The Redblacks are coming off of a week one loss to the Montreal Alouettes in a game that was defined by turnovers for Ottawa. First a bad snap on a punt, later an over throw by Arbuckle that resulted in Montreal taking possession with favorable field position.
If not for these two game changing plays, Ottawa may have walked away with a 12-9 victory in a defensive slug fest highlighted by the Kickers getting a workout. Other than one offensive touchdown scored by Montreal early, there were a total of 8 field goals kicked.
Biggest Takeaways From the First Regular Season Game
The biggest takeaway in this game: This offense needs more output from the quarterback position. Nick Arbuckle completed 19 of 35 pass attempts, did not throw a touchdown and turned the ball over three times. The thought process behind starting the veteran was for him to steady the offense in Masoli’s absence, but they look very unsettled much like my stomach after watching this offensive performance.
It may just be one week but this feels remarkable similar to the performances we got last season. Jaelin Acklin may have gotten banged up but you can’t give this offense a pass because of that. There were also some puzzling decisions. Like a 2nd and short QB sneak call to Arbuckle and not Tyrie Adams a more mobile option who saw a carry later in the game.
I called for it before week one, pointing to the fact that Arbuckle hasn’t thrown more touchdowns than interceptions since 2019, and he’s only done it once as a starter in four seasons with the CFL. While he’s added his fair share of value on rushing touchdowns, he is no where near the athlete Tyrie Adams is. Arbuckle’s struggles with interceptions go back to college, this isn’t a new trait he developed in the CFL, it’s something that he inexplicably escaped for one season as a professional.
Even back in 2015 Arbuckle was talking about trying to limit turnovers coming from Pierce College. Arbuckle at one point watched a true freshman take over the starting duties. Need I repeat the preseason performance that Tyrie Adams had?
Defensive Performance is Undeniably Impressive
With that being said I decided to start with the good news this time. The good news comes on the defensive side of the ball. The Redblacks pass rush was in the face of Cody Fajardo all day long. The Alouettes ran 51 offensive plays and this defense produced 6 sacks, 2 turnovers, as well as 7 punts.
This defense under Barron Miles actually looks like it got better. Sometimes we see a regression in the new system under a new play caller but so far it looks like they continued to progress over the performance we saw in the sack department last year.
Despite this strong performance putting pressure on Fajardo he didn’t throw an interception, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Redblacks dropped at least one throw that should have been an interception. The Montreal Alouettes air attack totaled 264 yards on just 14 completions.
Not afraid to air it out, they averaged 18.8 yards per completion. With Austin Mack shredding the secondary to the tune of 4 receptions on 6 targets for 120 yards. Considering they only allowed 6 yards per play…that shows you how impressive their performance against the run was.
The Defensive front held William Stanback to just 2.6 yards per carry, and as a team they totaled 63 rushing yards on 22 carries or 2.9 yards per carry a solid performance against a very talented running back. Overall I’m encouraged by what the defense has done so far and I look forward to the home opener against Calgary. This unit playing in front of their home crowd, against an offensive line that gave up 3 sacks against BC in week one should make for an interesting matchup.
This offense struggled mightily against the Alouettes, and as much as I hate to say it, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to stop this offense. They were able to effectively stop the run, and force Ottawa to beat them through the passing game. Arbuckle simply isn’t the quarterback to take a game into his hands and account for 75% of your offensive output.
While Ottawa’s rushing attack was significantly better than Montreal’s on the day, 3.4 yards per carry on 16 attempts isn’t scaring anyone. As expected Devonte Williams led the team in offensive touches with 11 carries and 4 receptions. He totaled 51 yards on the day but managed just 36 yards rushing at 3.3 yards per carry. Last season he was the most effective runner. However I believe they need to rotate their top three backs with Ante Milanovic-Litre the first man off the bench. His bigger frame will allow him to get the tough yards.
Devonte Williams is a smaller, quicker back that is best utilized as your second option, and first option in pass-first situations. Seeing him on a 50/50 split between reps as a slotback, or in the backfield as a runner would be best for everyone involved. Think Bralon Addison, just more run heavy. Williams was moved to the injured list, joining Ante Milanovic-Litre. This in turn means DeMontre Tuggle named to my 7 Redblacks to watch list was called up to the active roster, and stands to see significant snaps given that Jackson Bennett is the only other healthy running back.
