April 19, 2013

Revamped Tiger-Cats defence primed for success


Kyle Myers | Ticats.ca Staff

HAMILTON — It’s no secret around Hamilton that upgrading the defence is one of the Tiger-Cats’ biggest priorities.

The off-season saw an overhaul of nearly the entire coaching staff from 2012, and the man chosen as the team’s new Defensive Coordinator is ex-Tiger-Cat defensive back Orlondo Steinauer.

Related: CFL Mini-Camps

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
» Mallett healthy and ready to roll
Video: New Sheriff in Town
» QB Brohm makes debut at mini-camp
» Images: 2013 Ticats Mini-Camp

BC Lions

» Lulay sits out final mini-camp workout
Lulay, Lions adjusting to all things new
» Lions offensive focused at mini-camp
» Veterans out in full force at mini-camp

Saskatchewan Roughriders

» New faces excited for opportunity
» Riders rookies hit the field in Florida
» Images: 2013 Roughriders Mini-Camp

Steinauer spent the last three seasons as the defensive backs coach with the Toronto Argonauts, and his unit helped guide the team to a Grey Cup title in 2012. During his tenure, the Argonauts’ secondary consistently ranked near the top of the CFL rankings, and his expertise was a hot commodity for the ailing Ticats D. Though the Ticats defence wasn’t up to par in 2012, Steinauer made it clear on Thursday that he will not be looking in the rear-view mirror this year. Trying to help him to that goal are a host of new players on the defensive side of the ball, including safety James Patrick, who was acquired via free agency during the off-season. Patrick was an all-star in 2010 after he led the CFL with nine interceptions but was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in January.

With two practices in Black and Gold under his belt, Patrick is echoing the mantra of his new coordinator, and is focusing on the future rather than what happened last season.

“You don’t look at the past,” Patrick said. “Some people have said I lost a step but I don’t think I have. I train hard, and I’m all about what I can do for the team now.”

Both Patrick and Steinauer know how important the defensive back position is. “I think DB’s are a concern in the CFL. Period,” said Steinauer. “That’s my focus point right now, and that’s one of the reasons I was brought to Hamilton.”

That said, the secondary is not the only defensive position where the Ticats have received a boost. Linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Edmonton Eskimos, is eager to challenge for the now-vacant middle linebacker role.

“Last year isn’t a concern,” Steinauer said. “We’re building a foundation right now, trying to get better, and I’m excited with where we’re at right now.”

On his goals for the year, Steinauer couldn’t have been more clear.

“I expect to win,” he said. “I’m here to do the best job I can, install my personality and attitude, and to win.”

“I’m excited,” Lawrence said. “Everybody’s competing, fighting hard and making each other better.” In only his second season, Lawrence is coming to Hamilton with expectations for success, but he isn’t letting that get in the way of the learning process.

“I’m learning so much,” he said. “Even though this is my fourth year out of college, I’m still learning a lot of new things; it’s just great to be here.”

Learning is something that many of the Tiger-Cats, even the veterans, will have to do in the coming months in order to adjust to the new coaching staff and their demands and expectations. Both Head Coach Kent Austin and Steinauer stressed the importance of perfecting fundamental skills, even for those players who have been in the CFL for several years.

The new coaching staff in Hamilton is working hard to build a foundation for success, and though it’s still early in the process, players like Lawrence and Patrick already seem eager to buy in to the new system.