The Ottawa Redblacks won just 3 games over the 2021 CFL season, and have gone 6-26 since they lost the 106th Grey Cup to the Calgary Stampeders in Edmonton. It has been a very disappointing two seasons for R-Nation to witness, but there is plenty of hope for the Ottawa Redblacks moving forward, there are just some big decisions to be made by the front office to make the most of what they have in front of them.
Among those decisions would come at the quarterback position, where the Ottawa Redblacks have had struggles since Trevor Harris’ departure in the 2018-19 off-season. In 2019 Dominique Davis, Jonathon Jennings and Will Arndt each found themselves starting games for Ottawa, and in 2021 Matt Nichols, Dominique Davis, Caleb Evans and Devlin Hodges started games but out of all of the six different quarterbacks that started games for the Ottawa Redblacks over the two seasons, Caleb Evans, a 23 year old rookie quarterback seemed to leave the biggest impact for the Redblacks and is now giving the front office a big decision to make, whether or not he should be the starting quarterback moving forward with the team.
Evans came to Ottawa in July for his first ever professional football opportunity. At the time he was 22 years old and fresh out of the University of Louisiana Monroe, was among Matt Nichols, Dominique Davis, and Taryn Christion for Ottawa Redblacks training camp and was set to spend the 2021 CFL season as a third string quarterback, learning the ropes from two veterans quarterbacks, head coach Paul LaPolice and quarterbacks coach Steve Walsh. Over the 14 game regular season, Caleb Evans did get the chance to learn and develop, however he was placed in a situation to develop even faster midway through the season. After a game against the Hamilton Tiger Cats in week 8 where both Matt Nichols and Dominique Davis suffered injuries, a game that finished with receiver Nate Behar taking reps at quarterback, Caleb Evans was named the starting quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks. He started his first game against the Edmonton Elks at TD Place in Ottawa on September 28th where he completed 15 of 22 passes for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns, even running for 59 additional yards on 7 rushing attempts, leading the Redblacks to victory. Evans was the talk of the CFL, having been named the CFL’s performer of the week and getting the name ‘Mr. Tuesday night’ after his incredible CFL debut and although he may not have performed exactly like that every time he went out to play for the Redblacks, Evans still impressed many with what he was able to accomplish in his first taste of professional football.
Over the 7 starts, Evans completed 108 of 182 passes for 1,279 yards and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 5:9. He added 345 rushing yards and 3 scores on the ground on 42 rushing attempts, averaging 8.3 yards each time he took off. Of the seven starts, he won the first and last one he played in, going 2-5 as a starter but he showed a lot of promise and brought a lot of bright spots to the Ottawa Redblacks offence, as you can see from the numbers he put up.
Those numbers he put up, were very similar to those he had at the university level with the ULM Warhawks. Those numbers, over 3 seasons and change as a starter included 9,513 passing yards and 58 touchdowns through the air as well as 2,168 yards and 36 touchdowns on the ground. Evans had 33 offensive scores in his senior season and averaged 311 yards per game through the air and on the ground.
In the 2021 CFL season Alouettes’ quarterback Vernon Adams averaged 280 yards per game, and Jeremiah Masoli of Hamilton averaged 292 yards per game in the games they both started. The two quarterbacks bring the dual threat ability to their respective offences and Caleb Evans could easily be compared to them both for what he brings to the Redblacks offence, but to be able to get to where they both are, first he will need to be given the starting quarterback job for the Ottawa Redblacks, which should be an easy call for the Redblacks’ front office and then the Ottawa Redblacks will need to build around Evans, giving him everything he needs to be a successful quarterback in the CFL.
If you ask anyone whether or not Caleb Evans should start for the Ottawa RedBlacks in 2022, they will respond with a question like “will he win?” or “can he win the Grey Cup?” and the answer to that would be yes, but he cannot do it alone. He is going to need help from the offensive line, who gave up a total 53 sacks in 2021 and the skill position players around him. The Redblacks’ front office will not only need to decide on keeping Evans as the starting quarterback and not signing another QB this off-season but will need to address both of those spots on the offensive side of the football. They will need to bring back both Mark Korte and Nolan MacMillan, the only two proven offensive linemen on the Redblacks roster, as well as receivers Nate Behar, R.J Harris and Kenny Stafford, keeping their own, and then add some key players in free-agency and the 2022 CFL Draft.
By bringing in some big men up front and some playmakers for Evans, he will be able to succeed. He has some success in 2021 with the situation he was placed in, so there’s no denying that there is potential in Caleb Evans. At just 23 years old, on a rookie contract it would help the Ottawa RedBlacks build a roster around him, as mentioned previously and can give the city of Ottawa a face of their football team for a long time if he’s given the chance to be their starting quarterback moving forward.
Will it happen? We will see.