As the 2022 season approaches, CFL.ca is getting you up to speed on where each team stands after a hectic off-season that saw players crisscross the country. Five Things To Know will catch you up on where your team left off in 2021, the moves it made and what it might accomplish in 2022.
HAMILTON — Heartbreak in Hamilton.
There were sad faces, a few tears and a great deal of disappointment on the faces of Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans and players alike when the 2021 season came to a conclusion last December at Tim Hortons Field. The thrilling overtime loss at home was a tough pill to swallow and one that anyone who wore the black and gold that cold night surely wants to forget about.
A clear-cut No. 1 quarterback, a new defensive lineman and plenty of returning faces both on the field and in the front office are just a few of the headlines that swirled around the Ticats this off-season. And with back-to-back Grey Cup appearances, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
Here are five things to know about the Ticats ahead of the 2022 season.
It’s Dane Evans time
Heading into the new campaign, there are no questions at quarterback for the Ticats. Dane Evans is locked in as their No. 1 guy as the team committed to the 28-year-old and let Jeremiah Masoli move on to join the Ottawa REDBLACKS as a free agent earlier this year.
Evans had a good year last season in Hamilton as he split time behind centre with Masoli. The six-foot-one, 218-pound signal caller completed 69 passes for 787 yards, six touchdown and three yards and orchestrated the Ticats second-half comeback in the Eastern Final that helped them move on to the 108th Grey Cup. How can fans in Hamilton forget the magic that Evans sprinkled on the field in Toronto as he completed 16 of 16 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown in the win?
While he did leave Grey Cup early with an injury, Evans has had the off-season to get himself healthy and ready for the challenge ahead of him as the Tabbies hope to make it to their third-straight Grey Cup.
With the signing of Ciante Evans earlier this week, Hamilton’s secondary looks almost the exact same as it did in 2021. With the exception of Frankie Williams, four of their starting DBs are back in the fold, giving the team some continuity on the back end of their defence.
Tunde Adeleke, Cariel Brooks, Jumal Rolle and Evans return to the fold this year, bringing back playmaking defenders. Brooks was tied for the league-lead in interceptions last season with five, while Adeleke was the most versatile player on the defence, lining up in a number of different positions, helping the Ticats to the Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field. Adeleke also tallied 44 defensive tackles, third on his team and most of any Hamilton defensive backs, and two sacks.
The unit was tough for opposing offences to play against and will be hoping that they can bring back that magic this summer.
A loss.. but also a gain
Fans in Tiger Town may have been upset when they heard that defensive end JaGared Davis was moving up the QEW to join their rival Toronto Argonauts. Davis was a standout on the Ticats defence in the two years he donned the black and gold, and was a monster in the playoffs last season, wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
But just a day after Davis put pen to paper in Toronto, the Tiger-Cats announced they had signed defensive tackle Micah Johnson.
The 33-year-old started 12 games at defensive tackle for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2021, registering 19 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one pass knockdown. He’s also a three-time CFL All-Star (2016, 2017, 2018), a three-time Divisional All-Star (2016, 2017, 2018) and a two-time Grey Cup champion with the Stampeders (2014, 2018). Plus, Johnson gets to the quarterback as he’s accumulated 47 career sacks, including 14 in the 2018 season while a member of the Calgary Stampeders.
A chance for receivers to step into the spotlight
With Brandon Banks and Jaelon Acklin moving on to the Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa REDBLACKS, respectively, there’s an opportunity for some other pass-catchers to emerge this season.
Steven Dunbar Jr. had a stellar rookie season in 2021, hauling in 44 catches for 630 yards and four touchdowns, and is sure to be one of Evans’ top targets this year. Tim White was also great in his first year in the black and gold, catching 56 passes for 774 yards and two major scores. David Ungerer also has a chance to emerge as a threat this year (he hauled in 15 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in 2021). After dealing with injuries, playing in just three games in 2021, Bralon Addison is ready to get back to his usual 1,000-yard self this year as well.
And don’t forget about the off-season addition of Lemar Durant. Durant played 74 games over six seasons in the CFL with the Lions (2019-21) and Calgary Stampeders (2015-2018), registering 183 receptions for 2,353 yards and 13 touchdown receptions.
There’s plenty of talent in the receiver room and Evans will have many options to throw to in 2022.
It took a while for Don Jackson to crack the roster in 2021 but he remained patient. The Ticats were rolling with Canadians in the backfield for the majority of the season, rotating between Sean Thomas Erlington and Jackson Bennett. Plus the 28-year-old was also dealing with injuries in his first year in TigerTown.
But when Jackson finally found himself in the starting lineup, he took the chance and never looked back. He exploded in his first start in Week 13 against Edmonton, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown. In his four regular season games, he registered 44 carries for 245 yards and one rushing touchdown as well as eight receptions for 94 yards and one receiving touchdown. In the playoffs and Grey Cup, the five-foot-10, amassed 200 yards and a major score.
After his success late in the campaign, the Ticats committed to Jackson, extending the running back through 2023 back in January, as he’s likely to be the starting tailback once the season gets underway in June.