It won’t count for anything in the standings, but Saturday’s pre-season game will go a long way towards establishing those players who will make Ottawa’s final roster, and those who won’t.
Whether you watch from the stands at TD Place or at home on a rare TSN pre-season broadcast, here are four things to keep an eye on during Saturday’s tilt.
The Quarterback Battle
It’s obvious but still needs to be said. Dominique Davis and Jonathan Jennings are embroiled in a fierce competition for the Redblacks’ starting job. Two weeks into camp, there hasn’t been much to pick apart between them. Although the Ticats will be resting veterans on the defensive side of the ball, it’s important that Davis and Jennings showcase their familiarity with the playbook and an ability to direct Ottawa’s attack with ease.
With little room for error, both will need to avoid mistakes and make sound decisions to carry this battle forward another week.
Beyond the clash atop the depth chart, this game also has ramifications for Danny Collins and Will Arndt. Collins was Ottawa’s third stringer for the majority of 2018, but Arndt doesn’t hold Western Connecticut State University records for passing yards (7,940) and touchdowns (91) by accident.
All Canadian Hogs
One of the more eye-raising things that’s come up during the Redblacks training camp has been the use of five Canadians in their starting group of offensive linemen. Mark Korte has been shifted to left tackle, Evan Johnson continues at left guard, Alex Mateas anchors the unit at centre, Nolan MacMillan is at right guard and Jason Lauzon-Séguin is at right tackle.
It’s rare to see a team go all-Canadian with their offensive line but Ottawa’s certainly got the depth to pull it off. The question in this case is if quantity equals quality. After all, what looks good in practice doesn’t always translate to the field on game day. Regardless of how the group plays, Americans Chris Martin and DeVondre Seymour will get long looks at the tackle positions.
Who calls the shots?
When Jamie Elizondo bolted for the XFL six weeks out from training camp, the Redblacks suddenly found themselves without the architect of one of the league’s most dangerous offensive attacks.
Instead of following the traditional route of simply promoting an existing positional coach to the title of offensive coordinator or bringing in an outside hire, GM Marcel Desjardins decided to bring back an old name in ex-Renegade head coach Joe Paopao and to give out a faux promotion to receivers coach Winston October. October will be acting as the offensive coordinator, even though head coach Rick Campbell won’t name him as such.
Saturday’s pre-season game will provide R-Nation its first look at exactly how the offensive chain of command works. How much control will October actually have? Who’s making half-time adjustments? When it comes to a crucial moment (think third and short), who has final say on the play call?
A clear separation of roles and expectations among the offensive staff will be necessary if Ottawa’s by-committee approach is to have any chance of succeeding.
For those who follow local university football, three former Carleton Ravens will make their Redblacks debut on Saturday. After two seasons with the Eskimos, Nate Behar, he of Panda Game fame, will look to make his case for a spot in the receiving corps.
2017 J.P. Metras Trophy winner (awarded to the OUA lineman of the year) and 2018 All-Canadian defensive end Kene Onyeka is in his second camp with the Redblacks. In seven games with the Ravens in 2018 he amassed 24 tackles and seven sacks as a rush end.
At six-foot-five, 325 pounds, Daniel Omara brings a massive frame to Ottawa’s offensive line. Capable of playing both guard and tackle, look for him to get some reps in the second half of the game.
Finally there’s defensive back Justin Howell who will be looking to build off his strong rookie season. With Antoine Pruneau not suiting up for the game, Howell will get the start, and an excellent opportunity to showcase his growth.