After opening up the season 1-0 in Edmonton against the new look Elks at Commonwealth Stadium in a 16-12 defensive victory, the Ottawa Redblacks have lost 3 straight. Losing to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the road and both the Montreal Alouettes and B.C Lions at home in front of R-Nation at TD Place, the Ottawa Redblacks have seen a lot of changes and improvements. The first look at those changes and improvements will come in the Redblacks first re-match of the season as they face off once again against former Ottawa Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell and quarterback Michael Reilly who lead the B.C Lions. The first matchup ended in a 24-12 win for the Lions and a loss for the Ottawa Redblacks, but it was a game that Redblacks quarterback Matt Nichols was in for and was held to just 206 yards passing and threw one interception. As for this upcoming game against the Lions once again it will be quarterback Dominique Davis calling the shots on the offensive side of the ball alongside head coach and offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice.
Davis entered the last game against the Alouettes last week in the second quarter and showed success moving the ball and also scoring points. He ended up going 23 of 33 for 291 passing yards and a touchdown, interception ratio of 2:2 while rushing for 38 yards and a touchdown on 8 rushing attempts in three quarters of the 51-29 loss to Montreal. Even-though the game ended in a Redblacks loss and nothing was perfect by any means, Davis succeeded on offence. Despite throwing two interceptions, one being a Patrick Levels pick-six he threw the Redblacks’ first passing touchdowns of the season and had next to zero issues throwing the football to the top targets in R.J Harris, Nate Behar, Daniel Petermann and Ryan Davis. He also threw to receiver and return specialist DeVonte Dedmon twice for 52 yards in the Montreal game but will be short both him and running back Justin Davis in tonight’s game in Vancouver due to injuries. The two playmakers missed all practices this week and will be replaced by both Anthony Coombs and Timothy Flanders who come off of injuries of their own.
The Redblacks offence will consist of receivers R.J Harris, Nate Behar, Ryan Davis, Daniel Petermann, Anthony Coombs, Ervin Phillips and Wesley Lewis, running back Timothy Flanders and full back Anthony Gosselin around Dominique Davis in his first start of the 2021 CFL season but where the Redblacks will need to step up once again will be on the defensive side of the ball. In last week’s game against the Alouettes the Redblacks offence moved the ball efficiently. Davis scored three touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball and made a difference compared to the past games which Nichols was in charge for but it was the defence that showed inconsistency. They had forced the Alouettes to 5 field goal attempts and a punt but they scored 5 offensive touchdowns on the Redblacks defence who looked like one of the best defences in the league early on this season. If the Redblacks defence, led by coordinator Mike Benevides can get back to their week one selves, get in the back field and force turnovers they can help the Redblacks offence in a big way, especially with returner DeVonte Dedmon out of this week’s game, they will not be able to rely on the big returns to get them in good field position unless Ryan Davis is able to do so.
In tonight’s game the Ottawa Redblacks will need to get to the quarterback to have any chance at winning the game defensively. Mike Reilly is one of the league’s premier quarterbacks and is able to throw on the run efficiently. If they can sack him early on in the game, they may be able to take some of the passing game out of their play book, especially with both Lemar Durant and Dominique Rhymes out for the Lions at receiver. They will also need to force turnovers. The last time Ottawa had a takeaway was in week one against the Elks where they intercepted Trevor Harris 3 times and won their only game of the season thus far, to win the game they need to win the turnover battle. As for the offensive side of the ball, establishing the run game can go a long way. With Flanders at running back he will need to prove that he can move the ball well on the ground. Justin Davis was able to break for a few long 10+ yard runs in his two starts while he was out with a hip injury, Flanders will need to be able to do the same and more to help Dominique Davis out in the passing game. Also on offence, Davis will have to find receivers Ryan Davis, R.J Harris and Nate Behar early on in the game. Davis caught 8 passes for 70 yards the last time they faced the Lions and with a couple of drops in there as well he could have had 10+ catches, Nate Behar is coming off of two electric performances, catching 10 of 14 passes from Redblacks quarterbacks for 123 yards and R.J Harris is the only receiver for Ottawa to break the 100 receiving yard goal this year and stays consistent moving the chains. If that trio is able to move the ball early in the game, combine for around 150 yards in the first half, they can open up some catches for other receivers like Anthony Coombs, Daniel Petermann, Ervin Phillips and Wesley Lewis who can each make big plays themselves.
One last major thing that Ottawa must do to win their week 6 matchup against the B.C Lions would be to be impactful on the offensive line. A problem for Matt Nichols in his first two starts of the season where he was sacked 11 times and threw two interceptions was that he didn’t have enough time and he wasn’t able to make time for himself. Davis is at least able to create time for himself with his legs, however there will be plays where he needs to stay in the pocket where he will need help from the line and running back Timothy Flanders will need help of his own as well to establish the run game. It will be crucial for the Redblacks to be able to limit the sacks and also run the ball well against the Lions if they want to win this game and they need to win this game heading into a week 7 bye week.
Watch tonight’s Redblacks-Lions game on TSN or at B.C Place stadium in Vancouver and be sure to cheer on Dominque Davis and the Ottawa Redblacks as they look to turn their season around.