Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Avon Cobourne and Hamilton's Roster Problems

We are not even at Week 2 of the CFL season and the Ti-Cats are already dealing with their second roster controversy. Last week, the Kevin Eiben-Markeith Knowlton situation was discussed not once, not twice, but three times just by me. That doesn't take into account the articles written by Steve Milton and Drew Edwards on the subject. The Knowlton-Eiben saga spawned its own cottage industry last week.

So it is a new week and the Ti-Cats have another roster quandary to deal with. This time it is what to do at running back with Avon Cobourne and Chevon Walker. As everyone and their grandmother knows, Cobourne was a healthy scratch for last week's season-opening loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, with Chevon Walker getting the start. Walker then went on to rush for 132 yards on seven carries, including an 89-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. But Hamilton still lost the game, and lost it badly, to the tune of 43-16. It was an almost inexcusible home loss to the team that finished last in the league last season. A new season means new realties, but the Cats should have beat the Riders.

So Cobourne sat and he has said all the right things when asked about the situation, which should come as no surprise. He was nothing but professional in the winter when the team signed Martell Mallett to replace him. He quietly asked for his release, was granted it, and never said another word about it. When Mallett got hurt and Cobourne was contacted, he came back. No bridges burned, no hard feelings.

But bringing him back came at a significant financial cost, which makes the decision to bench him all the more puzzling. He is reportedly one of the highest-paid running backs in the league (if not the highest paid) so it is very surprising the team would make the decision to have him be a healthy scratch given the economics of the situation. If you're paying a player that much money, you expect that he should be on the field producing.

There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when trying to figure out how to deploy both Cobourne and Walker. The ratio is a great place to start, but as always, that can be worked out if the team has good enough players. The same can be said about Cortez's explanation that if one of them were a "top-notch kickoff and punt returner" it would be easier to get them both on the roster. If the team has enough talent, that can be compensated for. When the team used Cobourne and Terry Grant at running back last year, Grant never ran back kicks or punts (at least according to the stats found on the CFL's website). So they found a way last year to put two import running backs on the roster without one of them being a kick or punt returner, so I don't understand why they couldn't do the same this year.

At some point, the Ti-Cats are going to have to find a way to get both Cobourne and Walker on the roster at the same time. Sitting Cobourne just doesn't make any sense, but taking Walker off the gameday roster is also not a good idea. Using them in tandem, as the team did with Cobourne and Grant last year, would be the best way to maximize the skill at the running back spot. Whatever changes the team has to make, regardless of how difficult they may be, are necessary for the Ticats to field the best team possible, because the best team has Avon Cobourne on it.


  1. If you sign Avon, you have to use him, he's a very good blocker and gets you the tough yards.

    I know it would take some work in practice but why not go with a 4 receiver and 2 back set using Chevon and Avon. Only on short yardadge situations do we usually bring in a FB. This would help the ratio as our Canadian FB is usually replace by Onrea Jones (import).

    Maybe you could try Walker at kickoffs. Punting is difficult but I think he could handle kickoffs.

    As for Eiben/Knowlton, I hope that was just a 1 week experiment. We get our normal 3 linebackers playing their NORMAL positions and work the ratio with your DBs and line.

    The ratio doesn't hold us or anyone back at the end of the day. You have to get your best imports on the field, no matter what.

    This is why you need to have a Canadian line. 5 Canadians on your oline plus Giguerre and Fantuz, you are laughing!

  2. The team doesn't even have to have them both in the backfield. Just replace the import backup receiver (Jones) with Cobourne, and let all that Canadian receiving talent see the field more often (Stala was used sparingly last week, Charbonneau-Campeau played well enough in pre-season to get some reps, and Brown was being talked-up after the off-season workout but didn't see much action either in the game). Then you have options at RB, deploying them based on their strengths - blocking vs. receiving vs. inside running plays vs. outside runs, etc.

    And Walker DID return 3 kickoffs last week, for a not-too-shabby 22 yard average. I find it hard to believe that kick and punt returns are so specialized that a fast running back, who is used to handling the ball and catching it sometimes too, as well as following his blocks and looking for open seams, cannot adapt to kick/punt returns. It might be a taller order for a DB to do it, but a running back?

    I don't buy that Avon isn't in good enough shape yet either. I'd take him at 80% over just about anyone.

    The ratio and having adequate backups is a concern, but the team HAS TO find a way to make use of its best players. Last week they left one of them in street clothes.