some conclusions, but not too many) based on what I saw during the preseason – I have lost count of how many times guys looked like all stars in the preseason and then flamed out in the regular season – but there is a reason for the preseason and there is no fun in saying, "Wait until the regular season starts." This was also the first training camp that I was able to attend. While I didn't make it out to every practice, I made it to more than my fair share. So with that said, here are a few things that I learned over the past three weeks.
Henry Burris still has plenty of game left
I will wait until after Labour Day to pen my mea culpa article on Henry Burris, but from the looks of it I was way off when I said that Burris was done. He has looked magnificent during the preseason and seems ready to take back his spot atop the quarterbacking mountain. I don't care what resident Winnipeg loud mouth Jovon Johnson has to say, Burris has looked mighty impressive in his three quarters at the helm of the Tiger-Cat offense.
Chevon Walker could start
As happy as I am to have Avon Cobourne back, and as bummed as I was that Martell Mallett got injured, the most impressive running back I've seen has been Chevon Walker. He has speed to spare and hits the hole with amazing burst. If Cobourne goes down at some point this season, the team's running game will be in good hands with Walker.
Josh Bartel is good, but still a work in progress
I have been impressed a lot by what I saw out of Josh Bartel, especially when it came to the distance he got on his punts. The guy has a big leg. That said, part of me wonders if his leg is too strong. I know that sounds silly (borderline stupid even) but in the game against Winnipeg he kicked his punts so far that the Winnipeg kick returners were able to field them with almost no one within 10 yards on them. I have seen him kick in practice and he gets good hang time, but he needs to do that consistently if his powerful league is to be an asset. I'd rather the team get 40 yard punts and two yard returns as opposed to 55 yard punts with 25 yard returns. Bartel is new to football, so hopefully he can master this as time goes on.
The lines still need work
Injuries have made it difficult to judge the offensive and defensive lines, but they still don't look like dominant units. Now, I don't believe they have to dominate in order for the team to be successful, but they need to be solid. I thought the offensive line did a good job against the Argos, but not against the Bombers. The running lanes and pass protection that were present in the Argo game were not there in the Bomber game. With the defensive line, I found the opposite. They were nearly invisible against the Argos, but played very well against Bombers. I think if both units are 100 per cent healthy, the lines should be fine. But both still need to be better.
George Cortez is the right guy for this team
I was a fan of Marcel Bellefeuille's and thought that he could lead the Tiger-Cats to a championship. I don't subscribe to the theory that he was too soften spoken or too passive to be successful. If you don't think an even-keeled coach can win a championship, see Tony Dungy. But I also was not unhappy to see George Cortez hired as his replacement. It could just be a case of the team needing a new voice to get them over the hump – the Tom Higgins-to-John Hufnagel change in Calgary back in 2008 parallels nicely with this one – and I can't think of a better man than Cortez to be that voice. I've have been very impressed with how he's handled himself and the team during practices. He lets his coaches coach and only intervenes when he has to intervene. I never saw Bellefeuille run a practice, so I can't comment on the differences, but I like what I have seen from Cortez on the practice field. He is the right man at the right time for this team.