The Ottawa Redblacks began their pre-season on a losing note, falling to the visiting Ticats 25-21 in front of 22,318 fans at TD Place.
Given that it counted for nothing in the standings, it was still an entertaining contest with big plays in all three phases of the game. Some players stood out for the right reasons, others for the wrong.
Here are all my thoughts on the game:
1) The Redblacks are in the midst of an intense quarterback battle. After two weeks of training camp, there hasn’t been much to separate Dominique Davis and Jonathon Jennings. There was hope that Saturday night’s action would start to clear things up, but neither pivot really grabbed the reigns.
Of the two, Davis had the stronger performance. In his three possessions he completed 71 per cent of his passes and led two scoring drives, resulting in a pair of field goals. Davis went 5-of-7 for 118 yards, with 62 yards coming on the game’s opening pass; a bomb that hit a streaking Caleb Holley in stride.
In the second quarter, Jennings had three possessions to state his case. He led one scoring drive (a field goal), completed 4-of-8 attempts for 75 yards and also hit Holley for a big gain (39 yards).
Given how close the quarterback battle has been, it was somewhat surprising that neither Davis nor Jennings was given more reps. Of course head coach Rick Campbell would’ve been lambasted if either had played into the second half and gotten hurt, but I’m not sure how much can be expected of either quarterback when they aren’t given an opportunity to truly get into rhythm.
2) As for the other quarterback battle at the bottom of the depth chart, let’s go ahead and give Will Arndt the nod for the third string role. Neither Arndt nor Danny Collins played particularly well, but given that Collins is in his third season with the team, his atrocious stat line of 1-of-6 for 10 yards is unacceptable. Arndt didn’t shine (going 7-of-16 for 124 yards) but seems to have more upside at this point than Collins.
3) Winston October’s play calling debut was muted, but that comes as no surprise given how vanilla all pre-season play-calling is. With Davis and Jennings in the game, October did a good job of moving the pocket around and orchestrated drives of 63, 87 and 57 yards. It’s only the pre-season but the offence can’t be going 7-for-23 on second down conversions (30 per cent).
4) Running back John Crockett stood out for all the right reasons. As a runner, he displayed power, balance, and an ability to deke through arm tackles. Crockett finished the night with seven carries for 54 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Most impressively, Crockett busted a pair of 10-plus yard runs and one of 28 yards.
5) Given that the Redblacks currently have nineteen receivers on their roster, it’s no surprise to see that eleven different players caught a pass against the Ticats. Caleb Holley led all receivers with three catches for 120 yards. Ryan Lankford turned six targets into three catches for 62 yards and had his lateral picked off on the potential game winning drive.
6) On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back Ironhead Gallon had a game high seven tackles. Troy Stoudermire also stood out, making four tackles and snagging a late game interception that kept things close.
7) The Redblacks used four different returners against the Ticats but despite solid returns from Lankford and Stoudermire (who averaged 23 and 22 yards per return respectively), DeVonte Dedmon’s 100 yard touchdown stole the show.
All the way to the house ????#RNation #LetErRip pic.twitter.com/w9IicuHO3y
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) June 2, 2019
8) Hopefully Ottawa won’t need to rely on Lewis Ward as much as they did in 2018, but if need be he’s shown he’s once again ready to be leaned on for points. Ward nailed all three of his field goal attempts against the Ticats and looks to be in mid-season mode.
9) The pre-season is about evaluating players, avoiding injury and winning games; in that order. Although the team escaped the game relatively healthy, it was tough seeing RJ Shelton go down with a non-contact leg injury that looks to be season ending.
10) The Redblacks coaching staff has a short turn around as they prepare to travel to Montreal on Thursday, but with a full set of game film to chew over, their roster decisions should start to come into focus. Those who don’t make the trip have good odds of being on the final roster. Those who do will need to make the most of their last opportunity to convince the coaches that they can be of use.
12) Lastly, let’s take a quick check at Ottawa’s Mexican production. Receiver Guillermo Villalobos was flagged once for being offside and made a 12-yard catch in the fourth quarter. Kicker Jose Maltos made his lone field goal attempt from 38 yards and punted three times for an average net gain of 32 yards. To put that into context, punter Richie Leone’s net punt gain was 43.3 yards.