Cut-down day: Redblacks trim roster by 14 (EDIT: 15)

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From CFL.ca:

The Redblacks announced their cuts on Saturday morning, just hours after they played their final pre-season game against the Montreal Alouettes.

General Manager Marcel Desjardins declared 14 cuts to the team’s final roster, with veteran kicker Justin Parlardy and National receiver Simon LeMarquand among the most notable.

Desjardins also announced that National receiver Steven Adu, International DB Parker Orms, International LB Devin Arrington, National DL Stephon Miller, International DL Dimetrio Tyson, International kicker Paolo Henriques, National OL Brendan Dunn, National OL Aaron Wheaton, International WR Taulib Ikharo, International WR Travon Patterson, National receiver Aaron Hargreaves, and National OL James Lee have all been released.

A few notes & thoughts on the these moves:

– The signing of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers Import International K Brett Maher last week was certainly an indication that Redblacks brass were looking for more at the kicker/punter position, but still surprising to see Palardy let go. Though not as critical as it once was, CFL teams definitely look at the K position as one best filled by Canadians from a quota standpoint. A tough day punting against the Alouettes on Friday May have sealed Palardy’s fate.

UPDATE (11:22 PM): Per Gord Holder of the Ottawa Citizen, the Redblacks have also cut Brett Maher. As it stands tonight, there are no kickers on the active roster. Expect one or two signings within the next day.

– Le Marquand was a highly trumpeted signing for the Redblacks in the spring, what with him being a Gatineau boy and former Ottawa Gee Gee. But the WR was in tough to make the squad at that position and likely had to stand out on special teams to make the team. Appears he was not able to do so in two pre-season games.

– Wheaton, from the University of Toronto, was the Redblacks 4th round (28th overall) selection and Miller, a University of Windsor grad, was their 6th round (46th overall) selection in the 2014 CFL Canadian Draft on May 13th. Bit surprising neither was offered a practise roster position, although a very clear indication the Redblacks are building a roster more focused on the present, not the future.

– Adu, a graduate of the University Of Toronto, may best be remembered for the shout-out he got from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford upon his signing with the Redblacks.

– Patterson was the receiving end of a 60-yard touchdown pass & run in the Redblacks inaugural preseason game against SSK. Apparently wasn’t enough to earn a spot with the club.

– Lee was selected in the first round of the Redblacks expansion draft, held in December of last year, from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Another somewhat surprising cut, but clearly the Redblacks were able to find players they liked as much or better via free agency.

VIDEO: GM Marcel Desjardins and coach Rick Campbell on today’s cuts (via CFL.ca)

Ten additional players will be offered practise roster spots (and it appears Jasper Simmons is one of them), and a handful of others will be placed on injured reserve, though neither list has yet been announced by the team.

UPDATE (10:25 AM): The Redblacks have confirmed their practise roster and injured list. List includes:

Practice Roster
Simmons, Jasper LB (International) Robinson, Jermaine DB (International) Hayes, Michael RB (International) Medeiros, Robin WR (National)
Desmarais , Hugo OL (National)
Forgette, Steven OT (International)
Rouse, Fred WR (International)
Carter, Matt WR (National)
Mitchell, Carlton WR (International)
Lewis, Monte DL (International)

Injured List
Jones, Reggie DB (International)
Verdone, Jordan LB (National)
McCuller, Jeraill T (International)
Eppele, Joe OL (National)
Evans, Zack DL (National)

No doubt a tough day for all these athletes. Here’s hoping we see some of them get another chance here or elsewhere.

@OTTRoughRiders

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Ottawa Paints Montreal Redblack

By: Santino Filoso

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On Friday night the Redblacks closed out their pre-season and made the short trip over to Montreal to resume a rivalry that had been on hold for 3156 days. 72 players had one last chance to impress coaches and beat out the competition in hopes of surviving the final round of training camp cuts and earning a roster spot.

Pre-Game:

– When he’s not playing against the Redblacks, how can you not be pulling for a guy like Chad Johnson? He’s got the right attitude about playing in the CFL and when asked by the Montreal Gazette how he was feeling heading into tonight’s game he dropped this gem;

It’s similar to the feeling before I lost my virginity. There’s a certain level of excitement … anticipation … not knowing what’s going to happen or what I’m going to get.

