On Wednesday night the Ottawa Redblacks kicked off week 10 of the 2021 CFL season against the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field in Toronto and on Monday they will close out the week with the Argonauts as well. The Redblacks will play the Montreal Alouettes at 1:00 on Monday while the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats kickoff at 4:00 for a Canadian Thanksgiving double header. Monday’s game, for the Ottawa Redblacks looks as much like a “do or die” situation as it gets. They are 2-6, and eventhough the Elks are 2-6, Alouettes are 3-4, and the Stampeders are 4-5, every game that the Ottawa Redblacks play moving forward has to be looked at as a must win. If they happen to win each of the next 6 games, the Redblacks would finish the season with a 8-6 record and likely find themselves in the second or third spot in the eastern division depending how the rest of the league plays but to be able to find themselves in that position come late November, head coach Paul LaPolice and company would need to make all of the right decisions and the team will have to play at their best going forward.
Some players that would have an impact on the remainder of the 2021 CFL season and would be in the front lines of a late season push for a playoff spot, starting with Monday’s game in Montreal would be quarterback Caleb Evans, running back De’Lance Turner, receivers Ryan Davis and R.J Harris, offensive lineman Mark Korte, defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike, linebackers Avery Williams, Micah Awe and Don Unamba as well as defensive backs Sherrod Baltimore and Abdul Kanneh and kickoff returner DeVonte Dedmon.
At the top of the list is 23 year old rookie quarterback Caleb Evans. Making his debut in professional football just a week ago against the Edmonton Elks, Evans impressed the entire CFL, throwing for 191 yards and 3 scores while running for 59 yards on the ground. Against the Argonauts it was a different story, in his second career start Caleb Evans hit a few obstacles, throwing three interceptions, two of which going for pick sixes and losing 35-16 against Toronto, but he did in fact throw for 334 yards and run for 54, making his totals over two games; 525 yards in the air and 3 scores as well as 113 yards on the ground. The Alouettes have a very similar quarterback in Vernon Adams, both having the ability to not only throw the ball extremely well and accurate but also extend plays with their legs and establish the run games as a quarterback. The run game he’s established though, running for 113 yards has been on a limited number of rushing attempts, 13 to be exact. Possibly in the next couple of games as the offence sees a change at running back with De’Lance Turner making his first career start on Monday and Evans continues to get comfortable in the Redblacks backfield we see those numbers go up and see more points on the board as well.
De’Lance Turner will be replacing Timothy Flanders at running back and will look to provide a much needed spark in the run game for the Ottawa Redblacks and young quarterback Caleb Evans. Running backs Flanders and Justin Davis who have started all 8 games for the Redblacks have a combined 309 yards rushing on 84 attempts, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and zero scores on the ground. Turner hasn’t had a starting role since University, but at Alcorn State for his senior season in 2017 he ran for 1,357 yards and 10 scores and had a total 1,569 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage, while averaging 7.8 yards per offensive touch. If he is able to do half of what he did that season where he averaged over 130 yards per game played, Turner would be a major reason for any change in offensive success.
Some success the Redblacks have seen on offence over the past two weeks though with rookie quarterback Caleb Evans calling the shots has been in the pass game. Despite throwing three interceptions against Toronto on Wednesday at BMO Field, it is clear that Evans has earned the trust of his teammates, and most specifically the receiving core who have been playing lights out with him at quarterback. Both receivers Ryan Davis and R.J Harris have been his favourite targets by far and with Kenny Stafford out against the Montreal Alouettes on Monday they will continue to be looked at as threats to CFL defences for Ottawa. They have a combined 21 catches for 344 yards and 1 touchdown over the past two games with Evans, averaging as a duo 10 receptions, and 172 yards per game. Expect to see a lot of Davis and Harris against the Alouettes, but lined up at receiver in Montreal is also Nate Behar, Anthony Coombs and Michael Klukas as Canadians. They, as well as both Daniel Petermann and DeVonte Dedmon may see some targets from Evans and have potential to make a play in the Redblacks offence.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ottawa Redblacks have seen consistent success. Defensive coordinator Mike Benevides has a group full of positive energy, led by linebackers Avery Williams who is two tackles shy of the league lead, Micah Awe and Don Unamba who combine for 77 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, as well as defensive linemen Cleyon Laing, Avery Ellis, Davon Coleman and Praise Martin-Oguike who have 11 sacks together, 4 from Martin-Oguike as the team-lead as well as defensive backs Abdul Kanneh and Sherrod Baltimore that are back in the lineup together against the Alouettes. Benevides saw Abdul Kanneh back in his lineup against the Argonauts, but Kanneh and the secondary will now see veteran defensive back, defensive playmaker and fan favourite Sherrod Baltimore who is ready to make a difference in the Redblacks’ secondary. Baltimore and Kanneh had a great game together in week one of the CFL season against the Elks, combining for 14 tackles and of course Kanneh had the two interceptions which changed the game. The Redblacks have had success on defence with who they’ve had in the system, but with this duo back in the defensive backfield, it is clear that they will be able to do so much more as a group and may even be able to turn the ball over against that Alouettes receiving core and Vernon Adams.
Another player and performance to be on the lookout for that the Ottawa Redblacks would love to see against the Alouettes would be DeVonte Dedmon’s return to Montreal. On August 2nd 2019 Dedmon suited up for his third career CFL game at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal and put on a show. Dedmon combined for 377 return yards, an Ottawa franchise record and scored two return touchdowns. Unfortunately he suffered some injuries which sidelined him in 2019, but in 7 of the Redblacks’ 8 games this season Dedmon has 1,346 return yards, 153 yards of offence and 3 touchdowns all-purpose, 2 of which being return touchdowns. If Dedmon were to make the most of his return to La Belle Province, the Redblacks and rookie quarterback Caleb Evans will see themselves getting good field position and may even have points put on the board by Bob Dyce’s electric special teams unit which could help change the game and help the Redblacks improve to 3-6.
Watch the Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes on Monday at 1:00 on TSN, or live at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal and support the Redblacks as they look to turn the season around and make their way into the CFL playoff hunt.