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June Jones’ departure to the XFL won’t slow down an explosive Tiger-Cats offence that averaged 26.1 points per game while leading the league with 405.6 yards per game and 55 completions of at least 20 yards.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli comes off a record-breaking 2018 and could be better with a deep crop of receivers headlined by All-Stars Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker. The ground game lost its top three rushers (Alex Green, John White, Mercer Timmis) but Hamilton has a group of young backs battling to help contribute to what could be another sprint late into November.
Masoli carried the momentum he found late in 2017 into 2018, tying a league record with nine straight games of at least 300 passing yards on his way to tallying 12 games of 300-plus. Despite tying a league high with 18 interceptions, Masoli more than offset that with 5,209 yards and 28 touchdowns while still remaining a threat as a runner (473 yards, two majors). The East All-Star has a great chance to at least duplicate his numbers, but Fantasy users shouldn’t be surprised if Masoli eclipses his 2018 totals.
Next to BC’s Mike Reilly, Masoli will be the most sought-after pivot among Fantasy users, especially as the league’s most accurate deep passer (46.4 per cent completion rate, 16 touchdowns on passes longer than 20 yards). With the fleet of pass catchers at his disposal, Masoli will be able to pick apart defences at will as he recorded seven games (including the post-season) of at least three touchdown passes.
The only negative on Masoli is the errant throws. He had six games where he threw at least two interceptions, including three in the Eastern Final loss to Ottawa. However, the rewards far outweigh the risks when considering Masoli, who will cost Fantasy users a pretty penny to play on a weekly basis. Dane Evans is a capable backup who could put up solid numbers if needed. Hayden Moore will be the third pivot.
Hamilton was confident enough to part ways with Green, White and Timmis and is confident the makeover at the position will enhance the offence. Sean Thomas-Erlington came into training camp as the favourite to win the job, having averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 34 attempts (218 yards) and averaged 13.3 yards as a receiver. The Ticats feel confident Thomas-Erlington can carry the bulk of the running game, but Fantasy users may want to see how new coach Orlondo Steinauer and new offensive coordinator Tommy Condell handle the running game; Erlington might be the lead back, but there is a good chance this becomes a running back by committee.
Cameron Marshall played in just three games last season, but the former Winnipeg and Saskatchewan back did have a 134-yard outing against the Lions in Week 20 and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Marshall has shown the potential to become a lead back, but injuries have kept him from realizing his upside.
A pair of rookies could come in and completely shake things up. Third round pick Maleek Irons is a 224-pound workhorse who can work between the tackles and be a factor in short yardage/red zone situations. Free agent signee Ray Lawry is a hard runner who also has good pass catching skills. Either youngster could evolve as either the starter or a contributor to an RBBC (running back by committee).
Banks was a serious Most Outstanding Player candidate before a freak shoulder injury against the REDBLACKS in Week 19 curtailed his season. He had ripped off a stretch of seven 100-yard games over his final nine games on his way to topping the league with 10 games over the century mark. Banks tied for the league lead with 11 touchdown catches but topped the league with 13 receptions of better than 30 yards and 41 receptions on second down. If Banks’ shoulder is healthy, Fantasy users can count on him eating up a chunk of their salary yet do so with a sense of glee knowing that Banks will be worth every dollar.
Tasker missed three games but crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in four years. His Fantasy value zoomed as he scored a career-high 11 majors, tying for the league lead. He also set a career best with a 14.2 yards per catch average. Fantasy users not willing to pay the high price on Banks will look in the direction of Tasker, who caught at least four passes 12 times last season.
The injury to Banks opened the door for rookie Bralon Addison to emerge as a viable threat. Including the Eastern Semi-Final, Addison finished the season with three straight 100-yard games, totaling 366 yards and a major on 24 catches. He’ll start at one slotback spot and will prove his late-season arrival wasn’t a fluke. With Jalen Saunders released, the door is open for Mike Jones to see more targets. Jones was among the league leaders with 17.2 yards per catch and had three games of better than 100 yards.
Shamawd Chambers, who missed last season with a knee injury, is healthy and will give Masoli another weapon to choose. Rashad Lawrence caught 17 passes last season and will see more targets as he will likely earn a starting role. Nationals Marcus Davis and David Ungerer III are candidates for reserve spots, while internationals Justin Sumpter, Justin Thomas and Desmon White are good bets to find their way on the roster.
The pain of allowing six passing majors to Trevor Harris in the Eastern Final guaranteed changes were coming to the Tiger-Cats defence that finished eighth in both sacks and forced turnovers. Hamilton’s off-season was highlighted by the signing of former Calgary end Ja’Gared Davis, who will add some juice to the pass rush while taking some of the pressure off tackle Ted Laurent. Linebacker Simoni Lawrence anchors the middle of the defence, while the secondary — which helped the Hamilton defence finish third overall — is paced by Delvin Breaux at corner along with Cariel Brooks, Richard Leonard and Jumal Rolle. Former Stampeder Tunde Adeleke could replace the departed Don Unamba.