Frankie Benvenuti and Ryan Mikkelson of 613 Sports share their thoughts on five key points concerning the Ottawa REDBLACKS at the season’s midway point.
FB: Nothing has been going right for the REDBLACKS offensively this season, and it is very difficult to find a positive for this group, let alone a single player who is deserving of the title of MVP, but there is one player in particular that stands out from the rest on the offensive side of the football, and that is John Crockett. Through 5 games this season, Crockett has carried the ball 70 times for 394 yards (average of 5.4 yards per carry) but has yet to score a touchdown. Crockett has missed time with injury this season and also spent some time on the practice roster, but he has easily been the most explosive and impactful player on the offence. Once Crockett is back healthy (as soon as this week), the REDBLACKS need to give him the ball and allow him to keep doing what he has been doing. The touchdowns will come, but for now, he needs to be patient and let the game come to him.
RM: My choice is John Crockett. Easily the most consistent player on offence through this point of the season, Crockett has shown he is more than capable of being a lead running back in the CFL. Perhaps the playbook will open up and give him more chances to showcase his running ability as well as help chew up time of possession. Now if you were to ask me who my most important player on offence is I’d have to say Brad Sinopoli. But that’s a whole different story…
RM: It’s easy to look at the league’s statistical rankings and see that the REDBLACKS are near the bottom in several categories. However, one player has consistently stood out game after game, and that is Avery Williams. Here’s a guy who always seems to be around the ball every play, and his three fumble recoveries so far this season illustrate that point. This has been a tremendous year for #42 and if he stays in Ottawa, he should develop a reputation as one of the league’s top players on defence.
FB: Defensively, the REDBLACKS have been solid for the most part, but have had some tough moments because they are spending more than 30 minutes on the field every game. The one player who always impresses me when I rewatch a game is Avery Williams. Williams has shown massive improvements from last season where in 17 games he had 43 tackles in a smaller role, but this season, he has been one of, if not the most important players on the defence. Williams has 64 tackles in 9 games so far this season. When you watch this kid play, you begin to see a pattern. He always seems to be the first point of resistance on a running play and the player who constantly has that high motor you always want from your players. I have also heard that he has taken on a leadership role when the boys on “In The Box” on TSN 1200 talked about just how good Avery Williams has been this season. There is certainly going to some NFL interest for Williams, but if he does stick around in Ottawa for the future, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be one of the centerpieces for the REDBLACKS defence.
Break Out Star
FB: I briefly thought about giving this spot to DeVonte Dedmon, but he has only appeared in 4 games so far in the CFL. I am going to go the easy route here and go with Avery Williams once again. Avery has been an absolute pleasure to watch so far this season and he is one player I feel doesn’t get enough recognition, so I decided to show my love for him and what he has done this season by giving him both the defensive MVP and the breakout star.
RM: Despite not having a ton of CFL experience under his belt, John Crockett still brings professional experience to the table, and I feel the REDBLACKS have their back of the future. Time will tell if he can put up William Powell-like numbers carrying the ball, but building a running game with Crockett should serve Ottawa well.
FB: It is very clear there will be no drastic changes to either the coaching staff of the roster this season, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t do anything to improve. Just this week, the team gave Joe Paopao the play calling duties and made him the QB coach, leaving Winston October with just the WRs. Everyone has been put into a more familiar role, and that alone should help the team improve. But this also means that Dominique Davis and the rest of the offence no longer have the protection of the coaches being changed before players are moved around. Everyone is going to be on a short leash going into the second half of the season. Everyone is going to be playing for their jobs, and if you think the back ups aren’t waiting for the opportunity to get into a game you would be mistaken. Jonathon Jennings would love to get back out there and prove that he can still play, and William Arndt would love to give himself a shot at being the starting QB for the REDBLACKS. Players like Jacob Scarfone and Sherrod Baltimore are chomping at the bit waiting for a start to prove they have what it takes. If that isn’t motivation enough for these players, then I don’t know what is. Those same back up players are the one who could be difference makes to this team in the second half. If Davis continues to struggle, Jennings will get another chance and Arndt might not be far off after. Do these back up players really help the team win? Maybe, maybe not, but there is nothing to lose at this point.
RM: To me, the best thing the team can do is abandon the offensive committee approach and centralize the process with an offensive coordinator. It remains to be seen if Joe Paopao will be the right fit, but at least it’s a change from the previous nine games this season. Obviously there’s a disconnect between the team’s offensive philosophy and the execution of said philosophy, and perhaps the offence can better utilize the talents of Dominique Davis. While Davis hasn’t set the world on fire with his passing stats, I don’t feel that the offence to this point is best structured to showcase what he’s capable of. Having Paopao also serving as QB coach gives him a chance to work with Davis in a more up close manner, helping him work on his inefficiencies while developing his current talent.
Best Case Scenario
RM: Best case scenario is that the offence starts sustaining drives and the defence doesn’t have to spend 35+ minutes on the field every single game. Too many two-and-outs this year have put the defence up against the wall and forced them to make more plays than they should. Continuity on offence will develop into confidence, and the points will come. It’s hard to be patient with this team given their run of success the last few seasons, but fans have to be realistic. Can this team make the playoffs? Well, with the way things have played out in the league so far, anything’s possible. I wouldn’t rule it out, but let’s take one step at a time.
FB: The best case scenario for the REDBLACKS in the second half of the season has nothing to do with their record, they could go 0-9 or 9-0, the best case scenario for this team, and offence in particular is to steadily improve from game to game. We have gone far too long this season with very little improvement and last game against the Tiger-Cats was 10 steps in the wrong direction. Something needs to give for this team, and finding some stability for the rest of the season is key to the future. What does the team need to do to get there? Simply (but also not simple) the team needs to score touchdowns. Hopefully, Paopao can help the team in that regard, but what we have seen hasn’t been good enough. Davis needs to limit interceptions, the receivers need to catch the ball, the offensive line needs to continue to not allow sacks, the defence needs to keep doing what they are doing and Lewis Ward needs to keep being Lewis Ward. If the offence can figure this out in the second half and become half competent, the REDBLACKS could make the playoffs, and that is about as much as we as a fan base could ask for at this point in the season being 3-6.