– Realize that the Redblacks will only be playing in their white road uniforms until July 18th, but I don’t mind at all. They look SO good

– The Sun’s Tim Baines lobbies for urinal toys at TD Place

– Apparently most Als fans were still celebrating France’s World Cup rout of the Swiss and couldn’t make it in time for kick-off

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1st Quarter:

– Jamill Smith returns the Als opening kickoff for a big gain, but that’s the only positive aspect of the Redblacks opening drive as Burris gets sacked twice behind a shaky offensive line

– Former NFL star Chad Johnson immediately gets involved, making a catch for a 1st down on the Als’ 1st play from scrimmage

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#85’s first and only catch of the game

– Rod Black’s talking point of the quarter is Chad Johnson and TSN’s cameras pan to show the dozen people wearing Cincinnati Bengal jerseys in the crowd

– Als string together a couple of first downs before their drive stalls and they punt for a single, 1-0 for the Habs

– Don’t tell Paris Jackson it’s just the pre-season, after an 8-yard catch he gets into a shoving match with Chip Cox on the sidelines

– Redblacks and Als trade two and outs as the defenses flex their muscles

– Jamill Smith gets nailed on a punt return but to his credit hangs onto the ball

– Burris gets hot and completes back to back long passes to Dobson Collins for 28 yards and Matt Carter for another 33 yards, bringing the ball to the Als 3 yard line

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Dobson Collins makes a big play

– Chevon Walker caps off the 65-yard, 3 play drive with a 3-yard rushing TD

– Als return man Larry Taylor exposes the Redblacks special teams coverage by rumbling 40 yards on the ensuing kickoff before being shoved out of bounds

– Troy Smith persists in his belief that his receivers are ten feet tall and his passes sail over open Als receivers

– An Als kicker wearing #00 (no 7) boots a  33 yard FG

– Quarter ends with Burris hitting Kierrie Johnson for another long first down gain

– Score is 7-4 Redblacks after 15 minutes

2nd Quarter:

– After an Als offside, Burris hits a wide open Johnson for a 36 yard catch and run which brings the ball to the 1

– Shrugging off a poor start, Burris now has 5 straight completions

– Walker gets his 2nd TD of the game waltzing in from the 1

– Larry Taylor has another huge kickoff return, ensuring the Redblacks special teams meeting on Monday morning will be laced with profanity

– Under heavy pressure Troy Smith scrambles half-way to Ottawa before finding Duron Carter for a 1st down

– Redblacks move the ball well on their next possession thanks to catches by Collins, Lavoie, Henry² (Burris to Marcus Henry), Walker and Delahunt

– Newly signed Brett Maher is wide on a 40-yard FG but Redblacks still pick up a rouge

– Rod Black’s talking points of the quarter are former Ticats and Chip Cox’s 2013 season

– Jason Pottinger has a crunching special teams tackle

– The Als’ not-James-Bond kicker #00 (Alavardo) makes a 27-yard FG

– With 1:22 left in the half, Burris leads the Redblacks on an 8 play, 85-yard drive in 1:16; Paris Jackson and Henry² both make impressive grabs to keep the drive alive which ends with a passing TD to Walker, his 3rd TD of the game.

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Chevy walks in untouched

– Hats rain down and Walker is quickly buried under an avalanche of caps from the R-Nation fans who made the trek to Montreal

– Score going into half is 22-7 for the good guys

3rd Quarter:

– Redblacks kickoff but quickly get the ball back thanks to heavy pressure forcing another Troy Smith incompletion and a Brandon Lang sack

– Burris, Walker and the rest of the Redblacks starters come out for another series that ends in a punt for a rouge before being pulled for the night

– Rod Black’s talking point of the quarter is Troy Smith’s inaccuracy

– On the Redblacks next possession, Thomas DeMarco enters the game

– Two plays later, Justin Palardy shanks a punt and the Redblacks are flagged for no yards, giving the Als great field position

– Tanner Marsh enters at QB for the Als

– Safety, pilot, CBA negotiator and free thinker Eric Fraser limps off the field after making a tackle with 7:12 left in the quarter

