Thursday, 26 February 2015

Hamilton's Running Back Riches

The recent re-signing and contract extension of two of the Tiger-Cats' talented tailbacks – Nic Grigsby and C.J. Gable, respectively - naturally sparks the conversation of what Coach Austin will do with his spoil of running back riches.

Before we discuss the options and potential deployment within this critical roster position, let us take a look at what Austin has with Gable, Grigsby and Mossis Madu.

The All-Rounder

Although Gable had an injury interrupted 2014 campaign, when you look back at the two dozen games he has played during his time in Hamilton there is little doubt that the former USC Trojan is one of the most complete running backs in the league today. Balance is not only the key to Carl Junior’s nifty running style, but also his contribution to the offense with an almost equal 991 yards rushing and 901 yards receiving. Equally adept at totting the rock as well as swinging out of the formation as a receiver, C.J.’s best attribute however may be in his stout pass protection blocking skills and blitz pick-ups.

Gable is the every-down, all-purpose back that can continue to be the main feature of Hamilton’s offensive attack.

The Rusher

Nic Grigsby was well on his way to contending for Most Outstanding Rookie before his time in Bomber-land came to an abrupt end. While the former Arizona Wildcats’ 4.56 yards per carry is not exactly what you would consider award worthy, his nose for the first down line and end zone is a quality that the Tiger-Cats desperately needed last year. Nic was the best league-wide with 50 carries that moved the sticks as well as leading all running backs with 11 rushing touchdowns. To put that into perspective, a little more than once in every four carries does the former centre-fielder convert for a new set of downs.

Grigsby can be the Hammer in Hamilton’s running game and be that key ingredient needed to salt away and preserve victories late in games.

The Receiver

Mossis Madu definitely made his mark in his inaugural CFL season coming out of the backfield. The former Oklahoma Sooner had an impressive average of 11.32 yards per reception in his 14 games played in black and gold. But even more impressive was his 347 yards after catch which works out to 7.89 per reception or nearly 70% of his receiving yards gained after the ball settled into his soft hands.

Madu can be that matchup nightmare coming out of the backfield or out of the slot position that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

The Reality and Solution

The roster restrictions in the CFL make it difficult to have three international running backs dressed on gameday. Training camp competition and potential injuries could very well make that a moot problem, but barring that head coach and general manager Kent Austin is faced with a difficult juggling situation.

I believe Gable is, and should be, the feature running back in Hamilton’s offense. I will just leave it there and direct people to the comments section to debate should you wish.

That leaves Grigsby and Madu. The simple solution is to dress one while stashing the other on one of the injury reserve or practice rosters. I doubt either player will spend any extended time willingly on the practice roster and would assume that there would be more than a couple teams that would make a claim upon their services, so using the PR is not a viable solution.

The issue then comes down to paying a player like Mossis or Nic while not getting any production if they are being sheltered on the IR. If you put either on the six-game IR, their salary does not go to Maximum Salary Expenditure Cap calculation, but their availability is severely limited. However, if they are inventoried on the one-game IR, their salary does count to the cap. Either way, you are not getting on-field production from either of these talented players.

A unique solution that would allow Hamilton to keep all three on the game-day roster and capitalize upon their differing skills would be to utilize Mossis Madu in the slotback position. The Norman, Oklahoma native reminds me of a slightly bigger version of former Ti-Cat Marcus Thigpen, current Eskimo Kendial Lawrence and veteran Argo slotback Andre Durie. In fact, he played his third season with the Sooners as a slot receiver before returning to running back for his senior season.

The options and variances of using all three players are truly very enticing.
  • The Great Grigsby establishing the ground game and converting in critical situations when everyone knows you are going to run. Play-action pass opportunities arise when the opposing defense brings more defenders into the box.
  • Able Gable keeping defenses honest by delivering that balanced approach. Getting the ball into C.J.’s hands via run or pass or sticking his nose into a pass rusher giving quarterback Zach Collaros that extra steamboat to go downfield to one of the other Ti-Cat targets.
  • Magic Madu coming out of the backfield in a two-back set with Gable or directly as a slot receiver creating a matchup problem for the opposition. Mossis is too quick for a linebacker to cover and too big for a defensive back to tackle.
The Ti-Cats need to get all three players into the game-day lineup and maximize the capabilities of their talented trio of resourceful running backs.

No comments:

Post a Comment