The Ottawa Redblacks are dealing with a ton of uncertainty along their offensive line in training camp this year.
Four recent first-round draft picks have left the team since 2019 with Alex Mateas retiring, Jason Lauzon-Seguin and Evan Johnson signing elsewhere in free agency, and Alex Fontana electing not to play in 2021. What was once a strength of Ottawa’s roster is now a huge question mark.
The offensive line will have a different look in 2021. With MacMillan starting at one guard spot and Korte at centre, there will be two new tackles and a new guard. Americans Na’Ty Rodgers and Jamar McGloster may have an early edge, they’ve been getting a lot of first-team reps. Former Guelph Gryphon Andrew Pickett, injured for much of his two years on the Redblacks roster, will get a good look at the guard spot.
Nolan MacMillan and Mark Korte are holdovers from the starting lineup in 2019, though Korte is making the shift from tackle to centre. Baines also reported that Jakub Szott (fourth round, 2020 CFL Draft) and Ben Petrie (undrafted, 2020 CFL Draft) also took reps at centre, the latter of whom is an “underrated” favourite of 3DownNation draft analyst JC Abbott.
Na’Ty Rodgers and Jamar McGloster aren’t household names at the tackle spots, but they are familiar to head coach Paul LaPolice from his days in Winnipeg.
Rodgers was in training camp with the Blue Bombers in 2018, though he was released as part of final cutdowns. He signed with the Alouettes and appeared in ten regular season games before returning to Winnipeg in 2019 for a stint on the practice roster.
McGloster signed with the Blue Bombers in May 2019 and made an impression during training camp, earning a spot on the practice roster. He was released in July when he fell victim to the numbers game, but clearly impressed LaPolice enough to get a look in Ottawa.
Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick are firmly entrenched as the starting tackles in Winnipeg and have been since 2016. Unseating either of them without an injury taking place was extremely unlikely, so there’s no shame in Rodgers or McGloster failing to crack the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see if they can establish themselves as legitimate CFL starters in Ottawa.
Pickett, meanwhile, was a third-round selection in 2018 who has yet to appear in a regular season game due to injury problems. Once touted as a solid prospected at the University of Guelph, the native of Kitchener, Ont. will look to make the most of his opportunity in 2021.
Protecting veteran quarterback Matt Nichols will be essential to Ottawa having a bounce-back season this year. With the first-team unit appearing mostly settled, it’ll be up to offensive line coach Bob Wylie to get the most out of it.