Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ottawa Redblacks have found the run game once again. The Redblacks came into week four having run the ball just 26 times through their first two games. The Redblacks ran more in this one game than they had over the previous two combined with 30 carries for 208 yards or 6.9 yards per carry as a team, and a touchdown.
Heading into week five they face a Hamilton Tiger-Cats team coming off of a bye week. This will mark two weeks in a row Ottawa faces an 0-3 team. Can they find another victory in back-to-back weeks this time behind the return of Jeremiah Masoli, and the strength of the run game which featured De’Montre Tuggle?
Week Four Review
There were two players I pointed to as names to watch since before the season even began. Tyrie Adams, and De’Montre Tuggle. Both of these players proved to be crucial in this victory combining for 342 yards on the day. Adams came in as the starter finally getting his chance to start in a meaningful game for Ottawa. He had his struggles, but overall he managed to go 14 of 20 for 185 yards, and 1 touchdown, adding 3 carries for 31 yards as well.
Meanwhile the Redblacks leaned heavily on Tuggle to take pressure off of their young quarterback, an approach they should continue even with the return of Jeremiah Masoli. He would go on to collect 17 carries for 126 yards and 1 touchdown, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Leading the team in every major rushing category: attempts, yards, and touchdowns. Tuggle to his credit doesn’t seem too attached to his performance and is simply looking forward to another opportunity to prove his worth to the Redblacks and cement his status in the CFL as one of the best up and coming backs in the league.
This amounted to a complete 180 degree flip from their play calling in the previous two weeks with Nick Arbuckle at the helm, when they passed nearly 75% of the time. Instead we saw them run the ball 60% of the time and pass just 40%. This will be one trend that should prove interesting to follow. With Masoli coming back from injury, will Ottawa continue to shade run heavy or will they return to their pass happy ways with their QB1 under center?
With Dyce Comes Discipline
The Redblacks currently are playing as the most disciplined team with the lowest penalty count. The one area that could use some work is the special teams unit that has been penalized 7 times now the most of any unit on the team. The defense has been called for just 3 penalties, and the offense has been penalized 6 times. This has added up to just 131 penalty yards on 16 total penalties, lowest in the league as well. Hamilton is 7th in the league with 30 penalties nearly twice as many as Ottawa. This could be another deciding factor in this game for Ottawa. Continue to play disciplined, and play aggressive helping force Hamilton into more penalties.
Room to Improve
While this game turned into a convincing victory there are still many areas that could use some improvement. First and foremost, finishing drives. While the Redblacks have their own version of Mr. Reliable at kicker in Lewis Ward who accounted for 14 of the 26 points on the day, they need to focus on scoring 7 points in the red-zone and not settling for 3. Ward would convert every one of his six attempts on the day, but this is not a sustainable way of winning games.
The field position battle hasn’t been kind to the Redblacks so far. Their punt return unit without DeVonte Dedmon, turned to Brandin Dandridge as the primary return man. Dandridge is a solid option but there aren’t many men on this planet that can return kicks or punts like DeVonte Dedmon at the CFL level whether in Ottawa or in other cities.
Looking Forward to Week Five
Hamilton’s season hasn’t started as they had planned. They hit their week four bye having lost their first three games of the season. Struggles at Quarterback have marred a season that was supposed to be promising following a strong finish to the 2022 season.
Having moved on from Dane Evans, and inserted Matthew Shiltz. Shiltz has proven to be mobile, and fairly accurate but the veteran quarterback is not without his warts which is why he did not open the season as the starter. If Ottawa can keep pressure on him, this game could turn ugly quick.
Hamilton’s Defense Can be Had
This Hamilton defense has given up points in bunches. In week one Winnipeg dropped 42 points against the Ti-Cats who mustered 31. In week two it was Toronto who put up 32 points, while Hamilton managed just 14, and in week three Hamilton scored just 12 while giving up 38 points to Montreal. Having already allowed 112 points, or 37 points per game, Hamilton’s offense has scored just 57 points, or just over half of what they have allowed.
Week by week the offense for Hamilton is scoring less points, and the aggressive front for Ottawa could be the perfect unit to pitch a shut out in week five. The quarterbacks have been turnover prone throwing six interceptions to just two touchdown passes through three games. This lack of production has allowed defenses to focus on stopping the run which has directly resulted in a drop in rushing yards from James Butler.
Butler has struggled to just 137 rushing yards on 32 carries a 4.2 yard per carry average. This amounts to a career low. Butler has always been an explosive back whether it was during his time in the NFL, XFL, or now the CFL. His lowest yards per carry to this point was 4.35 yards dating back to his senior year in college. At the professional level he’s never averaged less than 4.8 yards per carry, and he is arguably the best weapon Hamilton has currently. If Ottawa can continue to keep Butler in check, this pass rush will embarrass the Ti-Cats offensive line this weekend.
Just before week five a piece of exciting news came out of Ottawa. Jeremiah Masoli took first team reps with the Redblacks this week and is in line to start his first game in a calendar year. How fitting is it that he will play for the first time in a year, against his former team the Hamilton Tiger-Cats?
Masoli suited up until week four of the 2022 season before being injured on a dirty hit by Garrett Marino who has since been released by Saskatchewan and resides in the USFL now.
Meanwhile, it was also announced back-up Tyrie Adams suffered an ACL tear, and will miss the remainder of the season after leading the Redblacks to their first win of the season. This could prove to be a big blow long term if Masoli gets banged up in the future. Adams also could have served as the short yardage option for the Redblacks. Now they are left with Masoli, Arbuckle, and Crum. Crum was penciled in as the second quarterback behind Adams, I would expect that trend to continue.
It appears the Redblacks are also in line to get DeVonte Williams back from injury as well. On top of the good news about Masoli, and Williams, offensive lineman Dontae Bull, and linebacker Chizi Umunakwe were full participants in practice on Tuesday. This is huge for Ottawa who just won their first game of the season. If Masoli can come back from injury and return to his pre-injury form this Redblacks team could find momentum at the right time and get on a roll with 0-3 Hamilton the first team up.
Where To Watch, Betting Odds, and Prediction
The 0-3 Tiger Cats are considered 3 point underdogs to the 1-2 Redblacks. This could end up a high scoring affair if Tyrie Adams can continue his performance from week four. Completing 70% of his passes, while adding key conversions with his legs when needed.
You can catch this game on TSN in Canada, CBS in the US, and CFL+ internationally. In this game I expect another Ottawa victory. This time the Redblacks offense gets rolling once again against a porous defense. Ottawa will find the end-zone multiple times, and end up topping 30 points for the first time this season.
Prediction Ottawa 31-18
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