Mann, Cobourne dealing with smaller workload

Alouettes defensive back De'Audra Dix recovers a fumble by Tiger-Cats wide receiver Maurice Mann...

Alouettes defensive back De'Audra Dix recovers a fumble by Tiger-Cats wide receiver Maurice Mann last month. (Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:29 PM ET

HAMILTON - This is not the team that Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille envisioned having when the season started.

Receiver Maurice Mann has gone from gangbusters to just one of the gang. Avon Cobourne has gone from every-down running back to sharing the load. Arland Bruce’s season has evolved from go-to guy to just gone.

And, while Bruce is being credited with helping turn around the season in B.C., Mann has lost his position. He has gone from Kevin Glenn’s primary target to ... well, he’s not really sure how, or where, or when, he fits anymore.

All of which might be cause for concern except for one bright, shining light. They’re winning. It’s working.

“In this sport you have to be able to change, adapt. The (receiving corps) has completely evolved,” said Bellefeuille Tuesday. “We’ve transitioned. It’s definitely not what we envisioned at the beginning of the year but we’ll keep running with it.”

Mann had 173 yards his first two games but when he missed five due to a festering cut in his foot, the Ticats found gold in Chris Williams. He had two TDs his first game and by the time Mann was ready to return, Williams was entrenched in his position.

Then, there is the emergence of Marcus Thigpen, six catches and 139 yards against Calgary.

Terry Grant, meantime, has three TDs in his first two games as Cobourne’s rookie wingman. “He’s fast. He’s scoring touchdowns from 90 yards. I know I’m not scoring from 90 yards,” said Cobourne. “I’m being honest — from 50 yards, maybe. But not from 90. It’s great to have a guy who can score from any place on the field. With him on the field we’re a better team. He’s a great asset.”

Bellefeuille said Grant and Cobourne “complement” each other. Yet, it is equally true that in a league where the import ratio is a factor it is a question how long they can afford to play both at the same time.

Still, for now, it’s working big-time: “Both,” said Bellefeuille, “have different skill sets; Avon can get you all the tough yards and do all the little things in protection. Terry can give us the explosive play. Those are the things we envisioned when we put him in the lineup.”

Cobourne at least remains a huge factor in Hamilton’s offence. Mann? Not so often. In his first two games before being injured, Mann had 15 catches. He has 17 catches in the five games since returning.

“My role, my identity and my spot has changed. It’s ahh, interesting ... ,” said Mann, leaving his thought unfinished. Read into that what you want. If anything.

Mann provided a big target for quarterback Kevin Glenn, catching 56 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns in 2010. This off-season the club signed him to an extension through 2012 with intentions that he — along with Bruce — would be the core of the Ticats’ receiving corps. It hasn’t happened. Bellefeuille, Mann and the man who replaced him, Williams, could never have foretold such an outcome. “Very much so,” said Mann. “But you gotta do what they ask you to do. It’s definitely an adjustment not being as much a factor as you want to be in an offence.”

His personal disappointment is helped by the fact the team is winning. He said he doesn’t want to make waves allowing only that he has “a lot of stuff going on in the back of my head.

“You can’t try to fix it. As long as we keep winning I’ve got to stick to the plan. I just hope they find ways to keep me involved.”

Bellefeuille understands the adjustments facing Mann.

“Each week he’s getting more comfortable and I think it’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Cobourne, signed to be the signature back, watched Grant turn in the biggest play of the game in Saturday’s 27-12 win over the Argos. The rookie tailback had an 89-yard TD run and 115 yards on 10 carries.

“You could look at it in a negative way in that I’m not getting the carries I was, but at the same time, it keeps me fresh so when I do get the ball I’m better able to make the plays I’m supposed to make,” said Cobourne. “I still want the ball (but) if it’s his turn, he’s getting it. I don’t have any ill will because I’m still getting paid, he’s making plays, and the best thing is it’s working great. We’re winning.”

That, afterall is the balm that heals all torment.


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