Heading into the 2011 CFL season, Hamilton had a pair of pass rushers who seemed primed to become a formidable tandem in Steeltown for the foreseeable future.
Stevie Baggs was coming off an impressive return to the three down game at the end of the 2010 season. He recorded five sacks during his first seven games with the Ticats, causing management, media and fans alike to salivate over the thought of what he could do over a full year in black and gold.
However, Baggs managed just five sacks in 18 games during would can only be described as a frustrating 2011 campaign for the boisterous defensive end. With Baggs’ production drop, he was deemed expendable in the off-season and cut loose by the club.
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According to our Monday Morning Quarterback Pat Steinberg, Week One of the pre-season saw a few backup passers prove their worth.
Justin Hickman was the entrenched starter on the other end of the line to begin the 2011 schedule.
After back-to-back seven-sack seasons, there were signs a breakout year was in the offing. 18 games and a league-high-tying 13 sacks later, Hickman was drawing interest from NFL franchises.
The UCLA product eventually inked a two-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
Just like that, with Baggs' play tailing off and Hickman elevating his game to a new level, both defensive ends were gone from Hamilton's roster, leaving two crucial starting positions open.
Fortunately for the Tiger-Cats, Hickman signed down south a week before the 2012 CFL free agent period.
So, the Tabbies dipped into the open market and signed defensive end Greg Peach, who registered 13 sacks in his first three CFL seasons with Edmonton.
Peach’s quarterback takedown total could have been much higher had he been on the field more often.
The Eastern Washington alum played in only 36 of a possible 54 regular season games, due to ankle and knee injuries, during his time as an Eskimo.
In his first camp with the Ticats, Peach has been fighting a nagging upper body injury, but when on the field he has been lining up with the number one defensive unit.
It seems Hamilton’s coaching staff is confident in the 25-year-old’s pass rush abilities and they’re trying to preserve their investment by making sure Peach is as healthy as possible for the start of the regular season.
Assuming Peach can stay on the field, and out of the trainer’s room, he looks to be the answer on one end of the defensive front.
The leader to start on the other side from Peach is a CFL rookie, but it’s not his first year in professional football.
Shawn Crable spent parts of three seasons with the NFL’s New England Patriots after being drafted in the third round, 78th overall, by the Pats in 2008. But, he was released in November of 2010. After playing in the UFL last season, Crable now finds himself in the Steel City and has impressed in the early stages of his Ticats tenure.
No. 95 has flashed some of the immense potential he showed at the University of Michigan (Crable set a school record with 28.5 tackles for loss during his senior year in 2007) while participating in his first CFL training camp.
The 27-year-old saw plenty of action during Hamilton’s first pre-season contest against the Argos and showed all the traits you would want to see from a potential opening day starter.