The Black & Gold game has come and gone, and it proved that the coaching staff will find it difficult to determine which players will not be around in the days ahead. A great turnout of diehard Ticat followers were present today, with the weather cooperating to the fullest. ‘Stripes’ was out mixing it up with the kids, and there were plenty of them, barking out their Oskee-Wee-Wee chant. They were all waiting for some 2006 Tiger-Cat action.
The game was preceded with a short run down of the various units as well as the standard stretching exercises. After that the highlight of the day began. The offensive and defensive units took the field with the offence taking the ball around the 25 or 35 yard line and rotating quarterbacks after a certain amount of offensive series.
Initially, the starting offensive line went up against the second defensive line unit and they did admirably, but on this day, the defensive line had their day in the sun. The Cats’ then went to the second offensive line unit versus first defensive line unit, and that is when the differences in play were so evident. Devonte Peterson was constantly in the backfield, James Cotton was powering his way off the edge, and Tim Cheatwood was stunting to find nothing but daylight towards the quarterback.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Kevin Eakin was very impressive, but even Kevin would tell you he could have done better. It is just the way he is. He began the game with a beautiful fake handoff and subsequent throw downfield towards the sidelines to D.J. Flick which went for close to 40 or 50 yards. Flick was showing his game is and will always be on track, and others like Kwame Cavil who showed his height will benefit the team with some leaping catches in traffic, Kamau Peterson getting into open areas and the persistent running of Anthony Davis who was giving second and third efforts to gain extra yards when being bottled up. Quarterback Patrick Josten had a tough time out there today. He was probably not as confident as he might want to have been, and was playing with a ton of nerves and it showed. In live action he could have been sacked numerous times, yet he also did play with the second unit. He did however complete a beautiful pass leading one receiver to the sidelines with perfect precision. Ritchie Williams didn’t complete too much but he did show well while throwing on the run. He also wasn’t afraid to show his running talents when the pass wasn’t there for him to make.
Kojo Aidoo also complemented Anthony Davis with some powerful running for nice gains. He has had a great camp and he just has to show it on the field. Gilles Lezi had a nice run from scrimmage and Mullings was the quieter of the trio at fullback. Radlein did not participate in the scrimmage.
The offensive line had Hudson, Hage and Smith playing well, and the guy who made a real impression on me was Damion Cook. I think we might have found our diamond in the rough among the hogs. He played at right tackle, platooning with Donnelly and Greg Randall, and played so well showing an aggressiveness that I like in linemen, very good footwork on pass protection, and a beast in run blocking as he took on his man with such aggression and determination that he basically turned the defender into a non factor play after play. Beyond that, he fired into linebacker territory and nailed one of them head on which was just a delight to watch. Keep an eye on this player from this point on. He has shown me the most when comparing the other import tackles to date.
On the defensive side of the ball, players of note were Tay Cody, the entire first team defensive line, Roger Dunbrack, Ray Mariuz, Airabin Justin and Roderick Babers. Cotton, Belli, Peterson and Cheatwood looked in mid season form but they did work against the second team units most of the time so there is that to remember. Yet I think they will be just as good regardless when the season begins in earnest. The play of Justin is not surprising really, but he just has taken his game up a notch and I just hope it remains that way when the games count. Linebackers looked pretty good and the defensive backs as a unit were strong, save for some rookie mistakes on some long balls.
The special teams unit was tested today as well, mostly on field goal attempts and punt and punt returns. The punting and return game was controlled with players not going in all out attack on either unit, but the star of the camp had to have been Jamie Boreham who nailed a field goal that sent the ball many yards further than the goal post and right on top of the McMaster gym roof. It might still be there right now. Yet that was nothing. To complete the day where Boreham missed about 2 out of 7 or 8 opportunities, he booted a 57 yard field goal with ease while the players and fans alike were cheering him on to nail it.
Overall the game showed many fans who were not able to see the team to date how talented a group this staff has assembled. In the days ahead, there will no doubt be some players let go and that is the unfortunate reality. These players may be good enough to play elsewhere in the CFL but with the talent level here, it just wasn’t meant to be in Hamilton. Regardless, today was a fun day to be a Ticat fan.