June 16th, 2024

Redblacks look for 10th-season turnaround after four dismal campaigns

By Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press on June 4, 2024.

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dru Brown (3) on the sidelines during CFL pre-season football game action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Hamilton, Ont. on Saturday, May 25, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

OTTAWA – After four years of disappointment, the Ottawa Redblacks are looking to turn things around in their 10th season.

Ottawa has compiled a dismal 14-54 record over the last four years, but with new quarterback Dru Brown at the helm, the Redblacks are optimistic heading into their anniversary campaign.

In Brown, the Redblacks hope to find consistency, dependability and longevity, all of which have eluded Ottawa the past few years.

Brown understands that he will shoulder lofty expectations.

“I think the biggest challenge for a team is understanding how to win and how to win consistently,” Brown said. “We’ve been talking about that daily and there’s never a moment when we’re not looking at the process of what it takes to win.”

Brown, who was impressive as Zach Collaros’s backup in Winnipeg the last three seasons, is expected to be the starter, but Dustin Crum remains eager to prove he can expand his CFL skillset after filling in admirably last season.

Veteran Jeremiah Masoli, who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles, and Tyrie Adams, the 27-year-old quarterback who was impressive before suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear, could also challenge for playing time.

Whoever emerges as the No. 1 in Ottawa, the most important thing will be to provide long-sought stability.

The Redblacks suffered their first major loss before the campaign even started when running back Devonte Williams sustained a torn Achilles tendon during off-season training. He likely won’t play in 2024.

Ryquell Armstead, Kylin Hill and Ronnie Brown are looking to fill the void. Armstead was a fifth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2019 NFL draft and appears to be the front-runner.

“It was great knowing there was an opportunity available here,” Armstead said. “But I’ll say with opportunity you have to take it and so I’ve been putting in the work. This off-season was a grind.”

There will be some familiar faces among Ottawa’s receiving corps with Jaelon Acklin, Dustin Hardy and Bralon Addison back for another season. Dominique Rhymes, a free agent acquisition, will be making his return to the nation’s capital providing some additional depth.

Aside from Brown, one of the most impressive additions was the signing of linebacker Adarius Pickett. He had career-highs in tackles (105) and sacks (six) and special teams tackles (19) with Toronto last season.

Pickett said the opportunity reunite with defensive co-ordinator Barron Miles factored into his decision to sign in Ottawa. Miles was Pickett’s defensive co-ordinator in Montreal in 2021 and part of 2022.

“I’ve always thought this was a very talented team despite their record,” Pickett said. “I feel like bringing me and a couple other guys in will help change things.”

On paper the new additions would seem to indicate that all bodes well for the Redblacks, but fans have seen this all before only to be sorely disappointed.

The Redblacks’ top priority this season is to get off to a solid start. Last season, Ottawa started with a 1-3 record. Then after evening its record at 3-3, the team spiralled and lost seven straight.

Ottawa especially needs to improve its home performance. With just five wins at TD Place over the past four years, the Redblacks have failed to capitalize on home-field advantage.

“We need to step on the field with the mindset of dominating,” said Pickett. “We need to make sure that when people come here they know it’s not going to be an easy game.”

The Redblacks have a Week 1 bye and will open the season June 13 at home against Winnipeg.

2023 record: 4-14, fourth, East Division

Did you know?: In 2023 the Redblacks failed to secure a single victory against East Division rivals.

Key additions: LB Adarius Pickett (Toronto), WR Dominique Rhymes (BC), QB Dru Brown (Winnipeg).

Key losses: RB Devonte Williams (Achilles injury), LB Adam Auclair (Saskatchewan), safety Douglas Coleman III (Chicago Bears).

Players to watch: Brown, Pickett, DE Lorenzo Mauldin, WR Justin Hardy

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2024.

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