Since the Ottawa Redblacks last stepped foot on the field at TD Place a lot has changed on the offensive side of the ball. The quarterbacks are different, the running backs are different, the receivers are different and the offensive line is different, giving R-Nation a new look offence to look at, mainly at the wide receiver position.
In 2019 the Redblacks’ had Dominique Rhymes, Caleb Holley, RJ Harris, Brad Sinopoli and Noel Thomas making major impacts at receiver but with only Harris and Sinopoli coming back to the offence in 2021 for new quarterback Matt Nichols it will be much different. The top three receivers coming into 2021 will be RJ Harris, Brad Sinopoli and newcomer Jalen Saunders. Both Saunders and Sinopoli have reached the 1,000 yard mark already in their CFL career while Harris has reached the 700 yard mark in each of his two seasons in Ottawa (well 697 yards in year 1, 774 year 2). All three will likely serve as Nichols’ top targets at the same time that receivers Anthony Coombs, Jerminic Smith, Daniel Petermann, DeVonte Dedmon, Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Malcolm Williams, Wesley Lewis and Marco Dubois each put themselves into the mix as experienced CFL receivers and playmakers alongside some young newcomers making their ways into the CFL for the first time.
Of all the names mentioned, you are already aware of the names Brad Sinopoli and RJ Harris because of their achievements in Ottawa already but the other receivers and more still haven’t hit the surface eventhough they are bound to make an impact in the 2021 season with the Redblacks.
At the top of that list would be Jalen Saunders. Saunders spent two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2017 and 2018 before becoming a free agent, signing with the XFL for the 2020 season that had later been cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In Hamilton he hit the 1,000 yard mark in his very first season having caught 76 passes for 1,170 yards and four touchdowns in sixteen games. He then came into 2018 as the Tiger Cats number one receiver alongside Brandon Banks where he caught for 739 yards in just 9 games played, averaging over 80 receiving yards per game. Saunders, despite getting into a major car accident this off-season should be set to play for the Ottawa Redblacks and bring his firepower to the offence just like some other speedy receivers like DeVonte Dedmon, Rafael Araujo Lopes and Anthony Coombs. In 2019 when Paul LaPolice was calling the shots on offence for Winnipeg he had Nic Demski and Lucky Whitehead making plays left, right and centre as plug and play players on the offensive side of the ball. They were able to catch passes from anywhere on the field and even have the ability to carry the ball when Andrew Harris was on the sidelines. The plays you saw made from Demski and Whitehead for the Blue Bombers could be made by Araujo-Lopes, Dedmon and Coombs because of the skill sets they posses as well as the film we have previously on them. In 2019 Coombs had 20 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns as well as 37 rushes for 158 yards, combining for 314 yards with the Tiger Cats while both Araujo Lopes and Dedmon combined for 1,113 all-purpose yards on 57 touches over the span of just 7 games, Dedmon playing 5 games, scoring two touchdowns on special teams and Araujo-Lopes playing 2 games catching 6 passes against the Edmonton Elks. The versatile trio should without a doubt be looked at be all Redblacks fans going into the season as they all have the opportunity to show out on a big stage come August 5th when the season opens.
Also set to make an impact in 2021 for the Ottawa Redblacks would be returning receivers Jerminic Smith, Shannon Smith, Marco Dubois and Wesley Lewis as well as new comers Daniel Petermann, Ryan Davis, Anthony Mahoungou, Joe Walker, Justin Hobbs, Cortrelle Simpson and Amba Etta-Tawo. Of those named, Jerminic Smith, in just two games played in 2019 caught 8 of 11 targets for 87 yards and had one carry for 11. Wesley Lewis caught both targets in two games for 17 yards and at 6-foot-5 he has the chance to be the big body receiver the Redblacks will be missing without both Dominique Rhymes and Caleb Holley in the capital.
With all being said, the receiving core in Ottawa looks to be headlining Brad Sinopoli, RJ Harris and Jalen Saunders in 2019 while their supporting cast and underrated playmakers would be Jerminic Smith, DeVonte Dedmon, Anthony Coombs, and more. Keep all eyes on the receiving core battles in training camp next month as the team still is yet to put out a depth chart showcasing who is ahead of who going into the season.