Ottawa Redblacks’ roster set for week one; what can R-Nation expect from the 2021 team, season predictions

After an extra long CFL off-season the Ottawa Redblacks are set to kickoff next week on the road against the Edmonton Elks. Coming off of a 3-15 season in 2019 and an off-season full of outside noise doubting the team’s decisions and future moving forward the Redblacks’ look to shut up the outside noise early on.

Some players that are able to make that happen for the Redblacks officially made the roster on Friday following their 3 week training camp which began on July 10th. The Redblacks final roster includes quarterbacks Matt Nichols, Dominique Davis, Caleb Evans and Taryn Christion (Practice Roster), running backs Timothy Flanders, Brendan Gillanders and Justin Davis (Practice Roster), full backs Anthony Gosselin and Mitch Raper (Suspended List), receivers R.J Harris, Daniel Petermann, Nate Behar, Anthony Coombs, Jordan Smallwood, Ryan Davis, DeVonte Dedmon, Marco Dubois, Jerminic Smith (Practice Roster), Rafael Araujo-Lopes (Practice Roster), Guillermo Villalobos (Practice Roster) and Michael Klukas (Practice Roster), offensive linemen Mark Korte, Nolan MacMillan, Tyler Catalina, Juwan Bushell-Beatty, Brandon Hitner, Na’Ty Rodgers, Jakub Szott, Andrew Pickett, Ketel Asse (Practice Roster), and Jamar McGloster (Practice Roster), defensive linemen Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman, Stefan Charles, Avery Ellis, Stansly Maponga, Praise Martin-Oguike, Ese Mrabure, Kene Onyeka, Nigel Romick, Frank Beltre, Thomas Grant (Practice Roster), Reshaan Davis (Practice Roster), Clement Lebreux (Practice Roster) and Darius Jackson (Practice Roster), linebackers Avery Williams, Jerod Fernandez, Micah Awe, Adam Auclair, Tyron Vrede, Frankie Griffin, Dwayne Norman, Brad Cowan, Dan Basambombo, Fredric Chagnon, and Shaheed Salmon (Practice Roster), defensive backs Sherrod Baltimore, Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans, Antoine Pruneau, Don Unamba, Justin Howell, Marcus Lewis, Gump Hayes, Treshaun Abrahams Webster, Brad Muhammad (Practice Roster), Brandin Dandridge (Practice Roster) and Tony Anderson (Practice Roster), and special teamers Lewis Ward, Richie Leone, L.P Bourassa and Jose Maltos (Practice Roster).

With all of the players on the Redblacks’ 2021 roster there are a number of players that Ottawa Redblacks fans may be unfamiliar with, including some that were in the capital for the 2019 CFL season but soon will be extremely familiar to R-Nation because of the success they’ll have this season.

Out of everything that the Ottawa Redblacks’ fans should keep eyes on and could expect for the 2021 CFL season from their favourite team, the biggest would come at the quarterback position. In 2019 the Redblacks had three different quarterbacks start games for them in Dominique Davis, Jonathon Jennings and Will Arndt but with the addition of Matt Nichols, a CFL veteran quarterback this off-season the team expects him to start each of the team’s 14 games this season. One large prediction coming from Matt Nichols would come from his efficiency. Nichols, in each of his 7 wins from the 2019 CFL season in the 9 games he played prior to suffering injury with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers kept his incompletion and interception numbers down, finishing with a 15:5 touchdown, interception ratio for all 9 games. If one were to predict how he performs for Ottawa in 2021 it would be a prediction of his 2021 touchdown: interception ratio at 20+ touchdowns and less than 8 interceptions. The quarterback, in 18 games over his 2017 CFL season threw for 28 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, so he has done it before and with a new look offence in front of him and a familiar Paul LaPolice calling the shots for him it is very much possible to do it again and potentially do it better.

Catching passes from Nichols this CFL season will be number one receiver R.J Harris, and a committee of Daniel Petermann, Jordan Smallwood, Nate Behar, Anthony Coombs, DeVonte Dedmon and Marco Dubois. Some predictions coming from the receiving core would include R.J Harris going over the 1,000 yard marker. A milestone he has come very close to the last two seasons in Ottawa in 2018 and 2019 but now with an expanded role it will happen for Harris. Staying in the receiving core, CFL rookie Jordan Smallwood who has had experience with the Kansas City Chiefs and the XFL’s LA Wildcats following his career at Oklahoma University is in for a big year. After a huge training camp performance and with need for big plays at the receiver position in the 2021 Ottawa offence, Smallwood should be found in a similar role as R.J Harris’ when receivers Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli and Diontae Spencer were in the offence. Expect him to break the 700 yard marker for the Redblacks this season. The Ottawa Redblacks also have shifty, speed receivers with Ryan Davis, Anthony Coombs and DeVonte Dedmon who have the ability to not only catch passes but run with the rock as well. Expect that trio to combine for a minimum 1,250 yards of scrimmage this season while Canadian Daniel Petermann should have some where around 50 catches this season, finding his way into the Sinopoli, possession catch role while also having the ability to run after the catch the Canadian pass catcher is in the right position here in the nation’s capital.

Shifting over to the defensive side of the ball, on the front seven, potentially one of the best front sevens in all of the CFL the Ottawa Redblacks should be able to, at the minimum match their sack totals from 2019 with 28 or more. The Redblacks have brought in key defensive linemen Davon Coleman, Cleyon Laing and Stefan Charles this off-season who are each expected to make large impacts to the defensive side of the ball while also bringing back Avery Ellis who had 7 sacks in 2019 and has 16 in the three seasons with the Redblacks and signing Frank Beltre, Praise Martin-Oguike and Stansly Maponga who each have the ability to get to the quarterback and have shown it previously in their football careers. Along with the sacks, the Ottawa Redblacks have also brought in quite the defensive secondary, which paired with a great front seven could force a lot of turnovers. In 2019 the Redblacks forced 35 turnovers. If the Redblacks defence plays to the best of their abilities, with Don Unamba, Sherrod Baltimore, Antoine Pruneau and Abdul Kanneh placed behind Cleyon Laing, Micah Awe, Avery Williams, Avery Ellis, Jerod Fernandez, and Davon Coleman they could get somewhere around 27 turnovers in 2021. Some specific predictions on the defensive side of the ball would come with Don Unamba having a monster 50-plus tackle season with 5 sacks and minimum 3 takeaways, Avery Williams having an 85 plus tackle season, the interior defensive line of Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman and Stefan Charles combining for 15 plus sacks and a dynamic duo of Abdul Kanneh and Sherrod Baltimore making a total 12 interceptions together in the defensive backfield.

Last but not least, the Ottawa Redblacks’ special teams unit is always among the best in the league. Expect nothing different this year as Bob Dyce returns to the coaching staff for the 2021 CFL season as Ottawa’s special teams co-ordinator and the kicking duo of both Lewis Ward and Richie Leone stays in tact. Kickoff returner and punt returner DeVonte Dedmon has high potential heading into year two with the Redblacks and R-Nation could see a similar special teams unit as the one they saw in 2018. Ward and Leone handling everything kicking, L.P Bourassa doing his thing as the long snapper and DeVonte Dedmon filling in at that Diontae Spencer role on special teams but also on offence potentially alongside speed receivers Ryan Davis, Anthony Coombs and Michael Klukas.

Expect a much different team than the one you last saw in 2019 when they kickoff against the Elks next Saturday.

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