The Tre Ford era is finally upon us, and already it has resulted in their first win of the season. Dustin Crum meanwhile has looked the part of a future franchise CFL quarterback himself. Could we be watching a preview of a great quarterback battle to come for years?
Balance is the Key to Victory
Two of the more dynamic running quarterbacks currently in the league, this game could turn into which team can get their passing attack going first, or rather who can stop the opposing passing attack. Ottawa’s defense comes into this a big question mark. While the move to bring in Alijah McGhee is one even I expect to pay dividends sooner rather than later, we are still a long ways away from leaping from the league’s worst passing defense.
Having allowed nearly 900 yards more than any other team, this defense has been abysmal in the passing game, while even I will admit these statistics are inflated due to the fact that Ottawa also has the league leading rushing defense. These two things are not mutually exclusive, the fact that Ottawa’s pass defense has been so bad has in fact warped perception about how good the run defense has been.
One key statistic that supports this, and should stand out to even the more casual fans is that Ottawa allows 7.56 yards per running play on first down. That is second worst in the league behind only Winnipeg. These stats only begin to tell the story, the plot thickens the more you research how teams are attacking Ottawa. Knowing that they are giving up nearly 8 yards per carry on first down, teams are simply turning to the pass on second down, believing in their receivers to beat their man and gain the extra 2-3 yards, and it’s working at a high rate. While Ottawa has allowed the least rushing first downs, they have allowed the most passing first downs. Ottawa must correct this or face embarrassing losses each week.
The main thing for Ottawa has been allowing big plays in the passing game. Right now they lead the league in big plays allowed by a very wide margin. Other than Ottawa and Hamilton who have 30 and 29 respectively no other team has topped 24 yet. Toronto has allowed just 9, no secret why they are one of the best teams in the league.
Field Position Battle
Ottawa has allowed the 4th best average starting position for opposing offenses. This has been due in large part to the 25 turnovers committed by the Redblacks. This will be a true test of how efficient Dustin Crum can be. Edmonton is tied for 6th in interceptions with 8, and they have forced the least turnovers of any team in the league with 17. They have also turned the ball over 27 times tied for worst in the league. This could turn into a get right game for the Ottawa offense if their defensive counterparts can keep their end of the bargain and continue to snare interceptions and forced fumbles at a league high rate.
Special Teams Prowess, and Discipline are the Hallmarks of a Bob Dyce Led Team
All season long Ottawa has done a great job of limiting penalties, and it has paid off in a league low 62 penalties, tied with Winnipeg, who could be looked to as the Blue print for successful teams in the CFL. (all puns intended) Ironically enough both Ottawa and Winnipeg have been penalized 552 yards as well. This is lower than third place by a full 49 yards.
The kicking game has been something Ottawa can hang it’s hat on since 2018 when Ward joined the team. This season he has his team ranked 3rd in field goal percentage having converted over 93% of his attempts, and first in point after attempts where he hasn’t missed all year.
Richie Leone has the Redblacks ranked third in punt average with 48.2 yards per punt, and the coverage team has done their part helping the team to being ranked second in net punt yards with 39.5. While they among the league’s lowest in average yards per kickoff, they also have allowed 4 big play returns, and 1 touchdown. While they have just 3 big plays of their own on special teams they have had enough of a spark there, where they have sorely been missing those big plays is on the offensive side of the ball.
Big Plays Where Did You Go? I Miss You So, Seems Like it’s Been Forever..
In the words of Holly Brook and Fort Minor, fans are missing the big play in Ottawa’s Offense. Their luck in the win-loss column has suffered due to this as well. While this offense has dealt with a constant rotation of injured players on offense at running back, wideout, and even offensive line, it seems there is more to this issue than injuries. Ottawa has the second least big plays out of any offense in the league, they have the second highest time of possession, most rushing first downs in the league, but also one of the lowest average yards per pass play in the league.
Right now the passing attack has produced just 6 touchdowns, luckily Crum and Pigrome have also accounted for 6 of 9 rushing touchdowns. This offense has become stagnant, and has done it’s best to protect Crum, but it’s time to test his limits a little bit more. Opposing teams have a path to success against Ottawa already paved if the Redblacks continue to just fall right into what has lost their last few games.
Containing Tre Ford
With Tre Ford starting for the Elks, they have watched an uptick in their rushing attack. Already Ford has rushed for over 100 yards in just two games. Averaging 11 yards per carry on his way to 110 yards and 1 touchdown. While Ottawa has the top ranked run defense, there aren’t many quarterbacks with the speed and agility of a Tre Ford.
One guy I expect to again have a big game is Jovan Santos-Knox. Knox could be one of a few players called on to spy Ford depending on the situation. Ford’s speed will make it tough to dedicate any linebacker to him all game long. Perhaps we see a defensive back line up as his spy. This would create a weak point in coverage if we leave a linebacker in, or a weak point against the run if we bring another defensive back on the field. This is the problem Tre Ford will make coordinators around the league face for many years to come. Especially if he keeps completing over 73% of his passes.
So Obviously given the emphasis on our pass defense stepping up it’s great news not to see out next to Brandin Dandridge, or Tobias Harris’s name. Couple that with the signing of Alijah McGhee and this pass defense could be seeing quite the boost over the next couple games.
Bralon Addison is not listed as out either, but it remains to be seen if he plays. He would add a much needed element of explosive plays to this offense that just lost Nate Behar for at least a couple weeks. Justin Hardy, and Jaelon Acklin will be expected to carry the offense once again.
Betting Odds and Predictions
Betting odds for this game according to Draftkings.com are as follows:
Ottawa Pick ’em -110
Edmonton Pick ’em -110
Vegas has this game as a pick ’em because you simply don’t know what to expect from the Tre Ford led Elks, can they continue their run? Or will they come crashing back down to Earth when the lack of film on their new quarterback catches up with them similar to Ottawa with Crum?
In my opinion it’s time for the Redblacks to win one. Given their recent losing streak, they haven’t won a game since July, and this is their final chance to avoid going win less in the month of August.
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