Since the 2005 season some player issues were emerging which dictated some areas of concern for the Als management. This post is intended to suggest how the needs of these areas were attended to.
KICK RETURNING: Since Ezra Landry was returning kicks for the Als in 2005, the team has lacked a vital incumbent in this area. SEveral players have been tested here but found wanting. Brian Bratton has been the latest to fill this role with mixed results. Bratton has had one outstanding TD return to his credit but beyond that, he has not demonstrated this is his role to keep. Most of his returns are of the low average variety and,had the Als been playing a better team that Hamilton yesterday, his errors would have cost them the game.This position has been downgraded since 2005.
OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Mike Pringle was outstanding in the backfield until Lwarence Philips managed to last long enough in 2002 to help the Als win the Grey Cup.Matthews for several years imported a back from the NCAA to test the waters until he discovered That Eric Lapointe had the skills needed. Lapointe was joined by Robert Edwards and the two shared the position. The year of Edwarda injury Lapointe excelled. He had greater speed than Edwards and was a star in beating Toronto and playing very well in a losing Grey Cup Game. Lapointe excelled until injuries stopped what might have been a long tenure in the As's backfield. Payton is the latest incumbent in this role and looks promising. Jeff Piercy is an excellent blocking back who, when called upon, can run and catch the ball as needed. The next games against more powerful teams than Hamilton should establish Payton's credentials.
OFFENSIVE LINE: It was clear in 2006 that this was an ageing group. Calvillo has been sacked over 30 times this year as the line was porous. The addition of Seagraves and the switching of Mudge to his comfortable position of right tackle may help here although I believe the Als should scout the NFL for any late cuts and this can still be considered as an area of concern.
DEFENSIVE Line: Popp has been able to bring in competent tackles to replace Belli and Philion. The line anchors what is a very good defense.
LINEBACKERS and DEFENSIVE BACKS: The new young additions Popp has made in the backfield has been Popp's greatest achievement this year. Drew, Hill, and Ferri have been great additions to the veterans Sanchez and Strickkland who survived the cuts Popp made in this area. I believe the safety position has been deskilled since Baron Miles departed to BC. Kari-Kari had one season where the opposing quarterbacks threw around 15 balls right into his hands. He has been found wanting and lost his job to Lamont Brightful last year who was another not to survive. Boulay and Proulx now share the safety position and we must wait until the Als face the more powferful teams to assess this situation.
HEAD COACH: Jim Popp wears many hats although he is relatively new to the head coach position- again we must wait and see how the season progresses. Popp's American recruits were extremely good although he failed completely in the CIS draft with not one selection making the team. One has to wonder if Popp had the time here. Popp appears to have the makings of an effective leader and we will have to see how he develops his assistants and, develops the skill Matthews had of making half time adjustments. I believe that Popp made his greatest mistake by not selecting Pat Woodcock in the Ottawa draft. Woodcock was the long receiver the Als have missed in the past few years. The jury is out!!!!!