HAMILTON -- The Hamilton Tiger-Cats want to give oft-criticized quarterback Danny McManus some freedom tonight.
In an effort to recharge their struggling offence, the Ticats are opening the door for McManus to call some of his own plays and take a few more shots downfield.
So says coach Greg Marshall, whose Tiger-Cats (0-1) play host to the tough-looking Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-0) tonight in Hamilton's home opener at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
"I do believe that (attempting long passes) is important," Marshall said. "It was good for us last year. Saskatchewan does cover down very well, but guys like D.J. Flick, Chris Brazzell and Craig Yeast need to make some big plays. If we're going to be successful, we do have to have ball control. But I believe if we're going to win this football game, we've got to beat them on some big plays."
Last week, during a 31-21 loss against the Montreal Alouettes, the Ticats used a conservative offensive approach and called all the plays from the sidelines. Tonight, Marshall hinted, McManus will have more of a say at times.
With Hamilton fans getting restless -- ignoring the pre-season, McManus hasn't led the team to an offensive touchdown in the team's past two games -- the 40-year-old will need to make some good throws early to keep an expected near-sellout crowd from chanting backup Marcus Brady's name.
"Last week we didn't perform that well offensively," McManus said. "Defence and special teams did a great job. We have to go against a pretty good defence in Saskatchewan. They've got some good guys up front that can put some pressure on the quarterback and plug holes."
Marshall has said all week he wants to give Brady some meaningful playing time, but stressed McManus remains the clear starter. If the offence can get in gear, the Ticats think they will be dangerous.
"We scored 21 points with no offensive touchdowns (against Montreal)," Brazzell said. "We might be a good team."
With a bye week coming up and games against three tough Western opponents -- at Saskatchewan, home to B.C., and at Edmonton -- on the horizon, tonight becomes more than just another game.
"We need to play with that sense of urgency," Marshall said.
"This is a very important game for us. We do not want to drop to 0-2 ... Is it a must-win to make the playoffs? Obviously not. But it's a must-win for ourselves and the confidence of our team right now."
The Riders, coming off a 42-15 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, will start all-purpose threat Corey Holmes at running back in place of the injured Kenton Keith (ribs).