Former Redblacks make Ottawa pay (and 9 other thoughts)

Despite playing another entertaining game, the Ottawa Redblacks failed to do enough to secure their first win of the season against the Edmonton Eskimos. Here are my thoughts on the 23-21 loss.

1) While on paper it was his worst game of the season, there was actually a lot to like about Trevor Harris’ performance against the Eskimos. Though he completed just 65% of his passes, going 23/35 for 284 yards and a touchdown, for the most part, Harris displayed excellent zip and accuracy on his throws. He also made his reads quickly and used his feet to move the pocket when under pressure. All that said, if not for a pair of clearly missed throws (the first a poorly placed lateral pass to Brad Sinopoli which resulted in a fumble return touchdown, the second an overthrow on the game tying convert), the Redblacks likely win the game. Four games into the season, it’s evident that Harris is among the best QBs in the league and is developing serious chemistry with his receiving corps. Once he eliminates the few mistakes he’s been making, the team will get into the win column.

2) For the second week in a row, offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo failed to have his offence convert on more than 50% of its second downs (10/20). Although the Redblacks moved the sticks 24 times, the offence only averaged 5.3 yards per play and put up 291 yards of total offence. Against a high flying Eskimos team, that was never going to be enough. In terms of play calling, there’s two ways to look at the ratio of run to pass (35 passes to 17 runs). On one hand, you could say that Elizondo did a good job of balancing out his play calling to keep the defence honest. On the other, you could argue that on a night when his offensive line failed to consistently open lanes, Elizondo stubbornly stuck to the ground game, wasting plays that could’ve been better spent pushing the ball down field. One area that the offence did excel was in the red zone, where they finished drives with authority, going 3/3 in terms of touchdowns.

3) Finally declared fully healthy, Willam Powell got the start at running back for Ottawa. Unfortunately for the team, his return wasn’t exactly the spark the offence was looking for, as he mustered a measly 3.1 yards per carry and was held to 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground. To be fair, perhaps it’s not really on him, as Mossis Madu did no better last week behind the same offensive line. It doesn’t really matter who’s at running back if the hogs up front aren’t creating space.

4) Speaking of the offensive line, the unit deserves praise for it’s much improved pass blocking. Led by centre Jon Gott (who made his 120th career start), the group only gave up a single sack against a fearsome Eskimo pass rush. Still, as much as the offensive line did well in pass protection, they must be better on the ground. Until they can establish a respectable running game, the offence will continue to struggle to maintain drives.

5) Does anyone remember the last time Greg Ellingson lost a jump ball? Me neither. Ellingson again led the way with a team high 66 receptions yards. As for the rest of the receiving corps, Dominique Rhymes (4 catches for 59 yards) Brad Sinopoli (4 catches for 53 yards) and Joshua Stangby (3 catches for 30 yards) were Harris’ other favourite targets. The emergence of Rhymes and Stangby is huge for a corps that has already had it’s depth tested early this season due to injuries. As per the norm, Sinopoli led all receivers in terms of YAC (yards after the catch).

6) This loss wasn’t on Ottawa’s defence. As a group, the unit played violent, aggressive football. It started up front with a defensive line that really got after Eskimo QB Mike Reilly. In addition to sacking Reilly four times, Ottawa pressured him another 12 times, often flushing him out of the pocket and making him uncomfortable. Arnaud Gascon-Nadon was a beast, regularly beating his man and getting after the QB. The Redblacks also got big defensive performances out of their linebacking corps, as Khalil Bass and Taylor Reed were constantly around the ball and dishing out punishing hits. The duo combined for 11 tackles, a sack and 2 QB pressures. Technically Ottawa’s defence gave up 10 points, as they weren’t on the field for the fumble returned for a touchdown and when given a short field following a punt block, they held the Eskimos to a field goal. Can’t forget to mention the performance of DB Corey Tindal, who made 6 tackles and had 2 knockdowns. Though some around the league were surprised by the release of AJ Jefferson, Tindal has shown that he’s more than capable of filling his shoes.

7) There’s no denying that Ottawa’s got a kicking problem. After missing another convert, Brett Maher is an unacceptable 4/7 on point after attempts. He’s also missed two fields through four games. Given that Ottawa’s three losses have been by a combined seven points, the missed kicks by Maher loom large. Even if Maher has been excellent in terms of punting the ball (averaging over 45 yards per punt), GM Marcel Desjardins really needs to consider bringing in another kicker for field goal duty. Perhaps the recently released Swayze Waters gets a call this week.

