Davis diminishes depth concerns (& nine other thoughts on the Redblacks’ Pre-Season Finale)

Featuring a squad heavy on players battling for positions on the lower rungs of the depth chart and light on players likely to be on the field on June 21st when they open the regular season against Saskatchewan, the Ottawa Redblacks traveled to Guelph.

The 15 hour odyssey began in Ottawa Thursday morning and ended back in the nation’s capital around 3am on Friday. A 32-17 victory over the Toronto Argonauts was sandwiched between two flights, four bus rides and a couple of meals.

While pre-season contests are nothing more than glorified scrimmages, with so many established starters not making the trip, there were plenty of reps to go around. Some players took advantage of the snaps and played their way onto the team, others did the opposite.

Here are all my thoughts on the game.

1) Dominique Davis’ performance should go a long way towards easing the fears of R-Nation. Davis played the entire first half and aside from one errant throw, was sharp. Davis looked comfortable in Jamie Elizondo’s system, making good reads and getting rid of the ball quickly. He completed 78.3% of his passes, going 18/23 for 187 yards, a touchdown and an interception. If not for two deliberate throwaways, those numbers would be even better. Davis also did an excellent job using his feet to avoid pressure and move the pocket. Although he was playing against backups, Davis led four scoring drives. Last night’s performance should do the trick and earn him backup quarterback position.

As for only other quarterback to throw a pass for the Redblacks, Danny Collins had an efficient night. 8/13 for 100 yards is a solid if unspectacular outing. Collins threw a handful of strikes, threading the needle into a few tight windows. He was also fortunate not to have been picked off multiple times.

2) A week after averaging 1.9 yards per carry, Cedric O’Neal had a much better outing in Guelph. Displaying a mix of strength and speed, O’Neal battered his way through the Argo defence to the tune of 10 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled once.

The only other running back the Redblacks dressed for the trip was 2017 Hec Crighton winner Ed Ilnicki. The Canadian was given was seven consecutive carries on the game’s final drive and picked up 30 yards.

3) With the big dogs resting back in Ottawa (Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Diontae Spencer), the plethora of other pass catchers hoping to make the Redblacks’ roster had an opportunity to make their case. Dominique Rhymes and Seth Coates stood out. The former turned 12 targets into 10 catches for 101 yards, hanging onto the ball despite being on the receiving end of some thumping hits. The latter (Coate) hauled in four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown but also fumbled.

4) After having four high snaps in the game against Montreal last week, 2018 1st round pick Mark Korte had a much better night at centre vs Toronto. Aside from a single bad snap, Korte delivered the ball well. It’s fair to say that Korte has struggled with the transition to centre. After a stellar U-Sports career that saw him split time between the tackle and guard positions, the adjustment to playing in the middle of the offensive line has taken some time. That said, if last night was any indication, Korte’s settling in. If he can be counted upon as a reliable option at centre, Korte would provide the Redblacks with further depth behind Alex Mateas and Jon Gott.

5) On the defensive side of the ball, Corey Tindal led all players with seven tackles. The second year player did an excellent job recognizing plays and flying to the ball carrier. Linebacker Zeek Bigger and defensive lineman Bruce Gaston also made their presence felt with a combined nine tackles. Loucheiz Purifoy played sparring but made every snap count, making three tackles (including one for a loss) and forcing a fumble.

In the secondary, Aarion Penton had an impressive pick six and Reggie Daniels made an incredibly athletic diving interception. Josh Johnson also nearly had an interception but failed to hang onto the ball.

6) The Redblacks’ kicking battle is clear as mud. Building on last week’s strong showing, Canadian Lewis Ward continued to be perfect, nailing a 20 yard field goal and a convert. Meanwhile Americans Sergio Castillo and Richie Leone also made field goals. The trio averaged 62, 62 and 65 yards per kickoff respectively. Castillo punted twice for 82 yards. The decision as to who makes the team may come down to who the coaching staff believes can stay healthy.

7) Speaking of special teams, for the second week in a row, both Kieren Duncan and RJ Shelton continued to look explosive and dangerous. Each had a return of 50+ yards. Additionally, Duncan averaged 7 yards per punt return while Shelton chipped in on offence, making two catches for 19 yards. Don’t be surprised to see both make the final roster (perhaps stashed on the one game injured list).

