Ellis back to help shore up porous secondary
Dominique Ellis isn’t one to say, ‘I told you so.’
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats repatriated the American defensive back on Tuesday, just over a month after releasing him as part of their final roster cuts in June. While acknowledging that he did not particularly agree with the decision at the time, Ellis was more or less silent on social media and kept from setting fire to the bridge he used to get back on board.
“I just want to play football. I’m not emotional about it. Of course, I would have rather been here since the beginning of the season but that’s not what was decided,” said Ellis, who played in all 18 games for Hamilton last season, starting 13. “I don’t hold any animosity towards them and they clearly don’t hold any towards me.”
Injuries and inexperience have been an issue in the secondary. The Ticats have allowed a leagueworst 35.3 points per game, giving up 418 yards of passing a game (also last) and allowing opposing quarterbacks to compete 75 per cent of their passes (again, last.)
In addition to surrendering personal-best passing days to Toronto’s Ricky Ray and B.C.’s Travis Lulay, the secondary allowed Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly to march 75 yards in 70 seconds for the game-winning score in last Thursday’s 31-28 loss.
Watching from his home in Atlanta, Ellis’s armchair analysis was familiar. “I’ve seen the same things everybody else has seen. At the end of the day, you just have to play better. You’re accountable for the guy in front of you, so get it done. That’s how all the guys in that room feel: as a player, if anything ever happens, you feel the worst — trust me, I know. It’s all about how you respond.”
At 27 and having played 45 games in his three-year CFL career, Ellis is a physical, versatile defender who can play multiple positions in the secondary, something that head coach Kent Austin cited as a factor. “Experience — we’re a little thin in that department and we need some versatility. We have to anticipate other injuries so we have to be smart in layering our depth, especially with guys that know what we’re doing. He fit that model.”
While key free-agent pickup Abdul Kanneh is getting closer to a return — he practised fully on Tuesday — fellow all-star halfback Emanuel Davis and Canadian safety Craig Butler are “at least” weeks away, according to Austin. Promising corner Keon Lyn suffered a broken leg against Edmonton and was added to the six-game injured list.
Ellis also provides a veteran voice to the room, one that doesn’t lack for confidence. For a team that’s 0-4 and a unit that’s taken some heat, that could be invaluable. “Confidence is everything with a defensive back and all those guys believe in themselves, it’s just a few small things. With defensive backs, the small things are the big things,” Ellis said. “It will never be negative. If I can speak to you in a constructive way, it will help your confidence. That old school method of cussing guys out never worked with players. It never worked with me.”
Whatever Ellis said — or didn’t say — it worked well enough to earn him another chance. NOTES: Austin said he remains “100 per cent” committed to starting quarterback Zach Collaros, despite the team’s 0-4 record. Collaros is eighth in the Canadian Football League in passing yards and last in quarterback rating among the starters. “We are constantly going to evaluate every single position on this football team and where we need to get better, we’re going to push to get better,” Austin said. “But be real careful in a team game focusing on a single player.”… The team also signed international offensive lineman Ryker Mathews and national linebacker Curtis Newton while releasing American defensive back Tristan Doughlin and Canadian offensive lineman Mathieu Dupuis.
Dominique Ellis is back with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. DREW EDWARDS