Poor Play Calling Dooms Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

In their first home game in over a month the Ottawa Redblacks found another way to lose in front of a full house. TD Place was sold out for the 6th straight time but Mike “3rd & 1 Shotgun Run” Gibson’s poor play calling lead directly to the Redblacks’ 9th straight loss, dropping their record to 1-11 on the year and effectively eliminating them from playoff contention.

Pre-game:

– Once again R-Nation packed TD Place

– Much like TDs at home this season, a manufacturing fail meant that the plaids helmets were still missing in action. On a related note it turns out they’re being produced by same company that was in charge of building Tim Hortons field

– Fans arriving early at TD Place are treated to first class entertainment

– The South Side finally wins an in stadium challenge

1st Quarter:

– Redblacks receive but go two and out when Jeremiah Johnson (#27) drops a pass over the middle, after promising to never drop a pass over the middle

– Jovon Jonhson (#2) lets a pick six slip through his fingers

– Duane Ford calls the Redblacks the Renegades

– A screen that looks like it will go for days is snuffed out when OL Nolan MacMillan (#66) whiffs on an open field block

– Keeping it conservative the Redblacks punt on the ensuing 3rd and 1

– Jasper “Sticky Fingers” Simmons (#31) picks off Crompton for his team leading 3rd interception

– FB Patrick Lavoie (#81) drops a pass, Ottawa’s 2nd drop in as many drives but is saved by the flag when Montreal gets called for illegal contact

– A Wallace Miles (#84) catch + good running by Johnson and Henry Burris (#1) + a 15 yard flag for facemasking = 1st and goal on the 1 for the Redblacks

– The offensive line fails to get any kind of push on two consecutive QB sneaks, letting Burris get crushed in the backfield

– A run out of shotgun on 3rd and 1 gets stuffed for a huge loss. Positive takeaway from the play is that Montreal was offside, negative is Jon “Dangerbeard” Gott (#63) getting flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play

Montreal Alouettes v Ottawa RedBlacks
Who knew “Fear the Beard” also applied to his own team?

– Ottawa regains some ground with a Khalil Paden (#13) catch before Burris overthrows Henry² (Marcus Henry #16)  who stopped running in the end zone

Montreal Alouettes v Ottawa RedBlacks

– Faced with 3rd and 1 again and with the play calling stuck on repeat a run out of shotgun goes nowhere and adding insult to injury Johnson is hurt on the play; 9 plays in the redzone result in 0 points

2nd Quarter:

– Abdul Kanneh (#14) picks off Crompton for Ottawa’s second turnover of the game

– It’s now the Jonathan Williams (#23) show as he picks up a first down with a run and a catch

– The offensive line fails to protect Burris who is sacked and striped by Bear Woods. The ensuing fumble is recovered by DL Aaron Lavarias who smartly teams up with Chip Cox, handing the ball off for an 85 yard TD

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Not enough plaid in this picture

– Carlton “Banks” Mitchell (#88) seems to set the Redblacks up inside the 5 yard line following a deep catch, but a weak holding call on Colin Kelly (#67) wipes out the gain

– Kanneh is flagged for pass interference, gifting the Alouettes 43 yards

Montreal Alouettes v Ottawa RedBlacks

– Sean Whyte’s 14 yard FG makes it 10-0

– Redblacks piece together a promising drive featuring catches by Henry², Miles, Michtell and Scott Macdonell (#83)

– After the Redblacks convert their first 3rd and 1 of the night on a QB sneak, Williams scampers 23 yards for the first TD at TD Place since August 2nd

Montreal Alouettes v Ottawa RedBlacks

– The logging team’s chainsaw is rusted and seized from inactivity so no wood cookie for R-Nation faithful at TD Place, we also learn that apparently fireworks go off when we score TDs

 – Montreal goes two and out to end the half holding a 10-7 lead

Half-time:

– Two thirds of the TSN panel absolves Burris of blame for Ottawa’s poor offensive showing, instead point the finger at his supporting cast

3rd Quarter:

– Als get a big return and start from their 45

– Brandyn Thompson (#25) nearly picks off Crompton

– Montreal extends their lead when Whyte punts the ball 54 yards through the end zone for a rouge

