Although there is a lot of uncertainty around the 2020 CFL season and if it happens but when the day comes and the Ottawa Redblacks step on the field, they should be more than ready to get back in the grey cup run. After a Grey Cup loss in 2018, the team took a big change losing some of their biggest offensive weapons to free agency which led to them losing 15 games and missing the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. Names like Diontae Spencer, Greg Ellingson, and William Powell are tough to replace and with that said, many are unsure they will ever be replaced but after making a splash in this year’s free agency period the Ottawa Redblacks might have put themselves in a position to win games offensively once again.
In this year’s CFL off-season the Ottawa Redblacks focused mainly on the defensive side of the ball. Signing big names like Cleyon Laing, Abdul Kanneh, Don Unamba and then drafting Adam Auclair in the first round it is clear that they improved on defense, but how are they suppose to win offensively with all these defensive players? Well, even-though they weren’t as advertised as the other moves this off-season the Redblacks did bring in a group of offensive guys that are ready to make an impact in the team’s future.
At receiver, the Ottawa Redblacks already have a big name Canadian in Brad Sinopoli but they were even able to get their hands on veteran slot-back Anthony Coombs. Coombs, other than Arbuckle may be the biggest offensive acquisition of the off-season as he has a productive six seasons behind him.
Signing a one-year contract with Ottawa, Coombs will be a good veteran presence for younger Canadians that were even signed this off-season, starting with Malcolm Williams. Williams isn’t exactly the youngest of the bunch but he still has some good football years left in him. In just 3 seasons in the CFL, the 26 year old has proven to be a Canadian game changer, winning not one but two Grey Cups while even catching for over 300 yards. Like Coombs, Williams has a good amount of experience behind him in the three years, playing in 29 games he might be able to show younger guys how to excel in this league as he has won two Grey Cups in the three years in the CFL.
The veteran presence of Sinopoli, Coombs and Williams can play a big role for the future of newly signed receiver James Tyrrell. Tyrrell, the rookie receiver brought in just in December will likely be on the practice squad to start the 2020 season, but if he is given the opportunity to play he might be able to slide in as a good Canadian playmaker on the team.
Also a couple of Canadian playmakers that have already been with the Redblacks for a few years now would be both Brendan Gillanders and Marco Dubois. At running back and on special teams, Gillanders has been a key part to the Redblacks team and many would’ve thought he was going to be big on offense last year after losing Powell but maybe his time is now. Coming back for the 2020 season (or future depending on covid-19) Gillanders will be in the backfield with both John Crockett and Timothy Flanders having the chance to be a big piece to the team as one of the seven potential Canadian starters, so even-though the Redblacks didn’t go out and draft a running back like Pellerin or Johnson the team is well off with the 29 year old Canadian.
As mentioned earlier, the team also has Marco Dubois. Dubois has been with the Redblacks after being drafted by them in the 2018 CFL Draft and has been all over the place on the offensive depth chart since. Playing from the slot, at tight end and even at the full-back position, Dubois in the two years has been able to catch 8 passes for 55 yards and his most memorable 2018 East Final touchdown. He doesn’t have the flashiest numbers on the offense but he has been a key player on the special teams unit making 6 tackles and some big blocks in the past year and at just 24 years old he could finally play just as big as a role on the offense. Playing on the offense is something he is used to and is a reason why he was brought in by Ottawa, so his 6-foot-4 height and time with the Redblacks over the past two seasons could help him transform into a big time player for the Redblacks in the future.
Yes, all of these players have the potential to play big roles for the Redblacks, but will they? Well, that’s still undecided. The team already has a group of talented Americans on the offense with R.J Harris, Jalen Saunders and John Crockett so fitting into starting spots could be tough but if they prove themselves from their backup positions or working hard on the practice squad they just might be able to live to that potential, so stay tuned and look out for the Redblacks’ Canadian talent.