Although the Ottawa Redblacks fell to 3-15 in the 2019 CFL season, the team saw a lot of talent come through to help the team. Whether it was a veteran player like Brad Sinopoli who’s been in Ottawa since 2015, or Jerod Fernandez who was signed mid-season by the Redblacks and is off to a great start to his career, the Ottawa Redblacks have a solid roster put together and going through the next season the team will see a lot of improvements.
Usually improvements to professional sports teams include blockbuster signings, and big trades but in Ottawa there’s a different way to make improvements. Through the years the Redblacks have been able to take the “next man up” system to the next level. From Trevor Harris taking over for Henry Burris to Avery Williams helping fill Damaso Munoz’s role, the Redblacks’ front office has done a great job of finding the right players to fill certain holes.
That doesn’t mean the team doesn’t sign or trade for players, as this off-season the team ended up bringing in big names such as Nick Arbuckle (Quarterback), Cleyon Laing (Defensive line), and Anthony Coombs (slot back), but in all the guys coming back from previous years play big roles in the depth chart.
For instance, this coming season the team will see a group of receivers play the “next man up” role after watching Dominique Rhymes and Caleb Holley walk in free agency. Among the receivers to watch out for in 2020 is both DeVonte Dedmon and Jerminic Smith. Coming back for their sophomore year of their professional careers and after playing 8 games as a pair, catching a total 12 passes for 145 yards the two receivers will be big pieces to the Redblacks offensive system.
When asked about the two receivers, Ottawa Redblacks director of player personnel JM Edmé says, “(Jerminic) Smith is a guy that is a really polished receiver. He moves really well, he has the speed to stretch the field and from watching him play a bit last season, being active in his rookie year we think highly of him to be a force on the team.” And for Dedmon he mentions, “He’s going to make a big impact (on the team)… If you ask really anybody I work with in Ottawa everyone can agree on how special (DeVonte) is. Last year he was able to open eyes on the success he had and being coached by Bob Dyce on special teams is another part to his success, but on the offense too with Paul (LaPolice) coming in he can really change the game and be a game changer on the field and when he’s on the field we have high hopes for DeVonte.”
Of course many would say that the offense is the most important part of a team, but along with the offensive players returning to Ottawa in 2020, there is a great group of defensive guys too. Last year, the Ottawa Redblacks defense suffered some injuries in the secondary. Losing both Antoine Pruneau and Jonathan Rose for the majority of the season gave opportunities to younger guys on the team and coming into the next CFL season, the younger guys are set to play big roles on the team.
In the defensive backfield for the Redblacks, both Brandin Dandridge and De’Chavon “Gump” Hayes are making their ways up on the defesnive depth chart. Filling in the holes on the defense the young duo (Hayes 27, Dandridge, 23) tallied 34 defensive stops as well as 3 interceptions coming from Hayes. Considering Hayes played just 7 games while Dandridge payed just 4, theres a chance the two DBs play big roles on the defense in future years and the future starts now. Starting the future now, the defensive duo will be coached by CFL great Mike Benevides, who will be thrilled to have the two on his defense.
Also on Benevides’ defense in 2020 will be Darius Jackson and Kene Onyeka. The two are young defensive linemen from the Ottawa Redblacks 2019 roster, Onyeka is a 23 year old from Carleton University in Ottawa and as a rookie last year he appeared in just 6 games, mostly playing special teams racking up 3 tackles on the year. Onyeka’s defensive line partner Darius Jackson on the other hand played a lot on the defensive side of the ball in the 5 games in his rookie year. As a rookie he was able to get 12 total tackles and 1 sack.
In total, the Ottawa Redblacks have a lot of talent in each position on the team, but out of all of them the linebacker position for the Redblacks must be one of the strongest and youngest. Along with Unamba and Mulamba who were brought in this off-season the team has Avery Williams who was Ottawa’s MOP candidate a year ago but if ever they need a backup to play a role, they have a list of great players to play. At linebacker, the Ottawa Redblacks discovered a good group of young players last year, one being Jerod Fernandez and the another being Shaheed Salmon. In 2019, the two combined for 60 total tackles and 3 forced fumbles. Staring of the two was Fernandez with 53 defensive tackles and 2 forced fumbles in 11 games. Going into the 2020 season, Fernandez will be one of many great players coming to the defense, but is without a doubt a favorite behind Unamba and Williams on the depth chart.