– Als kicker Sean Whyte makes a 19 yard FG to cut the Redblacks lead to 13

– Paul LaPolice talks about how coaches want to see “Nice, big, tall butts” when they look at their offensive line, Rod Black giggles

– WR Travon Patterson goes offside and DeMarco gets sacked

– Facing 3rd and a CN Tower, the Redblacks punt

– Quarter comes to a close on a turnover on downs when the Redblacks stuff the Als on a 3rd and 1 run

4th Quarter:

– Starting on the Als 25, Redblacks extend their lead to 26-10 after Brett Maher makes a 17-yard field goal

– Announced attendance at McGill Stadium is just over 18,000, undoubtedly bolstered by the legions of R-Nation who drove over to get their first look at the team in person

– DB Eddie Elder blitzes in untouched and ensures Marsh will need an ice bath with a blindside sack

– Rod Black’s talking points of the 4th quarter include waxing sentimental about cut down day and how meaningless the pre-season is as teams just want the regular season to start

– Danny O’Brien enters at QB with 7:04 left in the game but fails to move the ball

– You know it’s the pre-season when Henry Burris has a dance off with Jovon Johnson on the sidelines, independent judges confirm the Burris win

– 5:21, with an Als player down, Rod Black uses the word fermented, a 1st on TSN’s Friday Night Football history

– Alex Brink enters at QB for the Als and is quickly sacked by Zack Evans

– Als turn the ball over on downs again

– REDBLACKS WIN! Final score 26-10 for the out-of-towners!

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Final Thoughts:

The Redblacks got their 1st win in franchise history and even if it was only a pre-season one, it still counts and is a monkey off the young franchise’s back. There were many positive takeaways from this game; Burris went 17-of-22 for 247 yards and a TD in one half of work and running back Chevon Walker continued to show a nose for the goal line with 3 TDs. The offense was aggressive and stretched the field with long completions; Burris’ arm looks as strong as ever. The defense was also very solid, shutting the Als out of the endzone and bringing heavy pressure all night long. On the negative side, the Redblacks kick coverage teams continue to struggle as they consistently gave up long returns. They really need to tighten up their tackling or special teams will cost them during the regular season. With the win the Redblacks pre-season is over and it will be interesting to see who survives tomorrow’s final cuts. With a bye week coming up, the Redblacks will have a lot of time (13 days) to prepare for their Week 2 showdown with the Bombers in Winnipeg.

@RedBlackGade

– All images from CFL.ca and Scott Grant Photography

Redblacks lose but Ottawa Wins; Recap of 1st ever pre-season game

By: Santino Filoso

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After years of suffering from through Gliebermans, Watters, Enemies of Lansdowne, and the painstakingly drawn out CBA negotiations between CFL players and owners, on Saturday night Ottawa finally resumed it’s rightful place in the CFL. The Redblacks traveled to Regina to play a home game in their road uniforms. Here are our highlights, in case you missed any of the action.

Pre-game:

– Can’t help but comment on how sharp the Redblacks road uniforms look. The white helmets are a refreshing change

– There was a mascot showdown just before the opening kick between Redblacks mascot and Ottawa legend Big Joe Mufferaw  and a rodent known as Gainer, who apparently represents the local Regina team. It’s interesting to note that after said showdown, Gainer was not seen again and Big Joe’s axe looked a little notched (allegedly).

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– Tons of empty seats in Legoland… I mean Mosaic stadium. So much for the GREENWHITES having the most die-hard fans in the league. Attendance was later announced as 13,014, but I doubt it.

1st quarter:

– You couldn’t have written a better opening 2 minutes and 4 plays for the franchise’s history. It started off with a Justin Phillips sack tackle of QB Tino Sunseri, continued with a forced incompletion, punctuated by a 76-yard punt return by rookie Jamill Smith to the Green Riders 2 yard line, before being finished off by a Chevon Walker rushing TD.

