Ticats ready to claw away

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

As much as he thinks he has improved his Hamilton Tiger-Cats this off-season, Bob O'Billovich can't help but think the same thing when he ponders the East Division.

"Montreal will still be the team to beat in our division," the Ticats general manager said. "They were the only East team that had consistency at quarterback last season, and Anthony (Calvillo) is back. Toronto, ourselves, Winnipeg, we had too much inconsistency at that position."

The Alouettes cruised to the East title in 2008, finishing six points ahead of the Blue Bombers. The Ticats and Argos shared the Canadian Football League doormat, both managing to avoid the playoffs. Toronto shored up its offensive line with the signings of Rob Murphy and Dominic Picard and traded for linebacker Zeke Moreno.

A half an hour down the QEW, the Ticats countered with the signing of offensive lineman Alexandre Gauthier, whom the Argos had coveted, and defensive lineman Matt Kirk. Earlier, the Ticats added linebackers Otis Floyd and Agustin Barrenechea.

The Ticats and Argos have one big factor in common since their respective '08 seasons ended: They both said goodbye to marquee players, as Toronto lost special teams king Dominique Dorsey to the Washington Redskins, while the Ticats released quarterback Casey Printers and saw oft-injured running back Jesse Lumsden sign with the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Argos' pain of losing Dorsey will be greater than what the Tiger-Cats will feel with the subtractions of Printers and Lumsden.

NOT WASTING TIME

O'Billovich doesn't waste time thinking of what could have been had Printers not been a complete bust and Lumsden not suffered enough shoulder troubles to last a career. But had both men done for the Ticats what they had been paid to do, it's likely Hamilton would not have languished at the bottom of the CFL with a 3-15 record.

One position O'Billovich did not upgrade was that of quarterback. But he is confident in Quinton Porter, and Porter will have the inside track on the starter's role when training camp opens in a few months. The Ticats like what they saw in the brief glimpse they had of Adam Tafralis, and Richie Williams also is in the picture. Josh Betts and Erik Meyer also have been signed.

"He's the guy who really showed some progress, some really good signs for us," O'Billovich said of Porter. "He's geared up."

Even with Lumsden gone, the Ticats are strong on the ground with Kenton Keith, Terry Caulley and Tre Smith.

Can the Tiger-Cats get back to the CFL playoffs?

"I think we can," O'Billovich said. "It's a realistic shot, and it will be our goal."


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