Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Training Camp Preview: Special Teams

With training camp about to start (rookies report today, veterans on June 3rd) it's time to look at each position group as we head into the 2012 season. Today, we end the series by looking at special teams.

Whether it was Justin Medlock last season or Marcus Thigpen the season before, the Ti-Cats have been blessed with some amazing special teams play the last couple of seasons. But both of those players are gone; Medlock signed with the Carolina Panthers and Thigpen used the option-year window in his contract to sign with the Miami Dolphins. Replacing the two of them won't be easy, but it must be done.

On the kicking front, the Cats will have a two-man battle between Luca Congi and Josh Maveety. Australian Josh Bartel was brought in as a punter, but I don't think his job is secure by any means. It's always nice to have one player do both jobs to free up another roster space, so if Congi or Maveety impresses enough on both ends, the Cats will go with one kicker. But if Bartel is head and shoulders above the rest, the fact that he counts as a non-import is a huge plus.

At returner, there are no clubhouse leaders, but the team has more than a few options. A couple of guys who are in the mix are rookies Chevon Walker and Chris Duvalt. Both possess tremendous speed, which is an obvious asset in the return game. Terry Grant is another guy who could contribute at returner, but the gruesome leg injury he suffered in Montreal last season is not fully healed, so he will not be ready for the start of the season. The team signed Deon Murphy to compete for a spot at kick returner as well. And watch out for Sam Giguère. He has experience returning kicks and punts, and should the team wish to ease him back into the Canadian game after four years away, they could do so by using him as their returnman at the start of the season.

The final area, and often the most underreported area of any football team, is the kick coverage unit. The Tiger-Cats coverage unit has been superb the past couple of seasons, and with the return of ace special teamer Ike Brown, expect that unit to continue to excel.

There are a lot of question marks surrounding Hamilton's special teams this year, and training camp is going to decide a lot of battles. There will be a lot of new faces on special teams in 2012.

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