CFL.ca presents ‘Off-Season Depth Chart’, a series of articles reviewing every team’s depth chart at is stands to date. Note that these are not official team-issued depth charts, but projections based on insight and analysis from around the league, and don’t include 2022 CFL Draft picks.
HAMILTON — With two straight-Grey Cup appearances under their belts, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats didn’t need to do much tinkering with their roster this off-season.
It’s clear that the team that took them to the final game in 2019 and 2021 is one that can win, despite the fact that they fell to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in both season finales.
Yes there’s plenty continuity throughout their roster but there are also a handful changes on both sides of the ball that fans will notice when they hit the field this summer. There’s a new monstrous defender in the trenches in Micah Johnson, while the 1A and 1B quarterback tandem is no more, as Dane Evans heads into the new season as the bona fide No. 1 under centre.
Plus with an impact Canadian at receiver, Lemar Durant, and a returning face in the secondary, Richard Leonard, the Ticats will hope that this time they can finish what they started the last two seasons this November in the championship game.
As mentioned, there’s no battle for the starting position at QB. With Jeremiah Masoli, one half of the tandem the Ticats rolled with in 2021, now in Ottawa, it’s Dane Evans‘ team. Evans will have some returning targets to through to this season in Steven Dunbar Jr., David Ungerer III, Tim White and Bralon Addison. Addison struggled with injuries in 2021 so he didn’t play the full season but when he is able to suit up in every game, the receiver is as dangerous as they come – he played in 16 games in 2019 and hauled in 1,236 yards and seven touchdowns.
A new addition to the Ticats receiving corps is Canadian Lemar Durant. Durant played 74 games over six seasons in the CFL with the Lions (2019-21) and Calgary Stampeders (2015-2018), registering 183 receptions for 2,353 yards and 13 touchdown receptions. He’ll be a welcome addition for Evans to spread the ball around to.
As the season ended last year, it was Don Jackson who exploded out of the backfield for Hamilton. In his first start in Week 13 against Edmonton, he rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown. In four regular season games, he registered 44 carries for 245 yards and one rushing touchdown as well as eight receptions for 94 yards and one receiving touchdown. In the playoffs and Grey Cup, the five-foot-10, amassed 200 yards and a major score. Jackson could be the starter this season, depending on the ratio and his availability, but if not, they have another running back that is just as talented in Sean Thomas Erlington.
With Darius Ciraco leaving Hamilton to join Masoli in Ottawa, the Ticats were on the lookout for a new centre. It could be Alex Fontana, who signed with the Tabbies earlier this year in February, taking over starting duties. But as is the case with any position on the roster, the battles in training camp will help the coaching staff make those decisions.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ticats look pretty similar to how they did in 2021, with a few new faces sprinkled in.
They have four returning DBs in Jumal Rolle, Ciante Evans, Tunde Adeleke and Cariel Brooks. The one new addition, Richard Leonard, is no stranger to Ticats fans, however. The five-foot-eight, 168-pound DB returns to Hamilton after spending a season in Calgary with the Stampeders. Leonard had his best season to date in 2019 as a member of the black and gold, amassing 55 defensive tackles, four interceptions, a touchdown, and two forced fumbles.
The middle of the defence looks quite familiar, with Simoni Lawrence roaming the outside at WILL and Jovan Santos-Knox patrolling the middle at MIKE. The only difference is the addition of DB Alden Darby, who should slot in nicely as the team’s new SAM linebacker, a position he lined up at with his previous team, Winnipeg.
With playmakers all over the roster, the Ticats will hope they can make it to the Grey Cup once again but this time, hoist the coveted trophy themselves.