While many in R-Nation were caught off guard by Friday morning’s news, it’s a roster transaction that shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone who has been closely following the team.
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) August 28, 2015
Despite being a huge fan favourite, this was a move the Redblacks organization had to make. After his 2014 season was cut short due to injury, big things were expected out of Chevon Walker in new offensive co-ordinator Jason Maas’ system. Unfortunately for Walker, he failed to find the end zone and only gained 287 yards on 78 carries, good for an average of 3.7 yards per carry.
Walker had been the subject of much debate among R-Nation ever since he arrived in Ottawa. For every dazzling big gain picked up as a receiving threat from the backfield, there were numerous failures to convert on 2nd and short. Frankly, Walker struggled to show any consistency running the ball over the past two seasons. When in space, he was a speedy back that excelled at making defenders miss, but when asked to run between the tackles, all too often Walker was stopped for a short gain or a loss as he danced behind his linemen, waiting for a hole to open. Walker himself disagrees with that assessment, as he told the Ottawa Sun today in an interview:
“He (Marcel Desjardins) said they were going in a different direction, I asked him why, what did I do? He said I wasn’t hitting the holes, but every time they gave me the ball, I was getting positive yardage.”
With Walker regulated to spot duty and returning kick offs after losing his starting job to Jeremiah Johnson last week, GM Marcel Desjardins probably felt he couldn’t justify keeping Walker around with a reported six figure salary, especially when you consider that as a 4 year CFL vet, his contract would have soon been guaranteed for the rest of the season.
4-4 RedBlacks had to make a call on Walker before he played Sunday. Nervous time of year for many CFL vets. pic.twitter.com/0Mn84oO02d
— Steve Lloyd (@TSNSteveLloyd) August 28, 2015
Some may wonder why Desjardins released Walker instead of trying to trade him, but in all likelihood Walker’s salary probably prevented a deal from happening.
The Redblacks likely felt comfortable making this move because in the few carries he’s gotten this season, Jeremiah Johnson has shown the explosive burst and ability to run through contact and push the pile that Walker lacked. Additionally, according to reports, the recently signed Travon Van has stood out in practice and could make his debut against Saskatchewan this weekend. Furthermore, Ottawa’s 6th round pick from the 2015 draft, Winnipeg native Kienan LaFrance, is now healthy could contribute immediately by catching passes out of the backfield. LaFrance, a 5’10”, 205 pound running back, was a spark plug for the Manitoba Bisons ground game last season, racking up 785 yards and 7 TDs while averaging 98.1 yards per game.
Though Walker might not be missed on the field, his community presence is something not easily replaced. Walker was one of a number of Redblacks who made Ottawa his off-season home and spent numerous hours out in the community, meeting fans and participating in charity events. It’s always tough to see a fan favourite go but from a football perspective, this was the right move.
Chevon Walker was one of #RNation's first fan favourites in year one. Tough to see him go, but big salary and lost starting job required it.
— Defend the R ????⚫️ #RNation (@DefendTheR) August 28, 2015