If you look atop the 2019 CFL team statistics, you’re going to become quite familiar with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
They’re one and two in points for and allowed, touchdowns for and allowed, and opponents pass efficiency — oh, and they happen to have the top two CFL records after six weeks.
If you extend your filter to where the Tiger-Cats and Blue Bombers both land in the top three of CFL team statistics, the matching categories vastly increase with most rounded out by the Edmonton Eskimos, currently the third-best team in the CFL.
Winnipeg and Hamilton will square off at Tim Hortons Field on Friday night. At first glance, it’s tough to find advantages for either team. Their recent history doesn’t make things any clearer, with each team winning five of their last 10 meetings.
Aside from the field-side inconsistencies, the 5-0 Blue Bombers haven’t shown any concerning weaknesses, whereas the Tiger-Cats have shown few. For Hamilton, a temporary problem is Simoni Lawrence’s two-game suspension, but ongoing struggles at safety and even quarterback could be the difference Friday.
No Simoni Lawrence, Go Andrew Harris
One area where Hamilton has struggled is defending the run. Simoni Lawrence’s absence from Friday’s contest makes their struggles all the more important. Lawrence is a superb run defender with all-around skill and intelligence at his weak-side linebacker position.
The Bombers are fortuitous to have Lawrence beginning to serve his suspension in Week 7 for a hit he made in Week 1, but good teams tend to have some luck on their side.
Without Lawrence, Hamilton’s 120 rushing yards against per game should have Andrew Harris and the Bombers offensive line licking their chops. The Bombers already average 147 yards per game on the ground, good for second in the CFL.
Harris, who’s averaging six yards per carry, has yet to receive 20 carries in a game this season. It’s very likely Harris hits that number Friday, and if he maintains his average he’d hit exactly 120 yards.
It’s without a doubt advantage Harris and Winnipeg’s offensive line over Hamilton’s front seven featuring linebackers Nick Shortill, Justin Tuggle and Rico Murray.
Tunde Adeleke Struggles.. and Delvin Breaux?
When looking at Hamilton’s defensive passing statistics, one man stands out. Safety Tunde Adeleke has been responsible for a team-high 255 yards on an 85 per cent completion rate.
Even as a safety, Adeleke’s coverage numbers are lousy. He’s often dropping into man coverage and has been a step late on most of the balls thrown at his man.
Hamilton brought in the speedy Adeleke last off-season and he subsequently replaced National Mike Daly. After six games, Adeleke may not be Hamilton’s best option at safety with Daly eager to go back into his starting spot.
On the boundary side, cornerback Delvin Breaux hasn’t been so dominant in 2019. Breaux got the worst of numerous targets from Isaac Harker in Week 1 and Breaux’s taken a handful of costly pass interference penalties throughout the following weeks.
That’s not to say Breaux’s been bad. In fact, since Week 2 he’s been near stellar defending passes that do count on the stats sheet.
But he hasn’t been the lockdown corner he’s been in years past. Teams wouldn’t look his way as recent as last season, but in 2019 he’s seen as many targets as his teammates.
Breaux also briefly hurt his back in practice on Tuesday, although he’s unlikely to miss Friday’s contest. Darvin Adams is up against Breaux in what’s sure to be a dogfight.
Jeremiah Masoli Missing June
While reading The Athletic’s Kirk Penton’s outstanding weekly CFL post, one anonymous comment — from a CFL personnel member — stood out.
“That scheme June Jones ran over there was good for (Jeremiah) Masoli. He put up big numbers, but if you look at the game the way we do, you would have seen Masoli’s mechanics were getting worse as the season went on. This year they’ve gone to crap. Look at how his left shoulder opens. Look at him throwing off of his back foot. (Tommy) Condell may be a play caller, but he’s not a quarterback coach. Masoli’s mechanics were good under (Kent) Austin. Under the next guy (Jones), you could see his mechanics getting worse. Now they’re terrible. We’re surprised they aren’t self scouting better in Hamilton. It’s the first thing our defensive staff talked about. Masoli’s accuracy has been affected by his mechanics.”
Jeremiah Masoli’s biggest knock has been trying to do too much. Masoli’s arguably the league’s best play-extender which often results in unorthodox looking passes. But too often interceptions result from sequences where he could’ve given himself up and regrouped.
Most recently versus Calgary, Masoli’s thrown for under 200 yards in both of Hamilton’s games versus West Division opponents in 2019. He’s also tossed six interceptions in his last four outings.
Without Sean Thomas-Erlington, the Ti-Cats are one dimensional and frankly shouldn’t have a desire to force a run game that likely won’t succeed against Winnipeg’s front.
The Ti-Cats are coming off a bye, which may benefit Masoli with getting in some extra work with coaches Orlondo Steinauer and Tommy Condell after quarterback friendly head coach June Jones left the Ti-Cats back in May.
It’s up to Masoli to solve a smart, complete Bombers defence and show whether Hamilton has what it takes to dethrone the undefeated Blue Bombers.
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