Slow starts baf­fling Ti­cats this year, too

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON Ti­cats

If they knew the an­swer, we wouldn’t be ask­ing the ques­tion.

Had the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats been able to fig­ure out pre­cisely why their of­fence hasn’t been able to start quickly — or start at all, so far this year — in the first quar­ters of games, they’d have fixed it long ago.

So it’s not sur­pris­ing the head coach and quar­ter­back, plus a star re­ceiver, are mys­ti­fied as to why the of­fence hasn’t man­aged a first down in the open­ing 15 min­utes of both of their early-sea­son losses.

This is not a new prob­lem, of course, but a con­tin­u­a­tion of a 2016 pox:

Four times last year the Ti­cats’ of­fence did not score a point in the first quar­ter, and an­other six times they were held to three or fewer.

That’s no touch­downs in the first quar­ters of 12 of their last 21 games.

If you’re looking for an ad­jec­tive to de­scribe that, don’t wan­der too far past “bad.”

“The prob­lems go year to year: even though the prob­lems are the same, the rea­sons are prob­a­bly dif­fer­ent,” said re­ceiver Luke Tasker.

“I wish I could give you a re­ally smart an­swer about it. Foot­ball is a com­plex game. I think to a cer­tain ex­tent we need to try to make sure we take what we can get early.

“I can’t speak to ex­actly what that is, other than be­ing re­ally men­tally re­laxed and ready to go from play one, and not need­ing drives in order to feel that you can get into the game.

“That’s a very nat­u­ral thing about sports, and some­times it’s in­evitable that you feel a lot bet­ter by the third drive than you do in the first drive, but do what you can to make sure that you’re in it for the very first drive. Which I want to do this week.”

The Ti­cats’ of­fence, missing 1,000-yard re­ceivers Andy Fan­tuz and Ter­rence To­liver and un­set­tled at right tackle, hasn’t been strug­gling only in the first quar­ter this sea­son (they’ve scored only one touch­down over­all).

But the flabby starts are strik­ing a neg­a­tive tem­plate. And, well, it’s dis­con­cert­ing that a 2016 prob­lem has be­come a 2017 one. And how about this stat? Tasker has played 48 games for the Tiger-Cats in his four-plus years here, av­er­ag­ing nearly five catches per game, and last week­end in Regina was the first time he has not caught a pass.

His pre­vi­ous low was two catches and he had seven in the sea­son opener in Toronto.

In Regina, he was tar­geted only twice by Zach Col­laros, which equals a ca­reer low and in­di­cates how much pressure the Ti­cat quar­ter­back was un­der to get rid of the ball quickly. He did miss Tasker on one toss but, most times, didn’t have time to find him.

“I just have to do my part, try­ing to have bet­ter re­leases and get­ting more sep­a­ra­tion,” Tasker said. “I’m not go­ing to kill my­self over it. We just weren’t where we wanted to be as an of­fence as a whole.” Not by a long shot. Col­laros is like Tasker: He wishes he could give us all a de­fin­i­tive an­swer about why an of­fence that prac­tises well comes out of the gates wear­ing lead boots.

“It comes down to ex­e­cu­tion and making plays,” said Col­laros.

“If 12 guys aren’t on the same page do­ing the right things at the right time, in a league like this and an of­fence like ours where time and space is very im­por­tant, you’re not go­ing to ex­e­cute at a high level,” he said.

“You might have some one-offs here and there but un­til we can get very pre­cise at that, I don’t want to say ex­pect the slow starts. But we need to get bet­ter, ob­vi­ously.”

No ar­gu­ment here. NOTES: The Tiger-Cats con­tinue their pa­rade of new ar­rivals. Wed­nes­day they signed Ter­rence Fred­er­ick, who started nine games at cor­ner­back for the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers last year. … In­jured de­fen­sive back Ab­dul Kan­neh, who hasn’t played yet, prac­tised Wed­nes­day, as did cen­tre Mike Filer and line­backer Si­moni Lawrence, who were hurt against Saskatchewan on Satur­day. Kent Austin says they’ll con­tinue to be as­sessed to see if they can play against B.C. at Tim Hor­tons Field on Satur­day.

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