Five closing thoughts on Ottawa’s pre-season, training camp cuts and a look ahead.
1) Depth behind Harris weak
Even if he’s claiming otherwise, you have to think GM Marcel Desjardins would like to add another QB to his roster. It’s clear that if starter Trevor Harris were to go down for any length of time, the Redblacks would be in serious trouble. While off-season acquisition Drew Tate is a capable fill in, he’s currently not healthy and has a history of unfortunate injuries. Behind him is NFL castoff Ryan Lindley, who failed to impress in the pre-season, going 18/31 (58 prer cent) for 140 yards and a touchdown. The only other QB on the team is Danny Collins, who was decisive in his reads in brief playing time, but needs time to develop. Did Desjardins err in jettisoning Brock Jenson early in training camp?
So where does Ottawa go from here? Perhaps they bring in a free agent like Drew Willy, mainly because it wouldn’t cost an all-star DB and a 1st round pick. Or maybe ex-NFLer Josh Freeman gets a look. A dark horse to consider is Mitchell Gale, someone who is already familiar with both offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo and Trevor Harris due to their time together in Toronto.
2) Cuts you saw coming
Veterans Shakir Bell and Tori Gurley are familiar names, but it came as no surprise to see them among Saturday night’s cuts. Bell averaged a measly 0.8 yards per carry vs the Alouettes and fumbled twice. As for Gurley, he was banged up in the first pre-season contest before being held without a catch in Montreal. Given how deep Ottawa’s receiving corps is with entrenched starters (Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Juron Criner, Kenny Shaw, Diontae Spencer) and emerging youngsters like Dominique Rhymes and Josh Stangby, there simply wasn’t space for him going forwards. There was a bit of buzz around Javier Arenas due to his NFL experience, but ultimately he failed to match the level of play (and production) of players like Imoan Claiborne, Keelan Johnson, Sherrod Baltimore and Corey Tindal.
3) And those you didn’t
Ottawa native John Biewald seemed on track to make the team as part of the Redblacks’ deep Canadian rotation on the defensive line, but a serious knee injury derailed those plans and led to his release. Likewise, receiver Daje Johnson impressed in the return game but was also let go due to an injury. American defensive lineman Darryl Paulo got a long look at end during the pre-season but was too often out of position and left chasing plays. A trio of 2017 draft picks (DL Mathieu Dupuis, RB Ed Ilnicki and OL Jordan Filippelli) were also let go. Dupuis has already signed with the Ticats as part of their practice roster while Ilnicki and Filippelli may return to their university teams. Lastly, a productive pre-season (6 catches for 30 yards) was not enough to keep Riley Wilson from being released.
4) Practice roster potential
As things currently stand, the Redblacks’ PR features DBs Sherrod Baltimore and Corey Tindal, WRs Austen Hartley and Dominique Rhymes, OL Eric Lofton and Ryan Schmidt, LBs Kevin Jackson and Kevin Brown, DL Avery Ellis and QB Danny Collins.
In two pre-season contests Baltimore and Tindal flashed playmaking ability and at some point this season will be contributing to Ottawa’s secondary. Hartley ran crisp routes, displayed a knack for getting open and will be groomed into a depth role behind Canadians Brad Sinopoli and Jake Harty. Rhymes earned himself a roster spot with a stellar performance vs the Alouettes, in which he snagged 5 passes for 93 yards. As for Ellis, he has a high motor and a nose for the ball, which is always a good combination for a defensive lineman.
5) One team’s trash, another’s treasure
With CFL teams around the league trimming their rosters, dozens of players are suddenly looking for work. A couple of veteran names that may interest the Redblacks are DB Dominique Ellis and DL Ben D’Aguilar. Ellis would provide depth and another experienced presence in Ottawa’s secondary, while D’Aguilar could carve out a role on special teams and provide depth on the defensive line. Given that the Redblacks will likely go with three starting Canadians on the defensive line, the more depth, the better.
Another (sneaky) move Desjardins could make is to offer Montreal Alouettes practice roster player Malcolm Carter a regular roster spot. Carter and his 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame would make a nice fill in for the now-retired Jamal Kett, while providing additional Canadian depth at the receiver position.
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