Ottawa’s offensive line is having penalty trouble. Here’s why.

It should come as no surprise to any member of R-Nation that the Redblacks lead the league in penalties. Through the 12 games that the team has played in 2016, Ottawa has on average, given up an entire length of the field to the opposing team (being flagged 11.5 times per game).

The 138 penalties called on the Redblacks have resulted in 1,382 yards and 41 first downs gifted to opponents. Breaking it down further, the offence has been flagged 39 times, the defence 61 times and special teams units 38 times.

Today I want to take a closer look at those offensive penalties, specifically at how more than 50 per cent (20 of 39) of the flags on the offence have been called on the offensive line.

Ottawa's Offensive Line Flags

A few quick takeaways from the breakdown:

– Unsurprisingly, holding is the most frequent offence (10 flags), followed by illegal procedure (8 flags) for early movement on the line. Only two other penalties have been called on the offensive line and both have been on J’Michael Deane for illegal blocks.

– On that note, Deane is Ottawa’s most flagged offensive lineman, averaging 0.8 penalties per game. That’s in stark contrast to 2nd year pro Alex Mateas, who has made 11 starts without being flagged once.

– Aside from Mateas, the lone other offensive lineman without a penalty to his name is Jake Silas (excluding Nolan MacMillan has only played two quarters of football so far this season)

– The only offensive lineman that has started every game and who will start the next one, is Jon Gott. Gott has been very good at not committing fouls, averaging just 0.4 flags per game (basically a flag every two games).

– Considering that he is a rookie and that he has been asked to play three different positions along the line, it’s incredible that Lauzon-Séguin has only taken two penalties. It’s also a testament to how pro ready Laval makes its players.

One thing that may explain the number of flags on the offensive line is the number of injuries. The injury bug has decimated the Redblacks’ offensive line, leading to an almost weekly shuffle of players. The lack of stability created by this constant shuffling hasn’t allowed the unit to properly gel, and on the offensive line, familiarity with the tendencies of the man playing beside you is everything. Knowing how he’ll react to a blitz or a defensive line shift just before the ball snaps is often the difference between a play going for a big gain or being brought back thanks to a holding call.

The loss of Rogers to a season ending ankle injury means yet another new combination of linemen will take the field this week. Based on reports from practice, it looks like Lauzon-Séguin will move to left tackle, Deane returns at right guard, Gott remains at centre, MacMillan gets his first start of the season left guard and Silas draws back into the lineup at right tackle. To make space for the returns of Deane and MacMillan, Mateas and Albright head to the bench.

Hopefully the Redblacks soon settle on a starting group that can stay healthy and allow the unit to develop some cohesion, as that will surely lead to a drop in penalties and better production from the offence as a whole.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).