Preseason Game Week #1
Visiting Team: Toronto Argonauts
Home Team: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Location: Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ontario
Date and Time: Saturday, May 27th at 4:00 pm EST
Where to Watch: CFL+ Preseason Live on CFL.ca
Expected Weather: Clear and Sunny
After a long off-season and a competitive training camp, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will renew their rivalry with the Toronto Argonauts during the first pre-season game for both teams. The Tiger-Cats spent the off-season rebuilding their roster to put themselves in a position to win the Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field at the end of the 2023 season. The Argonauts come into 2023 with a similarly rebuilt roster after winning the Grey Cup championship during the 2022 season.
The Tiger-Cats are coming into this pre-season game to evaluate every player on their roster in a game-day environment. Earlier this week, head coach Orlondo Steinauer talked about how much the veteran players will play. “Veteran playing time will vary; some will see a few or no plays, others will see more, and some will see a whole quarter.” He also mentioned that Bo Levi Mitchell might see only a few or no plays in this first pre-season game.
So, in a game environment in which the Tiger-Cats will be evaluating how well veteran and young players are developing as a team, what can fans expect during this pre-season game?
This game will allow everyone related to the Tiger-Cats, including coaches and fans, to see how well the players are coming together to build a championship-level team. Many of these players fighting for a spot on the active roster could be key playmakers at any point in the season. To win a Grey Cup, the Tiger-Cats must have continuity with their scheme and players and keep players off the injury report or have answers when injuries occur. Steinauer mentioned, “We are in an evaluation stage and want to stay as healthy as possible.” It is also crucial for the Tiger-Cats to have enough depth to give them answers to the injury problems that arise during a CFL season.
Looking at the Tiger-Cats depth chart, the competition will be against the Argonauts and an individual battle concerning each player’s position on the roster and depth chart.
Expectations on Offence
The Tiger-Cats have overhauled their offensive personnel after their disappointing 2022 performance. In 2022, the quarterback position was a target for criticism, with the offense turning the ball over regularly. In addition, the offensive line has also been a heavily criticized position group in the last few seasons.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was the most critical free-agent acquisition for the Tiger-Cats this off-season. However, all indications are that he will play a few plays, or potentially a few series, in this first preseason game. So that leaves the door open for Matt Shiltz and recently signed Taylor Powell to run the offense.
Hamilton’s wide receiving unit has been one of the most exciting groups on offense during training camp. Duke Williams, Tim White, Justin McGriff, and many more have put on a show during practice making key catches, especially on 50-50 balls. In a post-practice interview, wide receiver Kiondre Smith mentioned, “This is a group of freaky athletes; it is fun to watch everyone come out and enjoy themselves.”
Another essential upgrade to the Tiger-Cat’s offense is the addition of several new running backs, including James Butler from the BC Lions, and several new offensive linemen, Joel Figueroa, also from the BC Lions. Earlier this week, Figueroa talked about the Tiger-Cats’ offensive line: “The guys are smart, they have been here for a long time, and they are a bunch of veterans.” Upgrading the offensive line and running back position should allow offensive coordinator Tommy Condell to have more balance for the Hamilton offense.
Expectations for Defence
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defense has recently been one of the best defensive units in the CFL. However, a reality of the CFL is that the roster will change every year. With that change, the Hamilton defense has an environment of competition within the defensive position groups. They have been competing in practice, but the next step is to play well in a game; Steinauer said, “Practice of one thing, but you need to be able to make plays in a game.” Defensive coordinator Mark Washington also said, “We have a bunch of young guys ready to play for the honor to be Ti-Cats.”
The Tiger-Cat’s defensive line mixes veteran leadership and young players looking to make an impact. Former Toronto Argonaut Ja’Gared Davis will not dress for this game. The active defensive lineman will need to come and prove that they can play at a CFL level and help the Hamilton defense stop the run game and pressure opposing quarterbacks.
When the Tiger-Cats picked up linebackers Jameer Thurman and Chris Edwards during the free agency period, the expectation for this position group raised the ceiling for the expectations of this group. Thurman and Edwards will join iconic Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence on the depth chart. Steinauer mentioned earlier this week that several young players would be able to compete on the field for their spots on the roster. The Hamilton linebacking unit is likely the best in the CFL.
Hamilton’s defensive backfield comes into the 2023 season with several new faces and question marks. During the off-season, the Tiger-Cats allowed some of their veteran defensive backs to move onto other opportunities in the CFL. That opens the door for several new players to step up and carve out a role in the Tiger-Cat’s defensive secondary. Lawrence Woods III is one player looking to take advantage of that opportunity. In a post-practice interview, Woods III said, “We have been getting better and better, and we are looking to put it all together on game day.”
Expectations on Special Teams
When the Tiger-Cats announced that special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold would be returning to the Tiger-Cats, the expectations increased for those special teams units. Linebacker and special teams Bailey Feltmate mentioned, “Our special teams unit is going to dominate like they always do.” Many young players must contribute to the Hamilton special teams in the preseason and all season.
The specialists for the Tiger-Cats have seen a large number of changes. So the positional battle at kicker and punter should be interesting, with no clear frontrunner. Kicker Seth Small had been suspended during the preseason and is no longer on the roster. Kick and punt returner Lawrence Woods III and long snapper Gordon Whyte to return to the Tiger-Cats for another season.
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