8) Pre-season football and sloppiness go hand in hand but Redblacks truly did themselves no favours last night. When Ottawa’s defence forced a fumble, the offence immediately fumbled the ball right back. Same thing happened after their first interception. Although the Redblacks generated four turnovers, they gave the ball away an equal amount of times. On top of that, the team took nine penalties and went just 1/3 on two point conversion attempts.

9) I get that pre-season games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t get over TSN not broadcasting every game. In place of CFL action last night, TSN’s five channels showcased a baseball game between two American teams, the Calder Cup and the French Open. Furthermore, the fact that TSN’s Toronto radio station couldn’t even be bothered to air the game is ridiculous. Toronto is the league’s biggest market and one in desperate need of growth. How blacking out any of their games helps is beyond me.

10) With the win, Ottawa’s pre-season comes to a close. Performances at this time of year should always be taken with a grain of salt, but the fact that Rick Campbell and company have some tough decisions ahead is a testament to the work done this off-season by scouts and GM Marcel Desjardins. As roster cuts only have to be announced Saturday morning, Desjardins and the coaching staff can use today to pour over film.

Once those decisions are made, Campbell has an extra week to prepare his squad for Ottawa’s season opener against Saskatchewan. Although many grumbled when it was first revealed that the Redblacks’ first bye week was in Week One, it’s turned out to be a boon. Mainly because it allows Trevor Harris more time to heal, but it will also benefit other nicked up players like Jason Lauzon-Séguin, Nolan MacMillan, Brad Sinopoli and Brandon Stewart.

The Redblacks kick off their regular season at home on June 21st.

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
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Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (197 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.)

8 Comments on Davis diminishes depth concerns (& nine other thoughts on the Redblacks’ Pre-Season Finale)

  1. Bill deHoog // June 8, 2018 at 12:55 pm //

    Good summary I thought. Some many good players to choose from. I think Rose may be a casualty at CB. A couple of new linebackers also
    How many new receivers will stick? I see a 11 win season and challenging for first this year. Hope they stay with Ward and Sergio for kickers.
    Marcel did a great job in bringing in talent…kudos….no Rick has a tough weekend ahead

  2. Although it sounds like Ottawa put on an impressive display and have a solid QB in Davis – it is important to remember it is still pre season. The teams aren’t going balls to the walls and are not using their entire playbook yet.

    All teams will take on a whole new look once cuts are made and they head into regular season. Looking forward to an amazing season of CFL football.

  3. Edward Leslie // June 8, 2018 at 5:33 pm //

    Ottawa will be good this year. Davis and Collins seem to give them better prospects at 2/3 than other teams like Montreal, Calgary and Winnipeg have.

    I agree with Santino about TSN not showing all the preseason games. Why don’t they?
    I simply don’t understand this multiple channels “advancement”… which all show the same damn thing! If they only show Sportscentre or a baseball game and there is no difference or no options, why not just have one channel?
    The modern TV universe is totally bogus with numerous repeat channels and multiple network affiliates showing the same programs.
    I just don’t get it. Instead of having hundreds of channels cluttering things up, just have 20 or 30 GOOD channels.

  4. Is he really saying that people in the Toronto area didn’t even have an opportunity to LISTEN to the game, much less see it? That is just crazy…

  5. I drove up from Burlington to see the game. A surprisingly good show as it turned out, including the venue.
    Ottawa looks well prepared at this point, with decent depth across the board. The defense appears more capable of making plays than last year.
    I brought a radio but no coverage from TSN Toronto, as mentioned. I would have enjoyed listening to Argo play by play man Mike Hogan make excuses.

  6. Enrico Della Penta // June 11, 2018 at 9:02 am //

    RBs are going to be there, looks like they have a good group of players assembled. Dominique Davis will get better over the season and more confident and will step up if Harris falters or gets injured. Hopefully, the defense will perform better under Thorpe.

    Another great year in the CFL coming up.

  7. Like to know your thoughts on Davis vs Collins
    What I have noticed is Davis is taking a lot of time getting the ball out and making reads.
    Collins looks like a gun slinger. Really like his reads and arm strength
    I have Collins ahead of Davis. Davis has had Six years to make a mark.
    Yourthoughts?

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