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One Last Ride for the Redblacks in 2023

The Redblacks will play one final game for the 2023 season. Will this game serve to answer some questions heading into the 2024?

I’m not sure if I’m excited the season is over, or disappointed that we as Ottawa fans just witnessed another lost season. Holding a record of 14-53 over the last four seasons (five years) this has become an all too familiar feeling for Redblacks fans. In the last loss, the team hit the 100 loss mark under the Redblacks name in just 9 seasons, an average of 11 losses per season. 

The worst part is, it’s not for a lack of effort on Ottawa’s part. They have signed players they believed would take this team to the next level on both sides of the ball, but the age old adage rings true, if you don’t have a quarterback, it’s going to be tough to find success. Ottawa brought in veteran Jeremiah Masoli who was supposed to turn this team around instead he played in just 5 games, over his first two seasons with the team. Continuing the curse of the quarterback that all began when Ottawa chose to move on from Trevor Harris.

Looking at What Has Changed for Ottawa at QB

Against Hamilton when Masoli did start this season he went 6 of 10 for 37 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. Not exactly what Ottawa had hoped when they signed him away from Hamilton two seasons ago. Let’s not forget during the 2022 season in the four games he played, he managed two games with one touchdown and one interception, and two games without a touchdown or interception. 

Dustin Crum has been fun to watch but at the very least Ottawa needs to have an open competition for the job in 2024. Crum has displayed impressive accuracy at times, but also showed a frustrating tendency to turn the ball over. As it stands he has completed over 69% of his passes for 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has scored more as a runner, 9 touchdowns, than he has as a passer. Some of this is by design, the team taking advantage of his ability to run when they near the Redzone but this isn’t the sole reason. The truth is Ottawa doesn’t trust Crum to protect the ball near the Redzone. 

If this feeling hasn’t faded by 2024 Ottawa owes its fans the effort of at least looking at the upcoming rookie quarterback class which includes the younger brother of Nathan Rourke. I wouldn’t be at all upset to see Masoli, Crum, Tyrie Adams return and Rourke or a starting caliber veteran come in and compete for the job. It’s time for Ottawa to find the right guy. 

History of the Position 

Since 2018, the Redblacks haven’t had a single quarterback top the 8 touchdown passes we saw from Crum throw this season. We can’t fault the Redblacks for changing quarterbacks, but since 2018 when Trevor Harris was the Team MOP, Ottawa has played 9 different quarterbacks to some extent, and no less than three in a season. 

This includes veteran players like Jeremiah Masoli, Nick Arbuckle, and Dominique Davis, as well as young players like Caleb Evans, Dustin Crum, and Tyrie Adams. Drafting a QB should be a foregone conclusion not a hotly debated question. Look at how Edmonton approached the formation of their quarterback room this season. They drafted Tre Ford in the first round last year, had veteran Taylor Cornelius, Khalil Tate, Kai Locksley, and rookie/American free agent Jarrett Doege.

The group was narrowed down from there. I like this approach, because you have no lack of options. At that point you also have a good mixture of youth and veterans.  Granted the Elks didn’t figure out who their guy was until midseason it certainly looks like Tre Ford can be the guy long term. Starting 11 games he’s thrown 12 tds, to just 6 ints and added his unrivaled athletic ability to the offense. It’s now the final week of the season and Ottawa must go into this offseason knowing if Crum is the guy or not. In a lost game it’s time to let him loose and see if he can take control of the game as a passer, this comes with a caveat, if he doesn’t look any better in the first half or he is too banged up to play go to Pigrome. At this point you literally have nothing left to lose and he could surprise us all. 

Toronto’s Secondary

The Argos have developed into a bend but don’t break defense as this season has progressed. They are second worst in passing yards allowed, they’ve also faced the most passing attempts in the league, allowing the highest completion rate, and second most passing touchdowns. They have however allowed just 8.4 yards per attempt and 36  offensive touchdowns total 3rd lowest in the league. 