8) It took him four tries, but Jason Maas finally earned his first win against his former team. On an Eskimo squad loaded with former Redblacks (GM Brock Sunderland, Forrest Hightower, Danny O’Brien, Scott MacDonell, Mike Moore Brandyn Thompson, Travon Van), it was only a matter of time before someone had a big game against Ottawa. On Friday night it was Van strutting his stuff to the tune of 18 carries for 103 yards and 4 catches for 21 yards. Thompson also made a massive play, scooping up Harris’ errant pass to Sinopoli and returning it 31 yards for a touchdown.

9) Still don’t think it’s time to panic despite Ottawa’s winless start to the season. Even though team hasn’t won a game yet, they have proven they can hang with the top teams in the league, playing both Edmonton and Calgary tough. The Redblacks are a group that play better than their opponents for long stretches, before succumbing to self-inflicted wounds. Rick Campbell’s team needs to stop finding new ways to lose. This week it was failed two point converts, giving up 20 straight points, a fumble returned for a touchdown and a block punt that cost them.

10) Despite being winless, the sky isn’t falling and the Redblacks only sit three points out of 1st place in the East. With back to back games against Montreal and Toronto on tap, Ottawa can easily get back on track with a pair of wins.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (188 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

9 Comments on Former Redblacks make Ottawa pay (and 9 other thoughts)

  1. Thanks again for your evaluation of our team. I always enjoy them, for me they are pretty bang on.

  2. bill dehoog // July 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm //

    Need to be better on second and short

  3. rogieshan // July 16, 2017 at 4:39 pm //

    I wouldn’t give up on Brett Maher just yet. Drew Tate was the sole reason for one of the convert misses and his kicking leg has shown strong distances. I think statistically Edmonton’s defense was prone to the run going into the game and coach Campbell was probably determined to exploit that. Trevor Harris is a solid QB but he doesn’t appear to be a vocal leader, something Henry Burris was very good at.

  4. IF ONLY, IF ONLY. If only Harris didn’t make another boneheaded decision. If only Thompson didn’t take advantage & score. IF ONLY Ottawa had the ball more than 14 minutes in the last 3 Qtrs. Look, with the receivers Edmonton has they’ve been running the ball 42% of the time, far more than anyone else. Their mindset is to wear down the opponent & keep their offence off the field. When the Esks need to go deep downfield they have done so this year. As soon as BC tied Game 1 with less than a minute to go, Maas sends Zylstra & Bowman blasting down the field & game over. The point is not to laud the Eskimos – the RedBlacks have a very good team. The point is had Ottawa been leading in the 2nd half & not playing catchup the play calling on both sides of the ball for their opponent would be different. The Eskimos had the ball on the Ottawa 14 & 2 & got FG’s. They might have been much more aggressive given a situation where they’re behind. Everything changes. Sure the Thompson fumble was a turning point but the Eskimos last year & so far this year start slow & play their best in the 2nd half. Total points 1st 3 games in 1st Qtr – 6. In past 2 only had possession 4 minutes 1st Qtr both games. The Esks didn’t give the ball to Ottawa enough the 2nd half to warrant a win. You’re right – 291 net yards, not great for this team. But that had a lot to do with the team on the other side who, at this stage, is playing sound defence. Give some credit to the other team for holding Ellingson to 66 yards & Spencer to 1 catch, his 7th target. As for the 1 sack, ask Harris if he got beat up or not. Ottawa is a good team who has to play a lot better. Full stop.

  5. I was sitting in the stands and never got the feeling that the Red Blacks were going to win this game. Eskimos only got the one sack but pressured Harris, and it was pressure from Odel Willis that caused the over throw on the game tying covert attempt. The writer also mentions former Red Blacks on the Eskimos roster and a lot of that has to do with Sunderland. You could also say that Ottawas coaching staff is littered with ex Eskimos. The Red Blacks should be better than they are and will be better. But don’t expect a repeat in late November.

  6. justforkicks // July 16, 2017 at 7:47 pm //

    Not sure the comment about Riley being made uncomfortable has a lot of merit. Riley is such a tough ball player and I don’t think fear of a sack is on his mind outside of giving up field position. And for me Eskimos are not my first team of choice but I think they are the team to watch (out for) in the west this year.

  7. George Fogarty // July 16, 2017 at 10:02 pm //

    Come back in October and we will see that the REDBLACKS will be on top of the east.

  8. big harry.

  9. GoCats! // July 17, 2017 at 9:10 am //

    Generally agree … though I was concerned about Harris in the late stages of the season, I am not clear on why a guy who has been with the team a while doesn’t either make a better lateral or make the vertern decision to take the sack.

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