Over the span of the last 20 months, since the last game at TD Place on November 1st of 2019 the Ottawa Redblacks roster has changed drastically. The very first time we will be able to see the roster together will be this weekend at the Ottawa Redblacks’ first CFL training camp practices, but who will you see on the field at TD Place?
To start off we’ve got two CFL veteran quarterbacks in both Matt Nichols and Dominique Davis. Davis who started for the Ottawa Redblacks in 2019 throwing for 2,216 yards and 5 touchdowns in 9 starts will be back behind Nichols like he was in Winnipeg back in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Matt Nichols will be coming to Ottawa for the first time in his career to start for the Ottawa Redblacks following the 2019 CFL season where he began the Grey Cup winning season for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In the 7 wins he had in the 9 games started for the Bombers in 2019 Nichols completed 121 of 161 attempts (75%) for 1,506 yards with a touchdown, interception ratio of 13:2. He was on pace, looking at those 7 wins to throw for 3,012 yards and 26 touchdowns in 14 games which he will be playing in 2021 with the Redblacks. He will be coming to Ottawa with a mission to prove everyone wrong and that the Redblacks made the right decision at quarterback. Behind both Nichols and Davis will be both quarterbacks Taryn Christion, and Caleb Evans.. Christion, a dual threat quarterback has the ability to play a Swiss army knife role with the Redblacks given his history in the NFL with the Steelers and Cowboys as well as the success he had in University running the ball for South Dakota State University.
At running back the Ottawa Redblacks will be having a training camp battle between CFL veterans Timothy Flanders and Brendan Gillanders as well as both Akeem Hunt and Detrez Newsome who enter the league following NFL careers. Flanders looks to be the favourite at running back having spent time in LaPolice’s offence previously. In 18 CFL games Flanders has an all-purpose 1,058 yards and 7 touchdowns on 150 touches. During the three games he’s started over his CFL career he has averaged 136 yards per game on offence, gaining a total 407 yards on just 57 offensive touches. Flanders, if fully healthy this year could see a lot of action and have success doing so.
Then at receiver, despite not having a retiring 1,000 yard receiver on the offence there is plenty of potential with the group coming in. Leading the pack is RJ Harris who has spent 30 games in red and black over the past two CFL seasons catching 111 of 161 targets for 1,471 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over the 30 games he has had 11 games with 70 yards or more and 12 games with 5 or more receptions. In the final 6 games he played in the 2019 CFL season Harris combined for 34 receptions for 388 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 5 catches for 64 yards per game in that time span. Behind Harris is returning CFL receivers Jerminic Smith, Nate Behar, DeVonte Dedmon, Michael Klukas, Anthony Coombs, Nate Behar, Wesley Lewis, Marco Dubois and Daniel Petermann. The group of returning CFL receivers in smaller roles combined for 1,639 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2019. Outside of those coming back to the CFL, newcomers Ryan Davis, Jordan Smallwood, Kendrick Rogers and Amba Etta-Tawo each look to make impacts on the offensive side of the ball while Cortrelle Simpson, Marvelle Ross and Terry Williams do the same.
To complete the offensive roster that the Ottawa Redblacks have coming into Sunday’s CFL training camp there is an interesting situation at the offensive line position. After losing both Jason Lauzon-Seguin and Evan Johnson in free agency and Alex Mateas and Alex Fontana to retirements this off-season there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, however they are not too serious of questions. The Ottawa Redblacks have plenty of depth at the offensive line position. They have Mark Korte and Nolan MacMillan coming back as starters and Daniel Omara, Andrew Pickett and Na’Ty Rodgers who have spent time in the CFL. Alongside those that have CFL experience the Redblacks also will host Jamar McGloster, Chris Ferguson, Connor Berglof, Ketel Asse, Jakub Szott, Tyler Catalina, Kai Absheer, Brandon Hitner and Josh Dunlop who will each fight to make the roster at training camp. In 2019 the Ottawa Redblacks struggled in pass protection at times and did not have a 1,000 yard rusher so there is room to improve up front moving into the 2021 CFL season.
As for the defensive side of the ball, the team coming into the 2021 CFL season is much better than the one in 2019. It is better all around, starting with the defensive line which features Canadians Cleyon Laing and Stefan Charles in the middle, Avery Ellis coming back on the edge and a question mark between the names of Stansly Maponga, Praise Martin Oguike, and James Crawford as for who would take the fourth spot on the defensive line. There is also a great amount of depth, having 2019 Redblacks returning in Darius Jackson, Nigel Romick, and Kene Onyeka as well as a list of newcomers which headlines both Davon Coleman and Reshaan Davis. Behind the defensive line, for the Redblacks is arguably the best linebacking core in the CFL. Returning Redblacks Avery Williams, Jerod Fernandez, Shaheed Salmon and Denzel Johnson look to make an impact with CFL veterans and stars Don Unamba, and Micah Awe coming in with draft picks Adam Auclair, Dan Basambombo and Brad Cowan. Coming off of a 2019 CFL season where the team went 3-15 and finished last place in the majority of defensive categories the Ottawa Redblacks have seen major improvements and the linebackers will be a large reason why the defence has success in 2021.
Outside of the front-seven, the Ottawa Redblacks defence is still great. Coming back to the capital, Sherrod Baltimore, Randall Evans, Antoine Pruneau, Justin Howell, Nate Hamilin, Brandin Dandridge and Gump Hayes each have an opportunity to have big 2021 CFL seasons while thats not the entirety of the defensive secondary in Ottawa. Abdul Kanneh, Marcus Roberson, Marcus Lewis, David Jones, Brad Muhammad, Ironhead Gallon, and Treshaun Abrahams Webster all come to Ottawa to make impacts of their own to get a Grey Cup ring in December and should all be looked at for Sunday’s training camp.
Moving on to the Ottawa Redblacks’ special teams unit which has been the best in the CFL for years led by Bob Dyce it remains the same as it was in 2019. Both Lewis Ward and Richie Leone will be helping the Redblacks win games with their legs, L.P Bourrasa will be the long snapper once again and DeVonte Dedmon is expected to return kicks like he did in Montreal on August 2nd in 2019 where he returned two kicks back for touchdowns. Ward and Leone also have a global backup again with Jose Maltos and Dedmon could see more action on the offensive side of the ball, leaving room for a Marvelle Ross or Terry Williams in the return game.
All in all, the 2021 Ottawa Redblacks is a team to be excited about. The new look Ottawa Redblacks will have a great opportunity to bounce back from their 3-15 season in 2019 and it all starts now in training camp.