Ironically the most effective running option was Tyrie Adams who had one carry for four yards. Adams once again is proving his worth every-time he gets on the field.
As expected the top four options were Jaelin Acklin, Quan Bray, Justin Hardy, and Nate Behar. Bray was utilized to stretch the field but only got so many targets on the day. Despite a pedestrian performance in week one all signs Arbuckle getting the start once again. The unfortunate part about this is the fact that reinforcements will not be coming yet.
Injury List Growing by the Game
Jeremiah Masoli, Siaosi Mariner and Dontae Bull all saw their stay on the injured list extended after week one. On defense Lucas Cormier and Sherrod Baltimore’s injured list designation were extended as well. Devonte Williams who led the team in offensive touches in week one joins them. Tuggle is a capable back, as is Bennett, but that’s leaving Ottawa very thin at running back, and offensive line where they have just six players on the depth chart.
Week Three Preview
The Redblacks face a solid opponent in the Stampeders in week two but both teams are coming off of a loss in week one. Something has to give in this game. The Ottawa offense didn’t manage a touchdown in week one, and the Stamps managed just one touchdown pass to one interception from Jake Maier.
The intimidating part of Calgary’s offense would normally be their run game but it was reported Kadeem Carey will be moved to the injury list along with offensive linemen Hugh Thornton, Jamal Campbell and linebacker Silas Stewart. They did however get running back Dedrick Mills, and offensive linemen Zack Williams and Caleb Benenoch back from the injured list. They also talked 29 year old defensive lineman Mike Moore out of retirement after just over a month away from the game. It remains to be seen how all this turnover affects Calgary’s offense, and if it will play into the hands of Ottawa.
The Redblacks biggest strength happens to line-up with a perceived weakness with the Stampeders given their injury issues on the offensive line. Cycling this depth like they have could cause miscommunication in protections and create extra vulnerability for Ottawa to exploit. If this proves to be true, this game could turn in the Redblacks favor quickly.
Jake Maier, Young Gunslinger Can be Had
While on the surface Jake Maier looks like one of the best young quarterbacks in the CFL, that title might overshadow some flaws. Maier in college watched his interception numbers climb each season despite his number of attempts not climbing in unison. It’s almost as if the more confident he became, the more risks he took and the more times luck fell the way of the defense.
In the CFL he’s thrown 11 interceptions, to just 20 touchdowns in 30 games with 13 starts. I’m not sure that a quarterback who only manages one passing touchdown a game 66.6% of the time is the long term answer at quarterback. However, if anyone knows what they’re getting it’s Calgary where he’s spent his entire professional career so far.
Keys to Victory
The defense needs to stop drives and force punts, or turnovers to keep giving Arbuckle chances to score. It’s crucial we stay positive in the turnover margin this week. We can not give Calgary’s offense more opportunities than they deserve by turning the ball over.
This brings me to my next point. With Tuggle getting the start for Ottawa I personally would enact a run heavy approach for this game. Control the flow of the game, and dominate in time of possession and chances are this team and their defense will win a lot of games.
The Redblacks need to finish drives. Every drive needs to end with a kick. Whether that’s an extra point, field goal, or punt. They can’t continue to give the ball away and expect to find victory in the rubble of fans’ crumbled hopes.
Predictions and Final Thoughts
The spread and over/under come courtesy of BetUs.com. Use our link to get a 125% bonus on your first deposit The Redblacks are considered 6.5 point underdogs in this game. The Redblacks plus 200 is your money line, and the over/under is 43.5 points on the day. If I was to bet on this game I’m picking Ottawa to cover the spread, and the under. These two teams combined for just 27 points in week one to say they will score another 16 points in week two might be ambitious. I would bet now before the spread slides back closer to 3 points. Click the link below and head to the CFL Page!
My prediction for this game might be semi-bold. I’m picking Ottawa to find a way to win, likely thanks to a big play by the defensive line to force an errant pass in crunch time. I don’t expect this game to be very high scoring.
Ottawa moves to 1-1 and tries to build momentum for Masoli’s return which hopefully happens sooner rather than later. This will not be a push over opponent and Ottawa knows that, but I expect the home crowd to do their best to aid their defense in this game which could be the deciding factor for two offenses still trying to find a rhythm.
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