The Ottawa Redblacks went into Tuesday night’s game against the Edmonton Elks with a 1-5 record. Everyone around the league and outside of the facility at TD Place doubted the team and figured the team wouldn’t win another game this season, however after putting 34 points up against the Elks and watching the Redblacks play a fantastic game on all sides those doubters should be silenced and forced to watch the team respectfully. It is something a lot of R-Nation has done all season, after watching the team perform in training camp and early on this season it was proven that the Ottawa Redblacks have an outstanding defence led by coordinator Mike Benevides, like every year Bob Dyce has put together a solid special teams unit. Kickers Richie Leone and Lewis Ward are two of the best in the game and DeVonte Dedmon is the most electrifying returner in all of the CFL, maybe the history of the game too and on top of all of that the offence has proven to have the right pieces, they just need to click all together. When the offence clicks, well you saw it last night.
Caleb Evans, in his first career start threw for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns with a 68% completion percentage while adding 59 yards rushing on 7 scrambling attempts. Running back Timothy Flanders was able to gain 45 yards on the ground as well as 16 in the air including a 15 yard receiving touchdown but the real help in the pass game came from both Ryan Davis and RJ Harris for Evans. Davis caught 5 of 8 targets for 67 yards and a score while also throwing the ball once for a 37 yard completion to Kenny Stafford. Harris had 80 yards receiving on 4 receptions and caught one momentum building 44 yard pass, his second 40+ yard reception on the season. Also on offence, Kenny Stafford caught two passes (Ryan Davis’ 37 yard pass and a Caleb Evans touchdown) for 44 yards and a score in just his second game with his new team and Anthony Coombs caught 3 of 4 targets for 21 yards, just a few steps away from a touchdown on a corner route in the end zone early in the game.
The Redblacks’ defence also had a huge impact on the game, starting early on when they forced a turnover on Edmonton’s first play from scrimmage. They finished the game with 3 takeaways, two interceptions off of Taylor Cornelius and one forced fumble on Greg Ellingson. It was both Brandin Dandridge and Antoine Pruneau that came up with the interceptions while Don Unamba was the one that made the play on Ellingson to force a fumble and put the Redblacks in the position early to go up 14-0. Unamba finished the game with 9 tackles, 1 sack and the forced fumble, Davon Coleman, Praise Martin-Oguike, and Avery Ellis also came up with sacks, Avery Williams had 5 tackles, and so did Cleyon Laing but where the sparks came to the offence outside of the defence and their turnovers were from the special teams unit and DeVonte Dedmon’s crazy abilities.
Dedmon, who returned two kicks for touchdowns in a game against Montreal in 2019 and found himself in the end zone again last week against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats returned a punt 73 yards for a score against the Elks in the third quarter. The return was one of 8 on the night for a total 250 yards returning. He averaged 31.25 yards each time he touched the ball and if last night’s performance, on top of what he did last week and every week before that isn’t enough for the entire CFL to realize how impactful he is and what kind of player he is for the Redblacks, I don’t know when they will wake up. Dedmon now has 1,319 yards all-purpose on the season on 69 touches. If he indeed gets consistent touches on the offence like he should, Dedmon will be a part of the Ottawa Redblacks’ turning point this CFL season.
They go into a road game next week in Toronto with a 2-5 record. If Montreal falls to the Tiger-Cats this week they will be 2-5 as well while both Edmonton and Calgary currently sit at 2-5. It may be a big if at this point and there is a long way to go, but the Ottawa Redblacks are still very much in it this season and after a huge win against the Elks’ it may just be young players like Caleb Evans who demonstrated great knowledge and ability to play quarterback at this level, Ryan Davis who is having a tremendous rookie year at receiver with 325 yards and 2 touchdowns in the air as well as 24 rushing yards, 37 passing yards and just under 300 return yards and DeVonte Dedmon who has been electrifying thus far that will make large impacts in the turning around of a bad start to the 2021 season. As for the defensive side of the ball, expect to see Avery Williams, Micah Awe and Don Unamba to continue to make plays at linebacker while Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman, Avery Ellis and Praise Martin-Oguike get to the quarterback and defensive backs Antoine Pruneau, Gump Hayes and Randall Evans make plays in the secondary while they wait for veteran playmakers Abdul Kanneh and Sherrod Baltimore to come back from injury.
Once Baltimore and Kanneh are back in the defensive line up for the Redblacks’ coordinator Mike Benevides will have all of the right pieces to have the best defence in the CFL, they will just need to make plays like they have been to prove it to everyone. Against the Argonauts next Wednesday the entire league should have eyes on 23 year old Caleb Evans who could legitimately be the future of the Ottawa Redblacks, 24 year old Ryan Davis, 25 year old DeVonte Dedmon and veteran defensive stars Micah Awe, Don Unamba, Davon Coleman, Avery Williams and Antoine Pruneau because they, along with many others on the Redblacks have been and will continue to make plays for R-Nation to cheer for.
The Ottawa Redblacks have talent. They have what it takes. They just need to click together like they did on Tuesday night against the Elks. Don’t underestimate them and you better respect them.