These battles were not truly resolved until around mid-season and Hamilton made several personnel moves to find the right players to give them the best chance to win the field position battle.
One area of concern was the long-snapper for the Tiger-Cats, long-snapper tends to be a position that does not draw much attention unless things are not going well. Gordon Whyte stepped in a did a great job so much so that he is not a part of this assessment of the specialists. But without a good long-snapper, the other specialists would not have been able to do their job effectively. We will now take a look at the performance of the specialists for the Tiger-Cats.
In the pre-season, the Tiger-Cats had several kickers competing for the job, but coming out of pre-season Michael Domagala emerged as the kicker, and he was 12/16 on field goals with a long kick of 52 yards. But Hamilton was looking for a kicker with deeper range and greater accuracy, and after several acquisitions and roster moves they found kicker Seth Small.
Small ended up making 39/43 kicks with a long of 58 yards, and this gave him a success rate of 90.7 %. When you can get points every time your offence is across the center line it is a huge advantage for a team. This made a huge impact on the Tiger-Cats ability to win close games to clinch a playoff spot.
Kickers Grade: A
Similar to the kicking position, a punter makes a huge impact on how successful a team can be and allows the team to control the field position. The punter situation was cloudy coming out of training camp, and the Tiger-Cats made a large number of transactions to address the punter. Early in the season, Simon Laryea was acquired and was named a CFL Player of the Week for the Tiger-Cats soon after being acquired, but Laryea was unable to sustain that success.
Laryea had an average of 44.1 yards/punt with a long of 61 yards on 23 kicks. Laryea was released and the Tiger-Cats started to use Domagala as a punter, and this ended up being a successful adjustment. Domagala had an average of 44.8 yards/punt on 65 punts and had a long of 88 yards. In addition, Domagala is a national player, and Laryea was an American, so using Domagala added flexibility concerning the ratio rule.
Punters Grade: B-
The Kick/Punt Returners
Similar to the punter, having an effective kick/punt returner is critical for a team to control field position and set up scoring opportunities. These responsibilities were dominated by Lawrence Woods III who emerged as the top kick/punt returner for the Tiger-Cats. Woods III averaged 13.0 yards/punt return on his way to gaining 807 yards on 62 punt return attempts is a long return of 88 yards.
He also was an explosive kick returner with a 23.0 yards/kick return average, he had 1 kick return for a touchdown, and a 72 yards kick return as his long of the season. While Woods III, had a good season, he does have room for improvement and could potentially become one of the best returners in the CFL. It will be interesting to see him grow as a player going into the 2023 season.
Kick/Punt Returners Grade: C+
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