CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks kickoff training camp; stories to tune in to for the 2022 season

After three tough years for the Ottawa Redblacks and their fan base, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and his teammates are focused on flipping the script in the nation’s capital. Over the past three years, going 3-15, missing out on a full season and going 3-11, the entire CFL has lost any hope they had in the Ottawa Redblacks. From 2015 through 2018 they were the talk of the CFL, going to the playoffs each and every year, and making their way to the Grey Cup in 3 of the seasons, but once things started to go downhill, the only hope was coming from inside the organization and close by. The front office, coaching staff, and players have stayed strong, and have worked extremely hard over the last 3 years to get back what they had in Ottawa before. Unfortunately the goals were never reached, however with some major changes in the locker room and the front office, 2022 has become the year that the script around the CFL is flipped for the Ottawa Redblacks and it all begins now.

The off-season was a work of beauty for Ottawa Redblacks fans to watch come together. Seeing the roster that Shawn Burke was able to build, it was a work of art, really. Starting off with veteran CFL quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and continuing with star power around him like Jaelon Acklin, Darvin Adams, William Powell, Patrick Levels, Kwaku Boateng, Money Hunter and more, the team has been pieced together almost perfectly. The roster, full of talent, is also full of great storylines heading into the 2022 CFL season.

Of course the biggest story is how the team will be able to flip the script. Although it will be much deeper than just that.

Some key stories that are important to keep eyes on for the 2022 CFL season in Ottawa, all starting now in training camp include: a face of the franchise with Jeremiah Masoli, the coming home story of William Powell, the breakout season for Ryan Davis, Shawn Burke’s trip to the body shop with the offensive line (repairs), the prove me year for Sherrod Baltimore, a defensive player of the year campaign for Avery Williams, finding the DeVonte Dedmon replacement and a bounce back year for Lewis Ward.

Without a doubt there will be more stories to follow but those mentioned are clearly some of the more major ones heading into the season, but why is that?

Well beginning with Jeremiah Masoli, this will be the first time since Trevor Harris that the Ottawa Redblacks will have a proven starting quarterback. Someone with experience, winning experience, and someone with tremendous leadership. For years he has been a star in Hamilton, and now it is time that that star shines bright in the nation’s capital. He comes into Ottawa with the goal to win the Grey Cup, and is doing so alongside a great group of teammates that have the potential to do so, but the wins on the field are just as important as what Masoli can do off of the field as well as the franchise quarterback in Ottawa. When Henry Burris was the starting quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks from 2014 through 2016, you didn’t even have to know anything about football to know who he was. His smile, and his impact on the city as a whole was huge, and really, was well known across all of Ottawa. It was a prime example of what a franchise quarterback, and a face of a franchise should be like in Ottawa. With a great reputation from Hamilton, and already some appearances at community events, Jeremiah Masoli’s potential past just the game of football in Ottawa is exactly what the Redblacks need in 2022. In a post-covid season, and a big “flip the script” season, Masoli will be the main character that everyone loves in the Ottawa Redblacks 2022 season.

Another character from the 2022 season that will get a lot of love will be running back William Powell, who has returned to the nation’s capital. Powell was already a star running back in Ottawa once, from 2015 through 2018, and he will be once again in 2022. After two seasons spent in Saskatchewan, rushing for over 1800 yards in 31 games, he comes back home, where he spends his off-seasons, to Ottawa on a mission to win a Grey Cup. He’s won one Grey Cup already in his career, back in 2016 with the Redblacks but wasn’t able to play in the game to say he earned it 100%, and having lost two Grey Cups in 2015, and 2018, this season will be a big one for Powell, at 34 years old on a mission to win a ring.

One player that is hungry to win a Grey Cup as well, and one that has been on a number of successful teams in the past would be Tampa, Florida native Ryan Davis. Davis had a large role with the Redblacks in 2021 as a rookie he caught 55 passes for 589 yards and two scores, winning himself the Redblacks’ rookie of the year award, and opening the eyes of many around the league. One set of eyes that he did open by his performances in 2021 was those of Jeremiah Masoli, and Masoli, with players like Darvin Adams, Jaelon Acklin, RJ Harris, Nate Behar, Tevaun Smith, BJ Cunningham and Shaq Johnson around as well, will love to have Ryan Davis around as a weapon for the Redblacks offence. At just 25 years old, the Auburn Tigers record holder could still very well make his way into the NFL, and his chances only go up with a breakout season in 2022.

