Ticats won't panic, but maybe they should

HamiltonTiger-Cats QB Kevin Glenn is sacked during the Edmonton Eskimos home-opening win Saturday...

HamiltonTiger-Cats QB Kevin Glenn is sacked during the Edmonton Eskimos home-opening win Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)

Bill Lankhof, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:35 PM ET

HAMILTON — Two games into the season and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are already walking through the CFL’s valley of the shadow of death.

“Oh-and-two. Everyone is frustrated,” head coach Marcel Bellefeuille acknowledged Tuesday as the team prepares to meet the equally desperate 0-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Ticats are exhibiting cracks, emotionally and technically. They also seem in denial of same.

Or maybe it is some form of self preservation as they face the horrible reality that one more big oops can make them the CFL’s biggest loser.

Bellefeuille Tuesday dismissed the importance of the game; this after telling people it was like “looking down the barrel (of a gun)” in the aftermath of a 28-10 weekend weeper against Edmonton.

The offence can’t score, new running back Avon Cobourne has been a non-factor, the defensive secondary is in flux, there are questions on the offensive line and Kevin Glenn’s lack of mobility isn’t helping either.

In other words, the fan base is starting to wonder why this team was considered Grey Cup worthy in preseason prognostications; why a team that appeared to have a chance to start the season 4-0 is sputtering like a pass-starved Arland Bruce.

Speaking of Bruce, the Ticats’ deep threat, sat out practice Tuesday with what was said to be a “lower body injury”.

That left him unavailable to the media. Which was very convenient from a public relations standpoint considering his comments to TSN following the Edmonton game in which he caught three passes for 26 yards. “I’m shocked. I feel like I’m the guy to go to, a game breaker and when I don’t get involved it’s frustrating,”

Bruce has five receptions for 48 yards and no TDs this season. “I guess we’re going to look at the film, again, and see what changes we can make but something’s got to change ASAP,” he told TSN.

Bruce later told other reporters he was just frustrated. Bellefeuille maintained Tuesday that leaving Bruce sitting in the Ivor Wynne dugout while his teammates practised had nothing to do with his complaints about being left out of the offence.

Bellefeuille also defended offensive coordinator Khari Jones’ play-calling. “Khari has made some good calls... it’s a matter of execution. We’ve looked at the film. There were some self-inflicted wounds.”

Like Bruce not coming down with a pass early in the game.

Like Cobourne. The much-heralded free agent had just 35 yards against Edmonton. Rookie left tackle Brian Simmons looked over-matched and veteran Belton Johnson was practising in his place Tuesday. While Bruce sat, his place was taken by another of Bellefeuille’s’ prodigal pass-catchers, Marquay McDaniel.

“We’re going to tweak the roster. Nothing major. But that’s our responsibility to get this thing better,” said Bellefeuille. “Nobody is panicking. We know where we have to get better.”

He declined to say whether that tweaking would include playing McDaniel, who has been on the injured list with what can best be described as a case of “dropsies”.

This is as close to a must-win a team can find itself in just three games into the season and leaving a 1,000-yard receiver on the bench might be questionable. “There’s a number of players not playing who could help us,” waffled Bellefeuille. “There is a sense of urgency. We’re looking at that closely.”

McDaniel came just six yards short of 1,000 last year but said Tuesday “I thought I had the worst year, ever. I should’ve had way better numbers. I just dropped too many balls.” So, a drop to sixth or seventh on the depth chart didn’t come as a surprise.

But, these are desperate times. Bellefeuille said Bruce should be able to play Saturday. But when the next-leading receiver after Maurice Mann is the running back, with 74 yards, maybe McDaniel isn’t such a bad option.

“I was trying to run before I had the ball. I’m better than that,” said McDaniel, “and I want to show the coaches.”

Showing the coaches instead of showing them up?

Now there’s a concept. With the muzzle on, it’s difficult to gauge what Bruce is thinking. Bellefeuille maintained he’s “been stellar” off the field, will likely play Saturday, and that “his comments, after the game, I didn’t think were negative in any manner.”

Maybe. Meantime the Ticats can only hope that, when it comes to Bruce’s lower body injury, whatever is bothering him from the neck up heals just as quickly.

 


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