After playing the Toronto Argonauts last Wednesday night, losing 35-16 in a well played defensive game and Caleb Evans’ second start of his professional career the Ottawa Redblacks found themselves in Montreal on thanksgiving Monday to play the Alouettes. Going into the game, R-Nation knew they’d see a different team being played by the Ottawa Redblacks. Seeing Sherrod Baltimore and Abdul Kanneh back in the line-up together on defence made it a game to watch, while on the offensive side of the ball Caleb Evans was given a new weapon with running back De’Lance Turner who Timothy Flanders was benched for. Turner, heading into the game hadn’t had much exposure to Redblacks fans, other than some stats at Alcorn State and 12 NFL games with minimal touches but was soon a fan favourite in the run game.
The Redblacks ran him 10 times on the ground for 71 yards, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, even having a 28 yard run and 15 yards on 3 receptions and it was clearly a bright spot in this Ottawa offence, as well as for Caleb Evans in his young CFL career but the run game needs to be used even more now that it is working. Prior to this game against the Alouettes the run game wasn’t hitting for the Ottawa Redblacks. Starting running backs Timothy Flanders and Justin Davis averaged just a total 3.7 yards per carry. It has been hard to establish the run game for the Ottawa Redblacks, and many different factors have played into exactly that but after a 71 yard performance on the ground and 86 yards of offence gained in his CFL debut it is clear that things are changing in this Ottawa Redblacks offence with De’Lance Turner in the backfield alongside Caleb Evans who also ran for 64 yards in Montreal and Paul LaPolice has to take advantage of the opportunities he now has to be able to run the ball. Running De’Lance Turner 15 to 20 times a game, if he does three quarters of what he did in Montreal, there could be 80 to 110 yards gained on the ground from him alone, plus what Evans has been able to do on the run, this will change the way defences look at the Redblacks’ offence and also gives Caleb Evans help as he continues to progress in his first year in the CFL.
In Montreal against the Alouettes, the Ottawa Redblacks lost the game in the long run. It was a 20-16 win for the Alouettes, and the game ended with 24 seconds left on a Cameron Artis-Payne game winning touchdown. Many would say it was a depressing loss for the Ottawa Redblacks, and as much as they should have won that game, having had the lead a lot throughout the game, they beat themselves in Montreal, and they are the reason why they lost to the Alouettes, because it is clear that the Alouettes did not play a very good football game themselves. On the offensive side of the football, Caleb Evans threw the ball to Ryan Davis and RJ Harris just 3 times for 43 yards. Going into the game, with Evans at quarterback the two playmakers had a combined 344 yards on 21 receptions, they are both leading receivers in this Redblacks offence and have helped the offence on multiple occasions. Limiting them to just 3 catches in a must win game is not the way to go. They will need to be put into the game plan more moving forward, like De’Lance Turner after his success against the Alouettes. The offensive line for the Ottawa Redblacks also had given up 5 sacks to the Alouettes, including two on the opening drive of the game, and to keep quarterback Caleb Evans on his feet and healthy to close out this season, the sacks need to be eliminated, and the offensive line will need to improve. There have been a number of injuries to the line this season, and its understandable that there have been issues on the offensive line, however with a young, promising quarterback in the backfield, and now a talented running back in De’Lance Turner, better protection will be needed moving forward.
As for the defensive side of the football, on the opening Montreal Alouettes drive of the game, on a Jake Wieneke score, where he was wide open on a slant route in the end zone, there were just 11 of 12 players on the field. Stefan Charles came onto the field to replace a defensive lineman to be able to rush Vernon Adams, and Sherrod Baltimore was called off of the football field as well, taking two players off of the defence for one. That is a mistake made by the coaches above and needs to be looked at on film this week and cannot be made again. Also on defence, the Ottawa Redblacks defence struggled on making tackles early on in plays, allowing the Alouettes offence to extend on plays and gain additional yardage on multiple occasions, and although the defensive front was able to get to Vernon Adams on 6 occasions, there has to be more pressure on the quarterback throughout the entire game. Adams felt free in his backfield for a large portion of the game on Monday and that needs to be stopped as the Ottawa Redblacks enter the remainder of their 2021 CFL season.
That season now has 5 games left on the schedule, 2 more against the Alouettes, the next being on Saturday at TD Place, 1 against the Calgary Stampeders, Hamilton Tiger Cats and Toronto Argonauts. It may be stretching it, but if the Ottawa Redblacks are able to improve and come back after beating themselves in two straight games against the Argonauts and Alouettes, there is a real chance of being 5-0 to close out the season considering the opponents they have left. With a 7-7 record the Redblacks would then be able to make it into the playoffs and change everybody’s outlook on the franchise moving into the future.