– Two runs by Williams set up a 3rd and 1 for the Redblacks. Burris draws the Als offside but Ottawa is flagged for a false start and forced to punt

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– Kanneh leaves SJ Green wide open and a 1st down ensues

– Zack Evans (#92) gets a mitt on Crompton’s pass and nearly picks it off

– Whyte crushses a punt 65 yards for another rouge

– Under heavy pressure Burris throws to the drone hovering high over the field, leading to a two and out

– Strong tackling forces another two and out

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– The Redblacks drive ends when Burris overthrows an open Paden

– Despite dropping the snap Brett Maher (#3) recovers to get off a 50 yard punt

– Montreal moves the chains a few times before the defence stiffens up and forces a punt

4th Quarter:

– Marter (Matt Carter #85) finally dares to show his face after his week 8 fumble against the Esks

– Whyte’s 16 yard FG makes it an 8 point game

– Chip Cox continues to terrorize Ottawa, sacking Burris and forcing the Redblacks to punt

– Jamill Smith fields the punt and runs East to West before being brought down for a short gain…..as always

– Burris gets sandwiched, face masked, triple teamed and pile driven into the turf

– With Burris hurt Danny “Birthday Boy” O’Brien (#9) steps in at the helm for the Redblacks, he’s not the hero we need but the one we deserve

– Rod Black calls TD Place TV Place and laughs at his own mistake

– O’Brien completes a 4 yard pass, setting up 3rd and 1. With 2:36 left in the game and down by 8, R-Nation prays Gibson won’t call a shotgun run but of course he does and of course it goes absolutely nowhere

– Though the game should be over apparently no one tells the defence as they shut the door on the Als and force another two and out

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– Showing a lof of heart, Burris shrugs off his injury to lead the Redblacks on one last drive

– Things get off to a promising start when Paden makes a 20 yard catch before Miles gets plastered by Chip Cox on a 13 yard catch; full credit to him for hanging onto the ball

– Flushed from the pocket Burris scrambles for a 10 yard gain and on the next play hits a wide open Marter for another 20 yards

– Atoning for his earlier drop Lavoie makes a 14 yard catch bring the ball down to Montreal’s 7 yard line with 2 seconds left on the clock

– Chaos reigns supreme as WRs struggle to get lined up, while Burris is trying to organize them Jon “Dangerbeard” Gott (#63) snaps the ball to Burris’ ankles, leading to a sack and killing the play before it even starts

– Redblacks go out with a whimper and R-Nation leaves TD Place extremely frustrated and disappointed

Final score: 15-7 for the team not wearing plaid

Key Stats:

Burris completed 25 of 32 passes for 253 yards with no TDs or INTs

Williams had 12 carries for 59 yards and 1 TD

Paden made 5 catches for 52 yards

Maher punted 8 times for 367 yards

Eddie Elder (#5) and Antoine Pruneau (#6) made 6 tackles each

Closing Thoughts:

Ottawa’s 9th straight loss was once again a frustrating one. On a night when they had to win to have any shot at making the playoffs, the Redblacks failed to take advantage of another strong defensive effort. While the offence was able to move the ball and string together a few first downs, poor pass protection and horrid play calling let another win slip away. Burris had a strong night especially when you consider the pressure he faced and the fact that he completed 78% of his passes (plus the drops) Williams had a strong game stepping in for the injured Johnson but what will be remembered about the run game is the offensive line’s inability to get a single yard….five times. The Redblacks faced 3rd and 1 six times and went a pathetic 1-6. Three times the Redblacks ran out of shotgun on 3rd and 1 and got stuffed. Mike “3rd & 1 Shotgun Run” Gibson’s baffling play calling left fans and players alike frustrated. It’s the OC’s job to put his players in a position to succeed, and running out of shotgun when you need a single yard is not setting his players up for success.

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The offensive line had a bad game and struggled to give Burris any kind of time; he was hit on nearly every pass completion and was forced to scramble each time he dropped back to pass. The one positive that we can take away from the offence tonight is that Paden and Macdonell both looked really good. Watching Macdonell make tough catches over the middle and catching everything thrown at him makes you wonder where he’s been all season.

