Ticats by the numbers (and they’re pretty ugly)
By Drew Edwards
[b]The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have now played exactly one-third of their 18-game CFL schedule, registering just one win in those six games. Here's a look at some of the numbers that tell the story behind the slow start.
Much of the recent focus has been on penalties, and the Ticats lead the league in both the number (14.8 ) as well as the yardage (114.5) per game. It's worth noting that the number of penalties are up across the league this season by a whopping 29 per cent over 2013.
Hamilton leads the league with 30 offensive penalties, and defensive flags with 37. Special teams units, however, are seventh in the league with just 22 calls against. The team leads the CFL in a number of penalty categories including procedure (28 calls this season), offensive holding (13), unnecessary roughness (12), defensive pass interference (7) and no yards (8).
So who are the worst offenders? Defensive backs Delvin Breaux and Brandon Stewart lead the team with six calls against them, followed by safety Craig Butler, special teamer Marc Beswick, linebacker Taylor Reed (five each), defensive back Emmanuel Davis (four), defensive tackle Ted Laurent, offensive lineman Tim O'Neill and Brian Simmons, receiver Bakari Grant, defensive lineman Arnaud Gason-Nadon (three each.)
One of the possible explanations for the Ticats' inability to follow the rule book – and their penchant in losing close games – is their relative inexperience. While the average age of players on CFL rosters this season is 27.3 years, the Ticats are the youngest team in the CFL with an average age of just 26.5 – that's younger than even expansion Ottawa, who clock in at 26.9 years.
The Ticats also have a higher percentage of first-year players on their roster – 28.9 per cent – than the CFL average of 27.7 per cent. So Hamilton is both younger and less experienced.
- Offensive struggles
On offence, the team has struggled in a number of key categories. They are last in the league in time of possession, holding the ball for an average of 27:21 (winning teams have posted 31:19 mark so far this season). They've generated only 98 first downs, second worst mark in the league, and their 45 two-and-outs is also eighth in the CFL.
There are a number of interlocking issues that help explain those struggles. First, they've allowed 23 sacks on the season – the second worst mark in the league – but they are first in sacks allowed per drop back, allowing a takedown every 9.8 times the quarterback goes to pass. They've also allowed a league-high 10 sacks on first down.
The Ticats pass the ball 71 per cent of the time on first down, second only to Toronto. As a result, they generate an average gain of 6.8 yards on first down, the third highest mark in the league. But on second down, they net a league low 4.4 yards, achieving first downs just 33.9 per cent of the time. By contrast, second down conversion rates for winning teams this season sits at 44 per cent.
It gets even worse in second-and-long situations. Hamilton has converted just 14 times when facing second and seven or more, a CFL-worst 20-per-cent success rate. By comparison, B.C. Lions converted six second-and-longs into first downs in the fourth quarter of Friday night's win over Hamilton.
- Defensive struggles
On defence, the Ticats are sixth in points against at 24.2 and are giving up an average of 279 yards per game through the air (second worst) and have surrendered 133 first downs, a league high. Opponents are converting on second down 44 per cent of the time (again, second worst.)
- Bad luck
Despite those damning numbers, the Ticats have also been unlucky. The team has lost four games by seven points or less while no other team in the league has lost more than one. Hamilton has lost two games while winning the turnover battle, something that's happened just five times in 2014.
In other words, the Ticats are responsible for their own situation ... but they likely deserve a little bit better, too.[/b]