Union Agrees to CBA, Avoids Missing Games
Ottawa picks up two victories in one on Friday night. The Ottawa Redblacks are likely the team that had the most to lose if the CBA situation had been drug out any longer. If it had led to preseason games being missed it could have spelled disaster for the Redblacks.
This offseason the Ottawa Redblacks dramatically overhauled their roster using primarily veteran free agents to do so. Whether it was at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive line, or across the defensive unit, many of these acquisitions will need time to develop chemistry together.
With that being said, the eleventh-hour ratification of the new CBA may have benefited Ottawa more than any other CFL Franchise. They need this time on the field together before the regular season to work out some of the issues that will remain following training camp.
The offensive line would have been my first concern in the event of an extended hiatus from the preseason. Protection calls and audibles take time to learn. It takes time to know exactly what your responsibilities are, and how they change based on a given call. Now when you consider that the man making those calls is also a free agent acquisition, you begin to see why the preseason was so important for Ottawa.
Preseason Game Breakdown
With that being said, lucky for them, and us as CFL fans, the season remains undisturbed by the CBA. Teams have been able to resume their regular activities and schedules, and it is now business as normal once again. Albeit with some twists to the Canadian National Ratio, that should make for some interesting changes to roster construction in 2022, but that’s a story for another day.
Heading into the preseason there were many questions left to answer for the Redblacks. Starting with the quarterback room. Obviously, we knew the starter would be Jeremiah Masoli. However, behind him, there are still questions as to which player will be the number two quarterback. This is important to keep in mind, Masoli is 33 years old, and has had injuries in the past.
The competition began with last year’s starter Caleb Evans coming in. Evans was a CFL rookie in 2021, and is still very much developing as a player. If he can prove something this offseason, it’s not out of the question that we see him starting down the road once again. Unfortunately, this was not the performance to do so.
Evans would attempt 17 passes, completing just 9 of them for 116 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. In the running department, he also fell short of what his rival was able to do, with just 4 carries for 11 yards.
Tyrie Adams entered the game on the second drive of the 4th quarter. He almost immediately seemed more confident and in better control of the offense. After Evans’ last drive had stalled on two straight incompletions, it didn’t start pretty for Adams before he settled in and started to work.
His first pass fell incomplete, with his second pass intercepted by Toronto. He comes back in on his second drive, and the coaching staff gets the drive moving with a couple of Jackson Bennett carries. Adams would complete his next four passes, with the fourth capping off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception by R.J. Harris.
Adams would finish the game 6 of 9 for 68 yards 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, and adding 3 carries for 15 yards and 1 touchdown. On four drives he led the offense to two touchdowns and a come-from-behind victory. I would venture a guess that Adams receives more than four drives next week.
Jackson Bennett led the backfield with 7 carries for 62 yards, including a long of 40 yards. He also had 1 reception for 9 yards. On that long run, Bennett bounced off multiple defenders, got into the open field, and turned on the jets. He looked like a very solid number two running back for this offense in 2022 working in unison with veteran William Powell.
Rookie Devonte Williams is a smaller back at 5’9 170 lbs out of Southeastern Louisiana. He rushed 5 times for 27 yards, was targeted twice, and caught 1 pass for 11 yards. He also added 2 punt returns for 16 yards. I expect if Williams keeps this up he will be beating out his competition for the third-string running back spot in 2022.
Byron Marshall was given 5 carries picking up just 7 yards. While long-time veteran running back and special teams ace Brendan Gillanders ran 3 times for -5 yards.
Justin Hardy was involved more than I had originally expected but it was not a terrible surprise in week 1 of the preseason. He was targeted 5 times and given 1 carry. He was able to produce 39 yards through the air, and 2 yards on the ground.
RJ Harris is the man who connected with Tyrie Adams in the fourth quarter. If these guys can continue this connection in future preseason weeks, they will both be ascending the depth chart. Harris led the team in targets with 6, tied for the team lead in receptions and touchdowns, and put up the most yards with 61. He looked solid in week 1, and I could see him getting more playing time in the next couple of weeks as this group shakes out.
Jaelon Acklin caught four of five passes thrown his way for 32 yards and 1 touchdown. He primarily played with the number one offensive unit, but if he continues to produce just 8 yards a reception, they may opt to give those snaps to other guys like Harris or Keaton Bruggeling who produced after the catch as well.
Keaton Bruggeling is a guy I expect to get more snaps going forward. He was targeted just twice catching both passes and put up 28 of his 33 yards after the catch. At 6’3 225 lbs, Bruggeling was able to put up a 4.55 40-yard dash, and 37.5 inch vertical. However, the scary part is, that I believe he will only be able to get stronger and round out his route tree in the CFL. Being a National Player only helps his status in terms of the active roster.
Ryan Davis looked strong as usual and is one of the more reliable receivers on this roster. I believe he will again carry a large load on the offense with Masoli at quarterback. Davis caught all 3 of his targets for 45 yards or 15 yards per reception, almost double that of Acklin who caught the TD pass from Masoli.
Ottawa is still trying to figure out who their primary return men will be when the season kicks off. They gave 4 different players attempts to return punts. Three players saw two returns a piece, Terry Williams, Byron Marshall, and Devonte Williams. Ryan Davis was the fourth player who got 1 return for 8 yards. Both Terry Williams and Byron Marshall averaged 17 yards per return with each breaking over a 20-yard return.
In the kick return game again Terry Wiliams was the most efficient player with 1 return for 20 yards. Behind him, veteran Ryan Davis got one return for 16 yards. While RJ Harris had one return for 18 yards.
Jose Maltos punted 9 times for a 47.2-yard average. His long was 57 yards, with a net average of 40.3 yards showing hang time is of no issue for this man. His coverage units have been strong, but it’s partially due to technique on the part of Maltos. He also handles kickoffs and had 4 attempts for 240 yards or 60 yards per kick.
Their kicker didn’t get the call to attempt any field goals during the game.
On defense, the unit as a whole was able to produce 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. This has got to be considered a win for a team that desperately needed an improvement on defense. There were too many names to list here brought into overall that unit, and the results, so far, look encouraging, to say the least.
Davon Coleman, Tre Hornbuckle, and Jhaustin Thomas all collected a sack each in week 1. Linebacker Avery Williams was able to intercept a pass. Defensive back Trumaine Washington also was able to get a takeaway via an interception. Davon Coleman’s sack also caused a fumble.
Adam Auclair is a very interesting player, to say the least. The hybrid linebacker/defensive back collected 1 tackle and 1 forced fumble on special teams. He had 12 defensive tackles, and 8 special teams tackles in 2021. He was a first-round pick in 2020 but lost his rookie year to covid. Can he develop into a solid player for Ottawa? This preseason should go a long way toward answering that question.
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