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– The 5′ 6″ and 155-pound Jamill Smith’s 76-yard punt return was a thing of beauty and an incredible display of pure speed

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Smith tackled just short of the endzone

– Walker enters Ottawa history as the 1st player to score a TD in Redblacks history

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The historic 1st TD in Redblacks history

– Justin Phillips limped off the field on the ensuing kickoff, not because he was hurt but because he’s a nice guy and wanted to spare the GREENWHITES QBs from further bruising

– The 1st completion in Redblacks history was Henry Burris to Marcus Henry, allowing R-Nation to witness the birth of Henry² (Squared)

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– Ottawa’s run game looked strong with the o-line opening up some huge holes

– Redblacks coaching staff served notice to the league that we’re back and not to be trifled with when Offensive Coordinator Mike Gibson called a play which used the umpire as a pick

– Travis Brown earns the honour of becoming the 1st Redblacks player in history to be penalized drawing a flag for no yards

– Former Eskimo Marcus Henry makes another catch, this time an incredible one hander. Henry²  should be a connection to be reckoned with this season

– After playing 10 snaps, Burris headed to the sidelines and was replaced by QB Danny O’Brien. This ensued:

– Continuing their trend of stealing all things Ottawa, the Wheaties get their own big punt return, this one for 75 yards and a TD

2nd quarter:

– Palardy misses a 34 yard field goal, pushing it wide right

– Jonathon Williams takes a tripping penalty

– Jeff Hunt drops an interesting tidbit while being interviewed saying that Ottawa has the most retired numbers of any team in the league #richhistory

– Durant enters the game and moves the ball at will

– Safety Eric Fraser looks strong in run support, making a number of crunching tackles

– Redblacks continue their game long trend of mightily struggling in punt coverage

– With 3:33 left, the Redblacks snuff out a screen and force a fumble which is recovered by first round pick Antoine Pruneau

– O’Brien flashes his potential on a 15-yard roll out completion before an overthrow

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QB Danny O’Brien

– Justin Phillips puts an exclamation mark on a fine first half of work with another solid tackle

3rd quarter

– Redblacks kicked off to start the 2nd half but quickly re-gain possession thanks to a T.J. Hill interception

– DeMarco proceeds to get Buck Pierced

– Antoine Pruneau has his ‘welcome to the pro’s moment when he gets truck-sticked by Green Rider running back Toston

– Weber leads Green Riders on a long march down the field ending with WR Swain hauling in his 2nd TD grab of the night, making it 21-10

– Pruneau throws a huge hit, showing he can give as good as he gets

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Big hit by Antoine Pruneau on Sask QB Doege

– Trayvon Patterson makes the mistake of fielding a punt in the endzone and is quickly tackled at the 1

– DeMarco completes a pass to Fred Rouse for 26 yards and gives the offense some breathing room

– A beautiful 60-yard TD strike from DeMarco to Patterson rights a wrong and caps a 109 yard drive, closing the gap to 21-17

4th quarter

– Running back D. J. Harper breaks a nice run for a first down

– Rouse makes another catch and picks up some good YAC (yards after the catch), but seems to aggravate his injury and hobbles off the field

– The Redblack sack attack continues when Justin Capicciotti crushes the Sask QB

– Harper lowers his shoulders and pushes the pile for another first down

– With 8:19 remaining a promising drive is snuffed out with a DeMarco interception after an overthrow

– DL Andrew Marshall sniffs out the QB draw with a meaty tackle

– 6:12 left and pinned at the 5 yard line, Alex Carder enters the game for the Redblacks, he completes a 9-yard pass on a nice roll out and strings together a few first downs before telegraphing a throw and getting picked off with 3:23 remaining in the game

– Redblacks get the ball back with 2 min left and despite converting a 3rd and 17, the potential game-winning drive stalls. Ottawa turns it over on downs at the Wheaties 50 with just under a minute left in the game

Final thoughts:

Though they lost on the scoreboard, the Redblacks can hold their heads high. They got a number of strong performances from their starters, Burris and Walker looked sharp and the Henry²  connection figures to be potent. Also, Jamill Smith demonstrated great speed returning punts.

On the downside, punt coverage was suspect. The Redblacks need to tighten up their tackling or they will be gashed all season long. None of the backup QBs really shined, as they all made numerous overthrows, though DeMarco did have one scoring drive. All in all, it was an incredible night for Ottawa and a history one for the league. The Redblacks showed that Ottawa is back and that we won’t be pushed around.

