Just over two weeks ago the CFL was introduced to Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Caleb Evans for the first time. The Mansfield, Texas raised quarterback found himself starting for the Redblacks in week 9 against the Edmonton Elks after spending 6 games as the team’s third string quarterback. Evans threw for 191 yards and a score as well as ran for 59 yards in his debut in place of the injured Matt Nichols and Dominque Davis. He has since started two more games, against both the Argonauts and Alouettes on the road and eventhough he may not have had the most electric starts in those games like he did on his opening night in the CFL, Caleb Evans has continued to pick up on a number of things and has progressed, making this week’s game against the Alouettes at TD Place a game to watch all across the CFL.
Evans will return to TD Place where he had his CFL debut, and coming off of a game against the Alouettes, who he will play again on Saturday where he ran for 64 yards, including a 36 yard run he looks to provide R-Nation with another big reason to cheer him and his teammates on as they fight for a chance in the 2021 CFL playoffs in November. For the fans going to the game against the Alouettes at 4:00 on Saturday, there are a lot of new things to watch out for and expect to see since the last time the Redblacks played at home.
Starting off with what may be the biggest change on offence along with Caleb Evans in the backfield is new tail back De’Lance Turner. Turner got his first CFL action last week in Montreal where he carried the ball 10 times for 71 yards and caught 3 passes for 15, taking over what was Timothy Flanders and Justin Davis’ role at starting running back. Last week wasn’t the best of examples for Turner since the pass game wasn’t hitting like it was in the previous two games that Evans had started for Ottawa but it is clear that the Redblacks did get a run game going in Montreal, having Turner break one run for 28 yards was nice to see as it was the longest rush on the season by a Redblacks running back. Expect to see a lot more of him this week at home. Having a consistent run game is something Paul LaPolice and his offence has tried to establish all season but hasn’t succeeded, having trouble staying healthy not only in the backfield but up front on the offensive line as well but with a new look offensive line this week and Turner coming off of a great CFL debut a week ago, a run game can only help this Redblacks’ offence orchestrated by 23 year old quarterback Caleb Evans.
Also on the offensive side of the ball, receivers Ryan Davis and R.J Harris are coming off of a game where they combined for just 3 catches and 43 yards. This is after they caught 21 combined for 344 in Caleb Evans’ first two starts with Ottawa. Expect the two of them to be more involved this week against the Alouettes as well as Kenny Stafford, Nate Behar and Anthony Coombs at receiver as Evans will look to spread the ball around like he did in both Toronto and his first CFL game.
As for the defensive side of the football, the Ottawa Redblacks have faced a lot of change since they last played at TD Place. In the 34-24 victory at TD Place on September 28th over the Elks the Ottawa Redblacks had defensive backs Brad Muhammad, and Gump Hayes starting alongside both Brandin Dandridge and Randall Evans. Both Dandridge and Evans remain in the lineup alongside Antoine Pruneau against the Montreal Alouettes this weekend but in place of both Hayes and Muhammad are Redblacks’ fan favourites Abdul Kanneh and Sherrod Baltimore. The two star defensive backs are making their first appearances of the 2021 CFL season at home at TD Place, marking Kanneh’s first home game at TD Place since the 2016 East Final against Edmonton and Baltimore’s first since the 2019 CFL season finale. For them it will be a special game to be back on that field in front of R-Nation once again together and fans should expect to see plays made from the two of them as well as Brandin Dandridge, who was mentioned earlier. Dandridge has played three games with Ottawa this year, his first being against the Elks at TD Place on September 28th and in each of the three games he has an interception, 2 in regulation play and the other on a two point conversion. He is tied with Kanneh with regulation interceptions for a Redblacks team lead and all eyes are on him to continue his streak.
Other changes on the defence come on the front seven, with edge rusher Praise Martin-Oguike on the injured list after last week’s game Canadian and Carleton University product Kene Onyeka is expected to start at defensive end for Mike Benevides. Onyeka is coming off of a two sack game a week ago in Montreal and looks to repeat himself against Matthew Shiltz and the Alouettes. Linebacker Jerod Fernandez will also be coming in for the injured Avery Williams at middle linebacker. Fernandez was the Redblacks’ 2019 rookie of the year candidate after making 52 tackles and forcing two fumbles in 11 games. He makes his first appearance in 2021 on Benevides’ defence where he will play in between both Micah Awe and Don Unamba.
Watch the Ottawa Redblacks kickoff against the Montreal Alouettes at 4:00 at TD Place live at the game or on TSN/ESPN.