Yards can be had against this secondary Toronto has allowed 357 first downs fifth most in the league, but the question Ottawa needs to answer in this one is can they score through the air? Truly Ottawa couldn’t have a better test for their offense, and quarterback position. Toronto’s strength, aided by their high flying offense, that tends to put up points at will, has been stopping the run. Almost a polar opposite to Ottawa whose defense has been aided by their ability to control time of possession and use a run heavy approach. 

This is an interesting match up on paper but in a meaningless game for both teams, we should see many backups on the field by the end of the game. Toronto needs to stay healthy, that’s their biggest goal coming into this game, and Ottawa needs to get its young guys involved to see what they have got the future. Technically a win here for Ottawa could only hurt their chances at getting the top pick with several promising prospects they should certainly be gunning for that pick given their record. 

Keys to Victory 

Pressure the quarterback, it doesn’t matter if it’s Chad Kelly, Cameron Dukes, or Bryan Scott whoever ends up starting this game needs to be pressured on almost every snap. All three of these guys are mobile enough to escape the pocket so the goal here has to be to collapse the pocket while keeping containment. 

This is no small task as the Argos allowed the least sacks in the league by a long shot. While they have allowed just 17, second place, Calgary allowed 32 sacks. This just shows how difficult it’s been to get to the quarterback when playing Toronto. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching running quarterbacks as much as the next person, but Ottawa has simply been relying way too heavily on Crum’s, rushing ability. This has turned this offense into our very own style of 3 yards and a cloud of dust. 

A lot of teams tend to lean too heavily into the strength of their team, especially when the losses start to pile up and this is just another one of those instances. Crum has already shown a tendency to turn the ball over even when the Redblacks are leaning into his strengths, and it’s already resulted in several close losses that may have been wins if not for these turnovers. At this point you have to let him off the leash and see if he can be a viable starter going forward. 

Devonte Williams

So far it appears my request to see more of De’Montre Tuggle won’t happen, as he still currently resides on the practice squad. If that’s the case, then Williams needs to be given every opportunity to hit some personal milestones in this game. Currently Williams has  952 yards on the season. At this rate you may as well allow him to be the offensive focus. 

If Williams runs for 48 yards he will hit 1,000 rushing yards on the season. He is just 94 yards away from 1,500 rushing yards for his career. This would be the first time a Redblacks running back to reach the 1,000 yards since William Powell rushed for 1,363 yards during the 2018 season. If there has been one consistent bright spot on the offensive side it’s been Williams, who at times has looked dominant. I still hope that Ottawa finds a bigger back to pair Williams with long term. 

Williams is explosive, and versatile as displayed by this season when he already has 1,326 total yards having led the team in rushing while getting involved as a receiver and kick returner. Williams reminds me a lot of Kavontae Turpin a smaller running back who can do damage as a receiver and return man. At just 26 years old perhaps he will see some NFL interest after the season is complete. 

Injury Report

Per the official injury report Brandin Dandridge, Dontae Bull, and DeAndre Lamont all were ruled out while Zach Pelehos is questionable. This seems like the perfect time to involve younger players in the secondary and on the offensive line. 

Drake Centers has been called up and will be given the start at right tackle, his versatility to also play guard will help him make the roster in 2024, especially if he is able to play well this week. With the injuries in the secondary we should see more of Tobias Harris, and Alijah McGhee. At linebacker Lucas Corimer, and James Peter have returned from injury. It’s crucial to get these young men snaps in this game. 

It’s almost over Redblacks fans, let’s hope with the off-season comes some hope and optimism surrounding our team in 2024. If you’re a fan of the CFL Check out our recent interview with Chizi Umunakwe.

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@SamShadySports Reporter
I began writing years ago out of an obsession with the NFL. I never intended to take it anywhere but after watching so many others succeed as freelance writers I decided it was worth a shot. I jumped I and have loved every minute of it. I have expanded my content to include YouTube, as well as Twitter Spaces, SoundCloud, and should be launching on Amazon Podcasts soon.
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