@RedBlackGade

Photos from the Ottawa Redblacks Facebook page

Redblacks news & notes ahead of inaugural pre-season game

A week-and-a-half into training camp and just a couple days away from their first game in franchise history (albeit of the pre-season persuasion), it is a busy time in Ottawa Redblacks land. Here’s a quick look at what’s been going down:

Players strike averted… We’re pretty sure, anyway
After what has been a sometimes nasty PR battle between the Canadian Football League and it’s Players Association over their expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, a tentative deal was reached late on Saturday, June 7th. While a few CFL veterans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the proposed new CBA, which, among other things, includes a salary cap increase from $4,400,000 to $5,000,000 per team, the expectation is that the deal will be ratified by the players by the weekend.

Tough situation for the players. While they no doubt deserve their fair share, the CFL hasn’t exactly been a cash cow over the years, with several owners funding years worth of losses in the name of community stewardship. That said, with the roundly celebrated news of the CFL’s new TV deal with TSN, reportedly bringing each team an additional $2-3 million annually, the players had to be hoping for a bigger slice of the pie.

Turf laid at TD Place
With nearly 1,000 workers on site each day, things are happening pretty quickly down at Lansdowne. Within about a week’s time, the new field was first paved and then covered with brand new FieldTurf. Here are a few progress shots:

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A thing of beauty.

For those that may not be aware, the turf OSEG purchased allows them to easily apply and remove painted lines, meaning that the Redblacks field and Fury FC pitch will be sport-specific.

Oh yeah – and we’re getting one heck of a big scoreboard!

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For more on the forthcoming scoreboard, here’s our earlier piece.

TSN 1200 Radio play-by-play team to be announced soon
According to TSN 1200 radio personality Lee Versage, the Redblacks radio play-by-play team will be announced real soon. Here’s hoping long-time Sens voice (and one-time Rough Riders voice) Dean Brown is the man at the helm. Would bring some serious credibility (and fun) to the broadcast. Fingers crossed.

Intrasquad game in Gatineau
As further proof of their dedication to developing the fan base on both sides of the river, le Rouge et Noir hosted their first-ever intrasquad game at Mont-Bleu Sports Complex in Gatineau on June 7th. Some 700-1,000 fans took in the glorified practise session, with players, staff and the cheer team hanging around afterwards for an autograph session. By all accounts, OSEG put on a great show. Some pics:

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Player moves, injuries
As is to be expected, there have been a number of roster moves as camp has entered it’s 10th day. RB Jordan Roberts was a surprise early cut. QB Corey Leonard and DL Brandon Denson were also let go on Monday. Canadian DL Vincent Desloges was also technically released, but has a year of university eligibility remaining and will go back to Laval for one more year. QB Alex Carder has been added to the camp roster.

Veteran LB Anton McKenzie suffered a likely season-ending torn bicep, a big loss for a young team.

WR Fred Rouse was carted off the field on Tuesday with an apparent leg injury. No updates since about noon.

As a side note, would be nice for the team to announce these moves themselves on Twitter/Facebook, as opposed to having local media do it. Just a suggestion.

Here’s a link to the current roster.

Some interesting results from season ticket holder survey
This from an email sent to STHs.

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Props to OSEG for sharing these results.

Real football on Saturday night!

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6:00 PM ET on TSN2. Oh, baby.

@OTTRoughRiders

A look at the Redblacks training camp roster

By: Santino Filoso

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With the Ottawa Redblacks inaugural training camp currently underway at Carleton University, now is a perfect time to take a look at some of the 80+ roster of hopefuls general manager Marcel Desjardins has assembled over the past seven months. While certain starters are already set in stone, there are still numerous jobs up for grabs.

Quarterbacks

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The QB crew

Even with the loss of a disgruntled Kevin Glenn, the Redblacks are deeper than most CFL teams at QB. Barring injury, Henry Burris will be the starter with Thomas DeMarco backing him up, leaving Corey Leonard and Danny O’Brien to grow as development projects and fight for the third-string job. At 39, Burris still has a lot left in the tank and his arm is as strong as ever. DeMarco got significant playing time last year as he filled in for the injured Travis Lulay (and more then held his own), which bodes well for the Redblacks should Burris go down.

