For the third straight game, the Ottawa Redblacks have come just plays away from winning a game. 23 year old rookie quarterback Caleb Evans won his first game under centre against the Edmonton Elks but has since gone 0-3 as the Redblacks starter. Those three losses though, have been decided within just a small number of plays. In Toronto, when the Ottawa Redblacks had lost 35-16, they had given up two pick sixes, a punt block for a touchdown and a 63 yard screen pass for a score. Against the Alouettes last week, the game was decided with 24 seconds left in the game on a game winning Cameron Artis-Payne touchdown and Saturday’s game against Toronto was decided from a long 50 yard Jake Wieneke touchdown over both Antoine Pruneau and Abdul Kanneh as well as a Caleb Evans interception in the Alouettes end zone. Over the past three games, that is under 10 plays that have decided whether the Redblacks win or lose the games. They currently sit at 2-8, if those games were wins, they would be 5-5. This is not a 2-8 football team, they have the talent, they have the potential, the execution just needs to be better from the decision point of view and from the players on the field at times.
In the Redblacks’ 27-16 loss to the Montreal Alouettes, Mike Benevides’ defence, outside of the 50 yard score from Wieneke played lights out. Defensive back Randall Evans led the pack with 10 tackles, a sack and forced fumble while Micah Awe came up with 7 tackles and a forced fumble, Abdul Kanneh had an interception and Brandin Dandridge, for a 4th straight game forced a turnover getting himself a fumble recovery on the goal line. They held the Alouettes from scoring touchdowns on multiple occasions, forcing them to kick 3 field goals in the red zone and continue to prove themselves as one of the league’s top defences, however as good as the defence may be, the offence will need to perform to the same abilities if Paul LaPolice and his Ottawa Redblacks would like to get back in the win column.
The talent is there. Players like R.J Harris, Ryan Davis, De’Lance Turner, Nate Behar, Anthony Coombs and Kenny Stafford prove time after time that they are able to make the big play and that they can help win games. Rookie quarterback Caleb Evans has all of the tools as a dual threat quarterback, but Evans and his weapons can only do so much with very little time to make plays. Bob Wylie, as the Ottawa Redblacks’ offensive line coach has had a number of struggles. His offensive line has had trouble staying healthy and it is continued to be proven that this Redblacks’ line, after giving up 10 sacks on Saturday is not a reliable line for young quarterbacks like Caleb Evans who is just picking up the professional game.
As for bright spots from the Ottawa Redblacks in the loss to the Alouettes on Saturday, along with the great defensive play from Mike Benevides’ group, the Redblacks’ special teams unit yet again provides a positive note for the Redblacks. Place kicker Lewis Ward was 3 of 3 for field goals along with an extra point, Richie Leone stays consistent, punting 7 times for 374 yards, averaging 48.6 yards per punt and prior to getting injured in the second quarter kickoff return and punt return specialist DeVonte Dedmon generated 189 return yards on just 6 touches including a 65 and 69 yard punt return.
Dedmon now has 1,914 all-purpose yards and 3 scores this season in just 9 games. He has been absolutely electric for the Ottawa Redblacks and continues to make a name for himself as the CFL’s top returner. It didn’t look great for Dedmon in the second quarter when he went down, all of TD Place was quiet when he hit the turf and applauded him as he returned to the sideline. Finishing the first half on the medical bench and watching the remainder of the game in street clothes and a boot on his ankle, Dedmon may miss some time with this injury and if he does the Redblacks will lose a major part of their small success this season. Fans around the league will see his value on this Redblacks team and although it may be best to see him back on the field this season for Ottawa, at just 25 years old Dedmon has fresh legs and a long career ahead of him. The Ottawa Redblacks, if DeVonte Dedmon does not have the opportunity in the NFL like Diontae Spencer did in 2019 should sign him long term and keep him healthy for the future.
The Ottawa Redblacks are back on the field this Friday in Hamilton against the Tiger Cats, and with Caleb Evans replaced then put back in for an injured Taryn Christion on Saturday, it is unsure who will get the start for the Redblacks but it has been confirmed that Devlin Hodges will indeed dress for the game against the Tiger Cats. Watch closely for the final decision on the Redblacks quarterback position and stay tuned as the Redblacks kickoff on Friday in Hamilton.