Saturday, 18 June 2011

Toronto 31, Hamilton 12

It's hard to take a win or loss in the preseason too seriously, but there were some things that were really good about this game and some things that were not so good. Like every game that the Cats play in Toronto, I was in attendance and got to witness things first hand. I am by no means an expert, but my take might be different than someone who just listened to the game on the radio. I'm not saying that I'm right and everyone else is wrong, but here is what I liked and didn't like from this week's game.

First and foremost, the biggest positive is that football is back. I don't think anyone will disagree with me on that one.

In my game preview I wrote about some position battles that I would be looking at, one of which was Running Back. Glenn Milner and Terry Grant are in a battle to see who will back up Avon Cobourne; today, both men made the choice that much more difficult. If I had to choose one based on today's performance, I'd probably go with Grant. Both players performed very well, and Milner was just a hair beneath Grant today. I don't envy the coaching staff when they decide who to keep.

Another area I covered was the competition between Eric Wilbur and Justin Medlock. I think, barring something big in the next game on Wednesday, Medlock will get the spot. Both played well, but Wilbur barely outperformed Medlock on punts – Wilbur shanked one, but then had an absolute beaut – so while I like Wilbur immensely, I suspect that Medlock will be the guy.

While he only saw very limited action, I really liked what I saw out of Quinton Porter. He looked poised, confident and in control as he led the Cats' offense during the first quarter.

Finally, all the talk about Chris Williams being fast were correct. The guy has some serious wheels on him. The team has to find a way to keep him around in some capacity. If Marcus Thigpen gets a greater role on offense, Williams would be more than an adequate replacement in the return game.

There are lies, filthy lies and statistics. Statistically, Jason Boltus had a great game with over 280 yards passing, while throwing one touchdown and one interception. However, since I sat at the 35-yard line at the Rogers Centre SkyDome I got to see Boltus's performance first hand. He looked tentative, and his lone interception was a product of his tentativeness. He also gained a lot of his yards in garbage time when the game was well out of reach. His favorite pass seemed to be the dump off, as he rarely tried to stretch the field. Before people pile on, I don't think Boltus was terrible; he did engineer a very nice drive that began on the Cats' seven- or eight-yard line and ended with a touchdown pass to Matt Carter. However, all the chatter about how he should unseat Quinton Porter for the primary backup spot needs to stop.

The Cats' defense showed me nothing all day. They gave up a whopping 536 total yards, and it seemed like everyone forgot how to tackle. The Argos busted many plays because the Cats' defenders simply didn't wrap up. It was a putrid performance, and the defense cannot be pleased one bit.

The main area that did nothing was the Defensive Line and, to a lesser extent, the Linerbackers. There was no pressure on any of the Quarterbacks. They made Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell look like Damon Allen and Matt Dunigan. I know that the starters didn't play, but if that is the kind of pass rush this team will have during the season, the Cats are in trouble.

Then we have the Secondary. They also did not look good. I don't even know how to put it into words, but guys were getting beat very frequently. It was not the best day for that group. They are still very much a work in progress, and I will have my eyes keenly on them on Wednesday.

Final Thoughts
It was the first preseason game, so no one should panic, even though the Cats got outplayed for most of the game. The Argos played a vast majority of their starters for long stretches of the game – Andre Durie, for instance, was still in the game late in the third quarter – and the only star players that I didn't see were Chad Owens and Cory Boyd. That's not an excuse; I'm just stating facts. The Argos deserve full credit for their effort today. They were clearly the better team.

But there were a lot of bright spots for the Cats as well. The running game looks to be in good hands. If today is any indication of what we will see when Cobourne gets on the field, the rushing attack could be deadly.

The kicking game looks to be in solid hands regardless of who wins the battle. Both Wilbur and Medlock seem more than capable of handling the duties.

That said, there are still areas of concern. Hopefully, these things will be addressed this week in the run up to Wednesday's preseason encounter with the Alouettes.

Irrespective of what happened today, it's just nice to be back talking about and watching football. With the first one in the books, it's a mere 13 days until the games matter. That, my friends, is very exciting.

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