On the eve of Ottawa’s season opener in Montreal, now is a perfect time to dream a little. At this moment, every single team has the same record and chance of ending up in the playoffs. With all that optimism in the air, here’s a look at some of my bold predictions for the Ottawa Redblacks 2015 season.
1) The Redblacks will have a top 3 offence
The additions of OC Jason Maas, OL Coach Bryan Chiu and WRs Chris Williams, Ernest Jackson, Maurice Price (just to name a few), gel and make Ottawa one of the best offences in the CFL. It might take a few weeks to get clicking, but soon enough the Redblacks will be giving defensive co-ordinators sleepless nights. And on that note….
2) Henry Burris will turn back the clock and throw for 5000 yards and 30 TDs
A new offensive system that plays to his strengths, combined with proven veteran receivers and a reinforced offensive line make Burris look 5 years younger and work wonders for his stats. Not only will Burris start every game (barring injury), but he’ll also average 2 TDs and 275 yards per game.
3) Jeremiah Johnson will be the feature back by Week 5
I love Chevon Walker and think he’s an extremely talented back, but he simply doesn’t bring the same elements to the running game that Johnson does. Johnson is a violent downhill runner whose style is perfectly suited to pounding the ball up the gut. Walker is an explosive, speedy, slasher type, better at making defenders miss in open space. Too often Walker gets stuffed in short yardage situations as he doesn’t hit the hole with conviction and instead tries to dance around looking for a seam. Johnson on the other hand, puts his head down and bowls people over. Furthermore, Johnson averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season vs Walker’s 4.5 yards. It’ll be difficult for the coaching staff to make this change, as Walker is being paid like the top running back, but if Johnson keeps producing when he’s getting carries, it’ll have to be done.
4) Ernest Jackson will lead the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns
Though he hasn’t had the same amount of hype as Maurice Price, Greg Ellingson or Chris Williams, Jackson is more a complete receiver. He’s bigger, stronger, has great hands in traffic and runs crisper routes. He’ll quickly become Burris’ safety blanket and with his size, he has the durability to make it through a strenuous 18 game schedule.
5) Antoine Pruneau will make 70+ tackles, have 5 sacks, force 5 fumbles and make 5 interceptions
Last year Pruneau was a rookie, though you’d never be able to tell from looking at his stats. Those numbers become even more impressive when you take into account that he only began starting games in Week 6. With a year of experience under his belt and an off-season spent bulking up and working his agility, Pruneau will become the main defender opposing teams game plan for.
6) Justin Capicciotti and Marlon Smith will both have double digit sack seasons
Fresh off his 11 sack season in 2014, Capicciotti follows up an impressive first season in Ottawa by pulling off a repeat. Smith is a bit of a dark horse on the defensive line but flashed potential in this year’s pre-season game vs the Alouettes when he picked up 3 sacks in a little more than two quarters of work.
7) The Redblacks will lead the East Division in interceptions
In 2014, the Redblacks entire secondary were rookies. Despite that handicap, the group was a strength, rarely allowing receivers to get behind them for big plays. Familiarity breeds success in football and as Brandyn Thompson, Jermaine Robinson, Abdul Kanneh, Jerrell Gavins and Brandon McDonald are another year wiser, these talented ballhawks will be the beasts of the East.
8) Neither of the kickers on the Redblacks roster will be on the team by the end of the season
Nothing against Anthony Alix or Delbert Alvarado, but with Calgary carrying three kickers (Tyler Crapinga, Rene Paredes and Rob Maver), and Montreal’s Sean Whyte still battling Boris Bede for a job, and veterans like Paul McCallum and Hugh O’Neill out on the street as free agents, at the first sign of inconsistency, they’ll be replaced.
9) Ottawa’s record will be 7-11, good enough for 3rd in the East and will win a road playoff game
I’m quite aware that I’m aiming high here, but I think that with Ricky Ray being out for 6 weeks and Montreal’s Jonathan Crompton still looking underwhelming and with the average age of Montreal’s wide receivers being over 30, the Redblacks have a serious chance to make some noise, especially early in the season. I think Montreal finishes 4th and Ottawa heads to Toronto for their first playoff game since 1994. Backed by a loud contingent of R-Nation who follow the team down the 401, the Redblacks turn that momentum in a playoff win.
Be sure to let me know what you think of my predictions by leaving a comment down below!