The Tiger-Cats offensive line is a position group that has been criticized by fans and analysts for several years. Chris Van Zeyl has been a part of the Tiger-Cats offensive line since 2019 and has had to directly experience the turmoil that has surrounded this position group. In 2022 Chris Van Zeyl started the season at right tackle for the Tiger-Cats but then suffered an injury, and missed the rest of the regular season while being listed on the injured list.
In a post-season press conference, Van Zeyl addressed his frustrations and his opinion on the development of the Tiger-Cats offensive line. When asked about the season he mentioned being frustrated, “sometimes it goes well, sometimes you have these seasons when it is up and down like a roller coaster.” He also added that some of that frustration comes from the constant changes to the offensive line in 2022 and the process of developing chemistry, “it takes longer for all that to happen when a new group comes in and a little tentative and do not want to take the reins right off the bat.” The lineup for the Tiger-Cats offensive line was fluid in 2022, but at times progress was made and there was measurable growth exhibited by the offensive line.
The fact of the matter is that the 39-year-old Van Zeyl was the 2nd oldest player in the CFL. He spent two-thirds of the 2022 season injured and was not able to actively develop the chemistry that is required for an offensive line to gel and become a consistent unit. During the first six games of the season, while Van Zeyl was at right tackle, the offensive line allowed 3.2 sacks per game.
During the 12 games of the season that Van Zeyl was on the injured list, the offensive line averaged 1.5 sacks per game. Van Zeyl’s status as a national offensive lineman does give the Tiger-Cats some flexibility concerning their personnel and the ratio rule. But it seems as if the Tiger-Cats will need to evaluate Chris Van Zeyl’s performance during the off-season and determine if he will be a part of the Tiger-Cats in the future.
Van Zeyl was drafted by Montreal in 2007 in the CFL draft and played 11 seasons with Toronto. He has been a part of the Tiger-Cats offensive line since 2019. Van Zeyl stated in the post-season press conference “I have every intention of coming back (for year 14) if anyone can do it, then I can do it.” With that desire to continue playing in mind, the Tiger-Cats will have to decide if they will continue to ride with Van Zeyl or make moves to continue gathering younger talent with more upside to build around in the future.
While potentially losing Van Zeyl could seem like a loss, it is important to remember he was not available for the majority of the 2022 season. When he was not available many offensive linemen were given the opportunity to step up and the overall performance of the offensive line improved. It will be interesting to see if Hamilton chooses to hang onto Van Zeyl, or makes moves to get more athletic with this critical position group.
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