Running Backs

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Chevon Walker

With a stable of capable RBs, it will be very interesting to see who emerges as the guy to go for the Redblacks, or if Head Coach Rick Campbell decides to take a running by committee approach. Chevon Walker has the most distinguished career and has to be considered the early favourite, especially when you consider his familiarity with Burris from their time in Hamilton. Jordan Roberts is a dark horse to be a serious impact player. He dominated in college and with his speed and catching ability seemingly has the skill set to thrive in the CFL. (UPDATE: Looks like Roberts has been released) John Delahunt and Patrick Lavoie will be charged with lead blocking when the Redblacks run out of formations that include a fullback. Eric O’Neal and Michael Hayes round out the group and will also fight for carries.

Wide Recievers

To say that the Redblacks have a logjam at receiver would be an understatement. With so many players competing for a job, nobody can afford to have a bad practice. Veteran WR Paris Jackson is the elder statesman of this group and should have a breakout year after being under-utilized the past few seasons in BC. The WR group consists of imports like DJ Woods, Carlton Mitchell, Tim Maypray, and Travon Patterson, all of whom boast serious speed, while the non-imports consist of guys like Simon Le Marquand,  Aaron Hargreaves and Garrett Burgess. Fred Rouse and 2014 2nd round pick Scott MacDonnell could see a lot of redzone reps due to favourable height match-ups.

(UPDATE: Redblacks have reportedly signed import WR Marcus Henry, days after he was released by the Edmonton Eskimos; Redblacks have also reportedly released former Ottawa U Gee Gee WR Delroy Clarke)

Offensive Linemen

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Jon Gott

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that much of the Redblacks season will go as all-star lineman Jon Gott goes. He was the centre of attention on draft day and he’ll be the Redblacks starting centre, in charge of making all the protections calls to keep Burris upright. Gott could be flanked by guys like Joe Eppele, Nate Menkin, James Lee and J’Micheal Deane. No matter who winds up starting, you can be sure that they’ll be big, as every OL at the Redblacks camp is at least 6’3″ and pushing 300 pounds.

Defensive Linemen

The defensive line will be led by expansion draft steal Keith Shologan, a heavy hitter with a knack for stuffing the run.  Guys like Justin Phillips, Moton Hopkins, Dimetrio Tyson, Zack Evans, Jonathan Williams and Justin Capicciotti will provide depth to a DL rotation that should keep opposing QBs on their toes all game long.

Linebackers

A group of experienced veterans will lead Ottawa’s linebacking core. Jason Pottinger, James Green, T.J. Hill, Malik Jackson and Anton McKenzie are all proven CFL vets with big game experience. Travis Brown, Jeremiah Green, Jasper Simmons, Jordan Verdone and Will Heyward round out this athletic and savvy group of thumpers.

Secondary

Amateur pilot and former Stamps safety Eric Fraser will be the focal enforcer of a “No Fly Zone” along with a revitalized Jovon Johnson. Former Saints DB Reggie Jones could wind up playing a significant role in the secondary and look for 1st round pick and jack of all trades Antoine Pruneau to frequently be on the field, despite being a rookie.

Special Teams

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Paulo Henriques

Ottawa native Kevin Scott is living out his dream of playing for his hometown as the Redblacks long snapper, while non-import Justin Palardy is locked in a fierce battle with import Paulo Henriques for kicking duties. Kick returning duties could all to either Tim Maypray, Antoine Pruneau or one of the RBs or WRs who distinguish themselves throughout the pre-season.

Desjardins has put together a nice blend of veterans and rookies, and nearly every positional group boasts a few players with significant CFL experience. One thing that already stands out, even after only a few days of camp, is that the Redblacks look like a very fast team. It’ll be interesting to see who distinguishes themselves during the two pre-season games and ultimately makes the team; hopefully Coach Campbell has some tough decisions to make.

Click here for the complete Redblacks training camp roster and here for the Redblacks training camp schedule, which is open to the public.

@RedBlackGade

(Photos courtesy of Ottawa Redblacks Facebook page)