The Hamilton Tiger-Cats started the 2023 season expecting to be championship contenders. But after starting the season with an 0-3 record and taking a 38-12 beatdown from the Montreal Alouettes in their home opener. Hamilton is a team that needs an identity.
For the last several seasons, the shortcomings of the Tiger-Cats have fallen on the backs of numerous players. Jeremiah Masoli, Dane Evans, Matt Shiltz, and now Bo Levi Mitchell, but after replacing those quarterbacks, the problems still exist. The same is true at all other positions, and it shows that the Tiger-Cat’s attempts to work themselves out of trouble by replacing players are different from the answer.
So what is the answer to the Tiger-Cat’s problems? The Hamilton coaching staff does not know the answer; consistently, in post-game interviews, the answer to all critical statements is a generic coach-speak answer; the Tiger-Cats have to trust the process. When reviewing the outcomes of the Tiger-Cat’s last several games, the real question is, what is their process?
During the bye week this week, the Tiger-Cats must invest time in finding an identity. The Tiger-Cats have done some good things but have also done many bad things. For a team to turn around an 0-3 season, they must focus on what they can do well and build a plan around those aspects of the group. No one outside the Tiger-Cats can solve the problems defining their season so far.
Let’s take a look at those problems.
Instability At Quarterback
Matthew Shiltz came out this week and produced 345 passing yards against the Montreal Alouettes, and while he did turn the ball over, he showed strong leadership characteristics. Those characteristics are important to recognize because just before the game starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was added to the 6-game Injured List due to his adductor injury. Even before the injury, Mitchell showed he could not turn this offence around alone. Most likely, there is not a quarterback that can single-handedly turn around this offence.
That does not stop the Tiger-Cats from trying. When Hamilton announced that they had added Mitchell to the long-term injured list, they also announced the signing of American quarterback N’kosi Perry. Perry is a 6’4″, 198-pound quarterback that played college football at the University of Miami (2017-2020) and Florida Atlantic (2021-2022). The young quarterback enters a position group that is starting to resemble a turnstile.
Injuries On The Offensive Line
An ongoing problem for the Tiger-Cats is a wealth of injuries along their offensive line. Like the quarterback position, the names keep changing, but the outcomes remain the same. That means the solution does not lie in changing the players; it lies in building a better plan around the available lineman’s skills.
Inefficiency On Offence
The Tiger-Cats offence, led by offensive coordinator Tommy Condell may be the most frustrating offence to watch in the CFL. He builds his offence around the pursuit of explosive plays. So the Tiger-Cats either boom or bust on offence; they may come and hit an explosive play for 60 yards, but if that play does not score, they will most likely not finish the drive.
The Hamilton offence resembles a roller-coaster in which it seems like they are moving, but then they suddenly hit the brakes or worse. Once again, the solution is to build a plan around the fundamental strengths of your players and then seek consistency. CFL teams only sometimes win games when trying to score on big plays but fail most of the time. It would be more sensible to focus on picking up first downs and putting drives together. They will still have to find a way to score in the red zone, but at least they will keep the defence off the field and give them a chance to rest.
The Hamilton Defence Are Showing Their Age
The Tiger-Cats made several free-agent moves to add known names to their defence. So far this season, those players have made a few big plays, but most of the time play like older men. The Tiger-Cats defenders are where they need to be many times but fail to make the play. Missed players have been leading to frustration among those defensive players, and those frustrations have become a significant discipline issue. So far this season, the Tiger-Cats defence has committed many penalties to continue their opponents’ offensive drives.
At times the Tiger-Cats defence makes a big play. Those big players get canceled by a significant penalty or a player’s inability to play in a big moment. Hamilton’s defence would benefit from an offence that can put together long drives and give them a chance to rest. The Hamilton defence could be fresh and find a way to get off the field. It would allow them to play with a higher energy level on defence. That higher energy level would result in more big plays.
The problems that the Tiger-Cats are facing tend to be contagious. Injuries, turnovers, penalties, and missed assignments are all symptoms of the same problem, a lack of identity. The Tiger-Cats have 15 games left in the 2023 season, so there is plenty of time to pull things together a make a playoff run. To do that, Hamilton needs to use this bye week to center themselves and find their identity rather than waiting on Superman to show up and save them.
Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7
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