featured image courtesy of the Ottawa Redblacks
The Ottawa Redblacks kicked off their 2021 CFL season on the road against the Edmonton Elks. In their week one battle they brought home a win, having beat the Elks 16-12 and all of the momentum that was created in Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton was brought home with the win. It was a huge defensive and special teams win for the Redblacks. Edmonton’s Trevor Harris was sacked and intercepted 3 times and Bob Dyce’s special teams unit generated over 130 kickoff and punt return yards, kicked 3 field goals and punted the ball 11 times for a total 534 yards and even though the offence may have only moved the ball 127 yards all game, 71 in the air and 56 on the ground, they showed glimpses of what can be coming in tonight’s matchup in Regina.
Ottawa’s offence will need to move the ball much better and have some big plays in tonight’s game to remain in it as Saskatchewan’s defence looks to be much better than the Elks defence they faced in week 1. Saskatchewan sits at 2-0, having beat both the B.C Lions and Hamilton Tiger Cats. They have shown some weaknesses in the short passing game, which for quarterback Matt Nichols is his forte and in the two games they’ve played as of yet they have had some problems with the speed receivers and the deep ball. Each of these, alongside the run game which Saskatchewan hasn’t really seen yet this season, only defending 20 rushing attempts in the first two games of the season, are things that the Ottawa Redblacks need to attack in their game at Mosaic Stadium. The run game will be handled by Timothy Flanders once again who ran the ball 11 times for 39 yards in his first game in red and black but they may also throw both DeVonte Dedmon and Ryan Davis into the run game on jet sweeps and other wildcat formation and plays with Brendan Gillanders out of the lineup. Both Dedmon and Davis can also be featured as speed receivers, maybe even finding themselves in the deep ball with Jordan Smallwood, RJ Harris and Michael Klukas who can also make an impact in that category. As for the short game, Flanders had plenty of success earlier in his career catching passes out of the backfield, Daniel Petermann is great with his run after catch and Nate Behar has been a solid possession receiver over his career with Edmonton and Ottawa, they can each be found in the short passing game, as well as RJ Harris and Ryan Davis who caught some balls in week one.
Outside of that, the offensive line will need to play lights out. Saskatchewan have already found themselves in the backfield on a number of occasions early on in the season, having 8 sacks to the team’s stats, 6 coming in their last game against the Tiger Cats. Ottawa is without veteran offensive lineman Nolan Macmillan tonight, so the young offensive linemen like Tyler Catalina, Jakub Szott, and Juwan Bushell-Beatty who are getting some of their first tastes of CFL football will need to defend Matt Nichols extremely well and also make way for Flanders to get the run game moving.
As for the defensive side of the ball, week one was a big game for them. They proved that they can not only play in this league together but win in it as well. In Saskatchewan they will want to continue to get to the quarterback and stop the run game. Cody Fajardo isn’t the same quarterback as Trevor Harris who Ottawa lined up against in week one, he brings the run game with him as well while he’s in the backfield so not only do you have to get to him in the backfield but you have to ensure you don’t let him scramble away from you. He is coming off of a monster game against Hamilton where he ran the ball for 66 yards and a touchdown, that is the opposite of what Ottawa wants to see in tonight’s matchup. Mike Benevides will be looking to also stop the short passing game, something that Fajardo has been extremely efficient with early on this season, completing 75% of his passes as of yet and also find a way to stop the run game with not just Cody Fajardo but William Powell as well. Powell was once on our side of the football field, serving as the Redblacks starting running back since the tail end of the 2015 season. He has since made a name for himself, running the ball consistently and effectively. He currently has 30 carries for 132 yards and 1 touchdown to his name, which split between the two games he would average just under 70 a game, so if the Redblacks front seven, led by defensive linemen Avery Ellis, Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman and linebackers Avery Williams and Micah Awe can hold him under 50 yards that would be crucial to stay in the game and not let them run the clock on offence.
All in all, the Redblacks have a big test in front of them in tonight’s game at Mosaic Stadium, and with the Montreal Alouettes loss last night against the Calgary Stampeders they can now improve to 2-0 and the top of the eastern division with a win over the Roughriders. It may be a little early on in the season to be talking about the standings but in a short season it will mean a lot to win the games early in the season and get moving. Tune into the Ottawa Redblacks second game of the 2021 CFL season tonight on TSN and ESPN2 at 7:00 eastern day light time and wear your red and black as they kickoff against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in front of the 13th man who the Redblacks will have to play against as well.