Canadian content: Ottawa Redblacks

Canadian content is an off-season series I’ve created to look at how each club deployed its starting nationals in 2019 and project how they may do so in 2020. This information can give us an idea of how teams will approach the draft in May.

We’ve already looked at the B.C. Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Toronto Argonauts. Today we will be covering the Ottawa Redblacks.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Ottawa’s national players accounted for 139 starts in 2019, well over the required 126. The team started an all-Canadian offensive line eleven times — no other team did so even once — while extra national starters factored in at defensive tackle and running back as the season progressed.

Below is a breakdown of how the Redblacks fielded their national starters last season. Players who appear at more than one position are marked with an asterisk.

Running back

Brendan Gillanders (3)

Slotback

Brad Sinopoli (18)

Wide receiver

Nate Behar (9)
Julian Feoli-Gudino (5)
Jacob Scarfone (1)

Tackle

Mark Korte (18)
Jason Lauzon-Séguin (7)
Evan Johnson (4)*

Guard

Evan Johnson (14)*
Nolan MacMillan (14)
Philippe Gagnon (8)

Centre

Alex Mateas (18)

Defensive tackle

Michael Klassen (7)
Ettore Lattanzio (2)

Safety

Antoine Pruneau (9)
Justin Howell (2)

Ottawa started a number of different players at wide receiver — Nate Behar, Jacob Scarfone, Julian Feoli-Gudino — without generating much production. The team also used Brendan Gillanders, Michael Klassen, and Ettore Lattanzio to help preserve the ratio while dealing with injuries at other positions.

Ottawa’s national talent along the offensive line is the best in the CFL, though they stretch it across all five positions. Mark Korte is serviceable at left tackle, but would be best-used at guard or centre. The team missed SirVincent Rogers last season following his departure in free agency as well as Josue Matías, Rogers’ heir apparent who retired unexpectedly.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Anthony Coombs is listed here as a running back, though he’ll spend plenty of time as a receiver in Paul LaPolice’s offence. Brad Sinopoli will look to have a bounce-back year in 2020, though Ottawa remains thin at national wide receiver overall. Nate Behar and Jacob Scarfone weren’t retained in free agency and Marco Dubois, with just seven career catches, is mostly a special teams contributor.

Brendan Gillanders is a consistent role-player at running back, while fullbacks Anthony Gosselin and Gabriel Polan will need to fill the shoes of Jean-Christophe Beaulieu in 2020. Beaulieu, who made 30 receptions in 2018, recently became a victim of the salary cap.

Antoine Pruneau remains one of the CFL’s best national defensive backs, though he started just nine games last season due to injury. Jean-Philippe Bolduc is one of the league’s most underrated special teamers, while local product Justin Howell was brought back in January on a one-year contract extension. Defensive back is a position I’d expect the Redblacks to address in May’s draft — potentially even in the first round.

Christophe Mulumba was a nice addition in free agency, though the club still needs help at linebacker. Mickael Côté has dressed for just 15 games over the past two seasons, while veteran Nicolas Boulay wasn’t retained in free agency. Ottawa has good special teamers at safety and along the defensive line, but this is a position at which the team needs to improve its national talent.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Cleyon Laing was the Redblacks’ biggest free agent addition, signing a three-year deal with the team. He’ll bring some much-needed pass rushing ability from the interior, collapsing the pocket of opposing quarterbacks. Kene Onyeka should contribute as a rotational pass rusher, while Nigel Romick is an underrated contributor on special teams.

Summary

Ottawa’s offensive line is the strength of its national personnel, along with top-tier talents in Antoine Pruneau and Cleyon Laing. Brad Sinopoli needs to rebound from a poor 2019 season, while Paul LaPolice will look to reinvigorate the career of running back/receiver Anthony Coombs.

Expect the team to draft a blue chip prospect at defensive back while also addressing the receiver and linebacker positions.

Receiver — Brad Sinopoli (1)
Tackle — Mark Korte, Jason Lauzon-Séguin (2)
Guard — Evan Johnson, Nolan MacMillan (2)
Centre — Alex Mateas (1)
Defensive tackle — Cleyon Laing (1)
Safety — Antoine Pruneau (1)

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