On the defensive side of the ball things were pretty much back to normal. After being gorged by the GREENWHITES in last week’s loss, the defence was back to it’s stingy ways, holding Montreal to 2 FGs and 2 rouges. This loss is the 4th time the Redblacks have held a team out of the end zone this season and lost, that’s gotta be some kind of CFL record. With two picks the defence did everything it could to secure the win, short of scoring.

Brett Maher continued to kick well, averaging 46 yards a punt against one of the league’s most dangerous returners. Jamill Smith’s routine of catching the ball and waiting for his blocks to set up, or running laterally while looking for openings is extremely ineffective. He plays with a lot of toughness for a guy his size but I honestly can’t remember him having any kind of memorable return at all this season.

While they’re mathematically alive, losing to Montreal is the nail in the coffin in terms of our playoff chances. This was a game the Redblacks HAD to have but unfortunately the team found another way to lose it.  Mike “3rd & 1 Shotgun Run” Gibson is going to take a lot of heat this week, and justifiably so. It’ll be very interesting to see if Head Coach Rick Campbell gives into pressure and finally sends him packing; though growing pains are to be expected, someone needs to be held accountable right? Up next the for the Redblacks is a home date with the slumping Bombers. Hopefully the Redblacks can build off their positives (a strong defence, a good kicking game, WRs like Macdonell) and finally reward their home fans for their patience with a big win.

@RedBlackGade

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#TBT: An Interview with Rohan Marley

By: Santino Filoso

Rohan Marley Ottawa Rough Riders 1995. Photo John Bradley

In this week’s Throwback Thursday interview we sit down with Rohan Marley, the former Miami Hurricane and son of the late reggae artist Bob Marley. After leading the Hurricanes with 95 tackles in his senior season, Rohan signed with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1995, playing one season in the CFL.

RR: When did you decide you wanted to play football?
RM: It started as a child when I was watching the Miami Dolphins play during the 1984-1985 NFL Football season.
At Miami you played along guys like Dwayne Johnson and Ray Lewis, how were they as teammates?
It was great to see the desire that they had for winning and it’s evident in their life today that they continue to win.
What made you decide to come to the CFL and why did you choose the Rough Riders?
I was ineligible for NFL draft and while on tour with my brothers, one of my uncle’s friends called the CFL asking for a tryout for me. I came to the tryout not knowing it was a tryout and was selected by the Rough Riders.
What was your first impression of Ottawa and looking back now what are some of the things about the city that have stuck with you through the years?
I thought that it was a nice and green, very friendly city with a good mixture of cultures. I remember the Byward Market and riding my bicycle through the city to practice, as that was my only mode of transportation.
Why did you walk away from the game after only one season?
Every day whether we practiced or played, once I got home I would play soccer. After that I would spend a lot of time reading the Bible and while I was reading the Bible, I found that my passion for the game started to drift away from the team and more towards myself. I lost my passion for tackling. The more I read the Bible, the more I was taken away from the game.
Was there any particular reason you wore #1?
Number two wasn’t available.
Despite your small size (for a LB), you had a reputation as a ferocious hitter. What was the hardest hit you ever laid on someone?
There were many, but one instance that stands out is a game against the Memphis Mad Dogs. I remember hitting the lineman so hard, that I knocked him out and I became discombobulated myself.
Did you like to trash talk opponents or were you more of a quiet player?
I don’t trash talk, I just speak my mind. If you ask me something, I defend myself. I say it like it is.
Were you superstitious and if so what was your pre-game routine?
I used to spend 3 hours in my locker room preparing my mind. There was an orange tribute shirt with my fathers face on it that I would wear every game. I would also write Jah Rastafari on my socks.
How did you pump yourself up before a game?
On the way to the stadium, while riding my bicycle, I would listen to my father’s music to clear my mind and get peace. I would sit in the locker room, facing my locker breathing in and out, taking deep breaths for about 2.5 hours, thinking about the game and my opponents.
Looking back on your career, what are you most proud of?
The friends I made.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your old teammates?
Yes.
In 2009 you founded your own coffee brand, what was that process like?
The process has been a huge learning and growing experience. In 1999 when I bought the farm I knew nothing about growing coffee, and from there we’ve gone through so much – changing the farm to organic, taking the coffee from a couple of grocery stores to big distribution deals with Safeway, Albertsons, Krogers, and others. After living in Ethiopia, in 2007, I wanted to have a global coffee company and I believe we are getting there by choosing the right partners and keeping true to our values.
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Ads for your coffee have recently been shown at TD Place, talk about how that came to be.
We have very strong ties to Canada through our partnership with Mother Parkers Coffee & Tea Company – Canada is their home base and that’s where they produce our RealCup single serve capsules and take us into the retail market. Being that I played a year of football in Ottawa for the Rough Riders, and the CEO of the company Brent Toevs is from Canada, Marley Coffee has very strong ties to the region. The partnership came to be because of these relationships and with the help of Mother Parkers.
You’re known for being very involved with charity work, what fuels that desire?
It’s natural to give. I grew up with the habit of giving and wanting to do more.
Would you ever consider coming back to Ottawa and watching a Redblacks game?
 Absolutely. I would love to.
Thank you very much for your time Rohan and best of luck with your future endeavours!

