Hamilton Tiger-Cats regain receivers, returner and cornerback for Saskatchewan showdown

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Published October 6, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Slotback Anthony Johnson, who showed a flash of why he has NFL seasoning before being injured, cornerback Ciante Evans and return ace Lawrence Woods III are back for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ must-win game on Friday.

The Tiger-Cats (4-10), who are coming off of a bye week, host the struggling Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-9) at Tim Hortons Field on Friday (7:30 p.m., TSN/RDS/AM900CHML/Ticats Audio Network). The Tiger-Cats’ hold on the third and final East Division playoff spot is tenuous since Saskatchewan, with a four-point lead over a Hamilton squad, is in position to become a cross-over team. Hamilton is also six points behind the second-place Montréal Alouettes (7-7) with only four games remaining.

The Roughriders have also been leaking oil of late, with a four-loss streak.

The six-foot-two, 220-pound Johnson, who had looks from three NFL teams in as many seasons from 2019 to ’21, signed with Hamilton in April and was projected as a prototypical slotback due to his combo of size and strong hands. In his debut on July 16, he made a 51-yard reception on his first-ever CFL target and later scored a 15-yard touchdown. Those were his only catches before he suffered a wrist

Johnson, Canadian Lemar Durant and Tim White will draw into the slot in the receiving corps on Friday, while recently acquired CFL rookie Terry Godwin II will made his first start as the boundary-side wide receiver. Godwin has also spent time with NFL teams.

Two proven receivers, Steven Dunbar Jr. (one-game list) and Papi White (six-game), have been ruled out of action.

The playmakers and protection group around quarterback Dane Evans return intact from the 23-16 defeat against Montréal on sept. 23.

Defensively, Evans is back in at cornerback. Rodney Randle Jr., who was removed from the field on a stretcher two weeks ago, is now listed on the practice roster.

Safety Tunde Adeleke has an officially clean bill of health after being a game-time decision two weeks ago. The only other defensive change is that Malik Carney will play the end spot that is often occupied by Mason Bennett when the Tiger-Cats need to get to the ratio of seven Canadian starters.

Rookie defensive end Cedric Wilcots II, who came east in the Alden Darby trade earlier this week, will dress as a backup.

The club also announced that defensive tackle Lee Autry II was released.

Woods III went down during the Aug. 20 defeat in Montréal, which was one of two last-minute losses to the Alouettes that might potentially swing the Tiger-Cats’ season.

The speedy St. Louisan has raced, bobbed and weaved to 1,469 return yards in 10 games this season, including a CFL second-most 735 kickoff-return yards with one touchdown. Woods averages 23.7 returning kickoffs and 14.6 taking back punts.

Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo, not unlike Evans, has been hard-pressed to turn nice passing lines into points. Last Friday, he was 26-of-38 for 307 yards against the vaunted Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence during a 31-13 defeat.

Three of Saskatchewan’s four defeats on the losing streak were against the Blue Bombers.

Saskatchewan has lost four in a row to keep the door open for Hamilton to keep some slim playoff hope. Three of those defeats were against the powerhouse Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but Saskatchewan also contrived to lose at home against the lowly Edmonton Elks during that stretch.

To claim a cross-over berth, the fourth-place West Division team must have an outright better won-loss record than the East’s third-place finisher.

Hamilton has three games remaining after Friday, while Saskatchewan has two.

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