On Friday, the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks will kickoff in Montreal for the final time of the 2021 CFL season against the Alouettes. They will look to close the season out on a high note, hopefully winning their 3rd game of the season, but they are also getting their last look of the 2021 CFL season at who they will have coming back for the 2022 CFL season. Failing to make their way into the Grey Cup playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Ottawa Redblacks and their front office in charge are searching for all of the pieces they need to make their way back into the hunt, like they were in 2018, playing in the 106th Grey Cup against the Calgary Stampeders.
Among the pieces that they will need on their team for the 2022 CFL season to be in the Grey Cup will be some players that they already have on the roster. The front office has just re-signed and extended the contracts of a few key players, DeVonte Dedmon, Avery Williams, Lewis Ward, Richie Leone, Justin Howell, Brendan Gillanders and Nigel Romick, so they will each be players to watch in this week’s game against the Alouettes as they prepare to be back in the capital for the 2022 season, but there’s also a number of young players, rookie players that will be under contract for the 2022 season that will be looking to lock up their jobs for the following season too.
Quarterback Caleb Evans, who at just 23 years old has been able to throw for 1,106 yards and 5 touchdowns in 6 starts while running for an additional 289 and a score will make the start in Montreal for the Redblacks’ season finale. He is under contract for the 2022 CFL season, and after starting what will be half of the Redblacks games in 2021, he will be coming back to the capital next season with more experience and another off-season training under his belt. This season wasn’t a completely fair test for Evans, as he was faced with trouble up front week in week out, having a different offensive line every game he played, but all things considered he was still able to make plays. He has shown a lot of potential, and has developed heavily as the season has progressed. The Ottawa Redblacks will also have quarterback Devlin Hodges with them in Montreal who at 25 years old has an additional 2 years remaining on his contract with the Redblacks. Watch for Evans and Hodges in Friday’s game as they each look to show flashes of what they can do for the Redblacks.
Sticking to the offensive side of the ball, where the Ottawa Redblacks have struggled the most this season, Ottawa will see receivers Ryan Davis and Jordan Smallwood play at slotback on Friday in Montreal. The two rookies were brought in for their first seasons in the CFL this year, Davis has had a big year, catching 52 passes for 567 yards and two scores while also accumulating over 500 other yards through returning and rushing yards. He is the Redblacks 2021 rookie of the year. As for Smallwood, he caught one pass for 9 yards in his CFL debut in Edmonton prior to missing time with an injury. Friday will be the first time he suits up since week 3 against the Roughriders. They both are under contract with the Redblacks on option deals for the 2022 CFL season, so Friday will be a good opportunity for them both, despite the success they may already have had to secure their spot for next season. Also at receiver will be Nate Behar, Wesley Lewis, Anthony Coombs, DeVonte Dedmon, Kenny Stafford and R.J Harris who will be looking to make plays as well on the offence for play caller Paul LaPolice.
As for the defence, Mike Benevides’ group has been surprising the entire CFL this season, and has shown up to be a top defence in the CFL at times which is something they would most definitely like to carry over to the 2022 CFL season. Doing so will be linebackers Micah Awe and Avery Williams who are among the top 5 for the CFL in tackles, defensive linemen Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman, Avery Ellis and Praise Martin-Oguike and defensive backs Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans, Brandin Dandridge, Don Unamba and Sherrod Baltimore. Baltimore and Kanneh have missed a lot of time this season to injury, so they haven’t been able to get the best stat lines themselves, however when they do play they are key contributors to the defence and should be back for the 2022 CFL season. On Friday, players to watch for 2022 would include linebacker Frankie Griffin who is making his start at SAM, defensive backs Brandin Dandridge and Ranthony Texada who will start, both young playmakers, safety Justin Howell who was just re-signed this week and defensive linemen Praise Martin-Oguike and Kene Onyeka.
The special teams unit will remain the same for Friday’s game, and as usual be on the lookout for a DeVonte Dedmon return, as he does make his way back to Montreal where he had a two touchdown game in 2019 against the Alouettes.
Watch the Redblacks and Alouettes in action at 7:30 on TSN, and keep your eyes on the stars of tomorrow for Ottawa.