Three keys to the Redblacks’ 2018 season

For the 2018 season to be considered a success, the Ottawa Redblacks will need to overcome the issues that plagued last year’s team; sloppy defensive play, untimely injuries and an inability to win with regularity at TD Place.

To address the former, GM Marcel Desjardins spent the off-season giving his defence a much-needed makeover. In 2017, the Redblacks allowed opponents a CFL high 6.9 yards per first down play, generated a league low 22 turnovers and had just 31 sacks.

In theory, Noel Thorpe’s blitz heavy defensive system should go a long way to curing those woes. Not to mention a slew of free agent additions who boast experience, versatility, and perhaps most importantly, speed. Newcomers Rico Murray, Loucheiz Purifoy, Kyries Hebert, A.C. Leonard and Josh Johnson will all be opening day starters. Each brings a high energy, physical style of play that should make life tough for opposing offences.

Given that last season, the Redblacks were 1-7-1 in games decided by 4 points or less, a defence capable of generating more turnovers should result in fewer points against and more “Ws” in the win column.

As for the issue of injuries, Ottawa’s season got off to an inauspicious start when quarterback Trevor Harris went down on the second series of the team’s first pre-season game. As with any CFL team, Ottawa’s offence is dependent on a healthy starting pivot. Even if Harris starts against Saskatchewan on Thursday, having your quarterback open the year banged up is less than ideal.

Although some would have you believe Harris needs to prove himself and have another big year, the reality is he is already among the league’s elite at his position. The only thing he needs to “prove” is that he can stay healthy. Despite missing three games last season, Harris still tied for the lead with 30 touchdown passes and passed for over 300 yards nine times. Furthermore, since joining the Redblacks in 2016, Harris has thrown 46 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions. With No. 7 under centre, Ottawa can hang with anyone.

Yet Harris isn’t the only offensive player that needs to stay healthy. Running back William Powell finished last season on a tear, rushing for 771 yards in his final seven starts. When he’s on the field, he’s a difference maker singlehandedly capable of taking over games. The issue with Powell is that he’s only managed to suit up for 19 games during his three years in the league.

There’s also offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers. When healthy, Rogers is widely regarded as one of the best blindside tackles in the league. He provides leadership, can be counted on to hold his own against an opponent’s best pass rusher and is a road grader in the ground game. But like Powell, Rogers has fought the injury bug, missing four games in 2017 and six in 2016.

If the trio can avoid missing significant time with injuries, Jamie Elizondo’s offence will be a force to be reckoned with.

Finally, when it comes to winning at home, the Redblacks simply need to be better at turning a sold-out crowd’s energy into wins. R-Nation does its part to create a rowdy and intimidating atmosphere at TD Place, it’s up to the players to do the rest. Since 2014, Ottawa’s averaged four wins at home per season. If the Redblacks could manage to win six to nine at home in 2018, it would go a long way towards securing an East Division crown and a home playoff game.

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 (221 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.)

10 Comments on Three keys to the Redblacks’ 2018 season

  1. George Fogarty // June 20, 2018 at 10:15 pm //

    Oline is gonna be crucial to determining outcome. Looks like an improved D and hope Harris stays healthy. Go Redblacks.

    • The only team to start FOUR Canadians on the O-line.
      We will see how that works out.

  2. I just hope Harris can stay healthy. No disrespect meant to RB nation, but i can see him going down by game 4 for a couple of games OR suffering a significant injury at some point this season. Boy has got to stay healthy if RB want to compete.

    • Yes but you can say the same thing about other QBs too, can Ray stay healthy if not they are in trouble. Can Collaros stay healthy if not they are in trouble. What happens if Reilly goes down? All it takes is for a QB, or any other player to plant a foot and then he’s twisted the other way. It doesn’t matter how fit of a player or how injury free you were in the past, it can happen.
      Ottawa lost 7 games by less than 4 points last season and their 3 rd stringer was in for 3 of those games.
      Yet, they only finished one half game behind the Argos.
      The big problem was the defense but big improvements this year through FA, this team will be the number one team in the east and may be number one overall in the league.

      • riderontheisland // June 21, 2018 at 11:51 am //

        The point is Joe that do the RBs have a dependable backup. The Argos, Riders, and Esks can say that, but I don’t think the RBs can. No team wants their #1 to go down, but best to have an option if/when they do.

  3. If the RedBags defence is going to improve, it’ll be due changes in scheme – – because the changes in personnel sure aren’t going to improve anything.

    I like how aggressive and hard hitting Kyries Hebert is, but let’s be honest – – he’s way past his best before date.

    Rico Mediocre is a depth guy at best – – not someone you want starting.

    AC Leonard gives exactly what you’d expect from a receiver trying to play DE. Which is not much. Leonard has ZERO pass rush ability. His only “move” is to try and use his speed to go wide on the OT and loop back around.

    Losing Zach Evans was catastrophic for the RedBags. They’ve got absolutely nothing at DT. Mike Klassen is incapable of being a starter. Mike Wakefield is unproven and – – more importantly – – undersized.

    If Regina is smart they’ll run between the tackles to take advantage of the RedBags weakness inside and at MLB.

  4. RB Nation // June 21, 2018 at 2:04 pm //

    The 2017 d couldn’t hold a lead in the fourth quarter. Seemed like they expected the 25,000 maniacs to take the heat off them. Hoping better personnel and scheme returns them to 12-6. That’s my fearless prediction. It starts tonight.

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