The Ottawa Redblacks have made their mark on special teams over the last few seasons. Special teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce has done a tremendous job working with the players that the front office brings to him, and has been doing so since he got the gig in 2016. Dyce started working with the Redblacks when he had the likes of Chris Milo, Ray Early, Zack Medeiros and Ronnie Pfeffer kicking the football, Tanner Doll snapping it and Jamill Smith, Tristan Jackson and Chris Williams leading the return team, and since he’s been with that group, players like Brett Maher, and Diontae Spencer have come through and made impacts, enough so to land NFL opportunities, and then the group that he has now came into the nation’s capital. Longsnapper L.P Bourassa landed the opportunity in Ottawa in 2017 after being drafted by the team, placekicker Lewis Ward was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Ottawa in 2018, punter Richie Leone was signed after the 2017 CFL season that he spent in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals and return specialist DeVonte Dedmon came into Ottawa for training camp in 2019 and has stuck with the team since.
Those are the names that are spoke of the most when talking about the Redblacks’ special teams unit, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be talked about even more, because of the impacts they’ve made on this Ottawa Redblacks team as of recently, but there are also a number of other players that play into the impacts that they make. Richie Leone has been named a CFL all-star in each of the 3 seasons he’s spent with the Ottawa Redblacks, Lewis Ward has broken records for a single season field goal percentage and the longest streak of consecutive made field goals with 69 and DeVonte Dedmon was just named a CFL all-star after breaking his own record as the fastest player in CFL history to reach 5 kickoff return touchdowns, doing so in just 15 games, but these milestones would not have come easy without the help of the players around them.
Fortunately though, a lot of those players are here to stay with the Ottawa Redblacks. Earlier this off-season, and even during the 2021 CFL season, the Ottawa Redblacks front office prioritized bringing back the special teams unit for 2022. They announced that they signed contributors Nigel Romick, Brendan Gillanders, Marco Dubois, and Anthony Gosselin through 2022. Adding to the list on Thursday, they now have brought back an American trio of Shaheed Salmon, Dwayne Norman and Ranthony Texada.
Salmon has been with the Redblacks since 2019, and the Tampa, Florida-native has played in 17 of the 32 games he’s been around for, making 4 tackles on defence, 12 of special teams and forcing two fumbles over the two seasons. The 25 year old has been a major piece to the Redblacks special teams unit, always being there on key stops on both the punt and kickoff team in 2021 for Richie Leone, but now with more experience under his belt, there is a chance his role expands to the defensive side of the ball come 2022.
Like Salmon, 28 year old linebacker Dwayne Norman has made quite the impact for the Redblacks’ special teams unit in 2021 and may also see an expanded role when he is back in the nation’s capital for the 2022 CFL season. The Duke Blue Devils product has had an eventful professional career since going undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. Having been picked up by both the Broncos and Raiders in the NFL, then playing a total 9 games with the Calgary Stampeders during the 2017, 2018 and 2019 CFL seasons. In the 9 games he made 6 special teams tackles and one defensive tackle. He then matched those games in 2021, playing 9 of the Redblacks’ 14 games this past season and in those games he had 3 defensive and 3 special teams tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. With 4 seasons of CFL experience now to his name, Norman should be able to make some plays in 2022 for Mike Benevides defence and Bob Dyce’s special teams unit.
Last on the list from Thursday’s signings was 26 year old defensive back Ranthony Texada. The Texas Christian University product spent the 2019 CFL pre-season with the Ottawa Redblacks, and then played with the XFL’s New York Guardians where in 5 games he made 16 tackles and a sack. He was then signed mid way through the 2021 CFL season by the Redblacks and played in 3 of the 14 games,. In the 3 games, starting in all 3 of them Texada made 11 tackles on defence. Texada coming back to Ottawa for the 2022 CFL season now gives the Redblacks Sherrod Baltimore, Brandin Dandridge, Ranthony Texada, Justin Howell, and Treshaun Abrahams Webster for the future. They still have a number of pending free agents in the defensive secondary and on the defence in general who they may want to extend prior to free agency. Players like Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans, Antoine Pruneau and Brad Muhammad are to become free agents as well as linebackers Micah Awe, Don Unamba and Christophe Mulumba, and defensive linemen Avery Ellis, Davon Coleman and Praise Martin-Oguike.
Bringing back those key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, as well as any offensive pieces worth bringing back like R.J Harris, Kenny Stafford, Nate Behar, Mark Korte, Nolan MacMillan and Timothy Flanders can go a long way as for the success the Ottawa Redblacks are striving for in 2022, but they will also have to bring in some key pieces during free agency to be contenders. Bringing in some proven offensive linemen as well as a couple of proven offensive playmakers would make a big difference in the Redblacks offence that already has so much potential.
With Ottawa continuing to make transactions leading into the off-season, be on the lookout for more as they want to make a statement in the 2022 CFL season.