Ti­cats give Glenn-ed sec­ondary an­other try

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON

It might ap­pear a lit­tle coun­ter­in­tu­itive, given the lack of suc­cess so far this sea­son, but the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats will keep their de­fen­sive sec­ondary in­tact for Satur­day night’s home opener against the B.C. Lions.

Part of the rea­son is that Ab­dul Kan­neh, inked in at one of the half­back po­si­tions when he was signed out of free agency in the off­sea­son, isn’t re­cov­ered enough from in­jury to start this week­end.

But an­other part is to give the quin­tet, which was Kevin Glenned last week, an­other chance to show whether it was largely game in­ex­pe­ri­ence — to­gether and in­di­vid­u­ally — that led to far-too-easy pick­ings for the vet­eran quar­ter­back.

So, even though SAM line­backer Will Hill must sit out the game with sus­pen­sion, the team is avoid­ing re­plac­ing him with one of the de­fen­sive backs who played last week, which was def­i­nitely a tempt­ing op­tion.

Keon Lyn, signed in the off-sea­son, will likely step in at SAM and­get his first start in an out­door reg­u­lar-sea­son game “since my last year of col­lege (at Syra­cuse in 2013).” Lyn did play the pre-sea­son game against Ot­tawa at corner, be­fore go­ing on the in­jured list.

That will leave Ethan Davis and Richard Leonard at the cor­ners, Khalid Wooten and Justin Rogers at half­back and Cana­dian vet­eran Court­ney Stephen at safety for the sec­ond straight game.

“At some point we’ve got to set­tle in and give guys a chance to de­velop who haven’t played a lot of foot­ball games,” head coach Kent Austin said after Thurs­day’s prac­tice. “If we’re go­ing to make some changes and fig­ure things out, we’re go­ing to do it ear­lier rather than later. We don’t want to wait un­til week 14 or 15 to find out that the group we have isn’t work­ing. We’d rather iter­ate through it now, then move it around and set­tle in a group we can trust.”

It’s highly un­likely that this quin­tet is the one we’ll see in the de­fen­sive back­field once, and if, the 2017 Ti­cats do find them­selves. With two 2016 East­ern all-star half­backs, Kan­neh and Emanuel Davis, on the over­all ros­ter but in­jured — and Stephen de­servedly en­trenched in the unit — there will prob­a­bly be only two start­ing spots re­ally open, as pro­jected when train­ing camp be­gan.

But that will be then and this is def­i­nitely now.

It’s im­per­a­tive to find out who among the oth­ers can play long-term, and who can’t. And also, per­haps, to see who could even­tu­ally mount a chal­lenge to Kan­neh and Davis.

For a team show­ing a lack of co­he­sion, and des­per­ately need­ing a win, if only for self-be­lief pur­poses, it’s bet­ter to make just one lineup change on de­fence, than two.

Five days after the Lions game, the Cats come right back to play Ed­mon­ton at Tim Hor­tons Field, so bar­ring in­jury the sec­ondary might get a third straight game to­gether.

“It al­ways helps to have con­ti­nu­ity, in the short-term and the long-term,” Stephen says. “It’ll be good just to get that chem­istry flow­ing, get one more notch un­der the belt to­gether.”

Lyn, who played Arena League foot­ball for Jack­sonville last year, is a self-as­sured player and doesn’t think his re­cent dearth of reg­u­lar-sea­son game-time will prove too high a hur­dle.

“You’ll prob­a­bly be ner­vous a lit­tle bit.,” he con­cedes. “But after that first play, when you pre­pare well, there’s noth­ing to be ner­vous about.

“It’s the con­fi­dence thing that re­ally helps you and boosts you to go out and play like you’ve been out there 10 years.”

The Ti­cats’ other change — mak­ing four starters changed since Open­ing Night — will be at right tackle. La­Marr Holmes, who started 19 games for the NFL At­lanta Falcons, but hasn’t played a reg­u­lar-sea­son game in more than two years, steps up for the in­jured Jor­dan Swin­dle.

He’s the heav­i­est player on the team at 333 pounds, and is just an inch shorter than Swin­dle’s team-high six-foot-seven. He was signed just three weeks ago.

“Coach (line coach Mike Marku­son) and the of­fen­sive line, they’re been more than wel­com­ing and are help­ing me a lot,” Holmes said. NOTES: The Ti­cats have signed in­ter­na­tional of­fen­sive line­man Quin­ter­rius Eat­mon, out of South Florida Univer­sity, to a prac­tice-ros­ter con­tract. … Line­backer Will Hill will miss Satur­day’s game to serve his one-game sus­pen­sion, which he is not ap­peal­ing.

GARY YOKOYAMA, HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

De­fen­sive back Keon Lyn, knock­ing down re­ceiver Ed Wil­liams, should get his first start (at SAM) in an out­door reg­u­lar-sea­son game “since my last year of col­lege.” He played in the pre-sea­son against Ot­tawa at corner, be­fore go­ing on the in­jured list.

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