A breakout season from an offensive player would only be possible with a great offensive line. And fortunately for Davis and the other weapons on the roster, Ottawa’s offensive line looks solid heading into the 2022 CFL season. After a horrible season in 2021 up front, Shawn Burke repaired the offensive line, bringing in what is almost an entirely new offensive line. Names like Darius Ciraco, Ucambre Williams, Jacob Ruby, Hunter Steward, and Zack Pelehos are all looked at to be major additions from this off-season and are easily looked at as improvements on paper, the only question though is how they will hold up on the field.

One player that everyone in Ottawa already knows about and have all been reminded of him recently with his own community event earlier this month is Sherrod Baltimore, the Redblacks’ fan favourite defensive back. Baltimore is heading into his 5th season with the Ottawa Redblacks, and he is aging like fine wine in the Redblacks’ secondary, as the league is yet to see his best. In 2017 as a rookie he shocked the league in limited playing time, winning the team’s rookie of the year award, in 2018 he intercepted 4 passes including one in the Grey Cup, and since then he has found himself struggling alongside the rest of the team, unfortunately he also caught the injury bug along the way in the 2021 CFL season, but this 2022 CFL season has all of the attributes to be a special year for Baltimore. In 2018 he has plenty of success, and a lot of it had to do with who was around him. Both Jonathan Rose and Rico Murray were next to him in the secondary. That season Rose and Murray were tied for the league for interceptions. Baltimore shines bright like a star when others around him are shining. This year, with Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans, Patrick Levels, Money Hunter, Antoine Pruneau, Justin Howell and Trumaine Washington playing alongside Baltimore in the secondary, you can expect big things from him. He has already made his name known in the city, and he has already set up his takeover on the city, but now it is time for the execution. The execution for him will be on the football field, and opposing quarterbacks are in danger.

With Baltimore on defence, to go with the long list of stars already named is Avery Williams. Williams has been a star linebacker for the Ottawa Redblacks since he got to the team in 2018. With over 200 tackles in 41 games played, his resume speaks for itself, but it only started to get the league’s attention last season when he was getting nominations for the defensive player of the year award from the Redblacks. This season, it is time for him to win the award.

The only award winner for the Ottawa Redblacks last year was found on the special teams unit in DeVonte Dedmon, winning the most outstanding special teams player of the year award for the 2021 CFL season. Dedmon without question was the best player on the field at all times for the Redblacks in 2021, and with him off to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Redblacks still, despite their success this off-season would be; who is the replacement for DeVonte Dedmon?

To answer that question easily, and truthfully, the answer is nobody. You simply cannot replace DeVonte Dedmon. Everything that he was able to do with the Redblacks, in the small amount of time he did it in, you may never see it again in the CFL, so the appropriate question instead would be, “who will return kicks for Ottawa in 2022?” The answer is unknown at the moment, however with successful experience doing so your top two candidates would include Terry Williams and Byron Marshall. They may not have the same impact that Dedmon did on the special teams unit, but they can definitely give it a go.

The special teams unit in Ottawa, coached by Bob Dyce can arguably be the best around football. It has built up one of the best reputations across all of professional football over recent years, and a big reason comes with the pro football records. From Diontae Spencer’s 496 all-purpose yards, to Dedmon’s 5 touchdowns in 15 games all the way to Lewis Ward’s streak of 69 consecutive made field goals in regular season play, the Ottawa Redblacks’ special teams unit truly puts the word “special” in its name. But will it be special in 2022? It indeed will be special if history repeats itself with Lewis Ward preparing for a bounce back season, where he can get back to where he was in 2018 in the middle of his famous field goal streak. It is definitely something to keep an eye on for the 2022 season, among many other things.

Ottawa Redblacks training camp has already kicked off, and with the season coming up extremely fast, be sure to keep a close eye on the Ottawa Redblacks for the 2022 CFL season as they look to flip the script.

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