For the first time in 667 days the Ottawa Redblacks will be kicking off a CFL game at TD Place tomorrow against the B.C Lions. The game will start at 7:00 with fans rolling in as early as 6:00.
After starting the season 1-1 on the road with a win over the Edmonton Elks and a loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders it will be good to have the Redblacks back in the nation’s capital, getting home field advantage for the first time of the 2021 CFL season however it will be a much different team than R-Nation may have gotten use to the last time the stepped on the field at TD Place. Not only because of the number of changes they made throughout the long off-season but also because of the injuries the team have suffered early on in the season. They’ve brought in a whole new regime in Ottawa since the last CFL season, having a new coaching staff and close to an entire new look roster, improving the team since the 3-15 season in 2019, but after the road trip to start the 2021 CFL season a number of those new players brought in as well as some veteran Ottawa Redblacks players have faced injury problems, making it even harder for Redblacks fans to keep up with who is who on Saturday for the team’s home opener.
The players taken out of Saturday’s lineup include defensive backs Sherrod Baltimore, Abdul Kanneh, and Gump Hayes, defensive linemen Stansly Maponga, Cleyon Laing and Stefan Charles as well as receivers Anthony Coombs and Jordan Smallwood and running back Timothy Flanders. Of course these injuries could be a big blow to what the Redblacks may have had planned for the home opener, however it also creates a large opportunity for other players to step in and make plays. Kanneh, Baltimore, Laing and Coombs are all big names in the CFL. Without a doubt the Redblacks will miss having them in the line-up against the Lions, but in to replace them are a group of young guys that have been waiting their entire football careers for an opportunity just like this. On the offensive side of the ball we will see the first looks of Charone Peake and Justin Davis as well as younger receivers DeVonte Dedmon, Michael Klukas and maybe Wesley Lewis. Peake, a former Clemson wide out spent time with the NFL’s New York Jets after being drafted by them in 2016. He is a 6-foot-2, 210 pound receiver that brings strength and speed to the offence while Justin Davis, another key player R-Nation should keep eyes on will bring that exact speed alongside explosiveness and big play potential from the running back position. With Timothy Flanders in the offence the Redblacks were able to run the ball for good gains but never got past 8 yards. With Davis we may break that 8 yard long on the first drive of the game. He is explosive off of the snap and is very agile, making it hard on defenders to get hands on him. He was an exciting player to watch at USC and in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and should bring the same excitement to the Redblacks.
As for the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Marcus Lewis and Brad Muhammad are set to make their first CFL starts as well as defensive end Praise Martin Oguike. Also changed on the defensive side of the ball is the swaps of Cleyon Laing and Stefan Charles for Ese Mrabure and Davon Coleman in the interior defensive line. The linebacking core remains the same with Avery Williams, Micah Awe and Don Unamba leading the charge.
Despite all of the injuries and changes made to the Redblacks roster for the home opener at TD Place it will remain an exciting game. The B.C Lions are coming to Ottawa 1-2 and has a fire power offence with Lucky Whitehead and Bryan Burnham out wide and Shaq Cooper running the ball. They also have a good defence led by former Redblacks J.R Tavai and Anthony Cioffi alongside T.J Lee and Marcus Sayles but the young Redblacks offence and even their defence should be able to keep up with what they have set up.
See for yourself during tomorrow night’s game at TD Place as the game is set to begin at 7:00.