The Saskatchewan Dresslers Outlast the Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

toppic

On a beautiful day for football in Regina, the Redblacks let a golden opportunity to keep pace with the rest of the East slip through their fingers. Ottawa battled hard for the win but ultimately came up short in double overtime, falling to 1-10 on the year.

Pre-game:

– Head Coach Rick Campbell gets the boys fired up

– Redblacks call tails on the coin flip and lose, dropping their record to 3-10 on the year

1st Quarter:

– After Jamill Smith (#15) fields the opening kick, the Redblacks offense comes out of the gate strong, rotating between DJ Harper’s (#28) running and Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) catches, until a flag on Marter (Matt Carter #85) and a John Chick sack derail the drive

– The Greenwhites try to run the ball twice into the teeth of the Redblacks defence which gives them nothing, Smith’s punt return is aided by a 15 yard no yards flag

– With the grace of a ballerina, all 290 pounds of Alex “The Bulldozer” Krausnick (#55) makes a smooth catch before lowering his shoulder and levelling a defender

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Boom

– Henry Burris (#1) shows that age ain’t no thing as he scrambles 8 yards for a TD

– Saskatchewan moves the ball with back-to-back catches from Weston “I don’t like Ottawa’s money” Dressler, until the drive stalls at Ottawa’s 34 yard line. Kicker Chris Milo’s 40 yard FG is good

– On the ensuing kickoff, Smith showcases his toughness when he gets popped but holds onto the football and bounces right back up

– Despite the Greenwhites going offside the Redblacks go two-and-out when Burris one-hops a pass intended for Wallace Miles (#84)

– Linebacker Travis Brown (#43) sniffs out a screen, forcing another Greenwhites two-and-out

2nd Quarter:

– On 3rd and 1, HC Rick Campbell chooses to punt and Brett “Don’t Talk to Me” Maher (#3) blasts the ball 59 yards for a rouge

– Not content with taking their former name, the Greenwhites also seem to be using Ottawa’s offensive playbook as they continue to go two-and-out

– Tearrius George makes Nolan MacMillan (#66) his plaything and sacks Burris for a 5-yard loss, but a roughing the passer call keeps the drive alive

– A streaking Carlton Mitchell (#88) catches a deep pass on the pump and go

– Offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson’s Alzheimer’s kicks in as he forgets about Harper and the run game, calling his 12th straight pass

– Redblacks dig into their bag of tricks as they use backup QB Danny O’Brien (#9) to fake the field goal on 3rd and 2, earning a fresh set of downs

– Burris scrambles around a collapsing pocket buying time until Miles gets open for a 12-yard TD, capping off a 13-play, 90-yard drive

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A welcome sight

– Abdul Kanneh (#14) nearly picks off Tino “Two-and-Out” Sunseri’s misthrow, Antoine Pruneau (#6) breaks up a deep pass intended for Dressler and the Greenwhites punt again

– Ottawa finally runs the ball and newcomer Jeremiah Johnson (#27) picks up 5 yards

– Proving it IS a game of inches, Mitchell just misses hauling in a deep pass

– Refs turn a blind eye to a Maher being run into and a blatant clip as Weston “Not Quite Good Enough for the NFL” Dressler takes the punt return 78 yards to the house

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If you look closely, you’ll do a better job than these CFL refs and see two missed calls

– All alone in space, Miles drops a gimme

– Redblacks do their best Tennessee Titans impression when Smith laterals across the field to Khalil Paden (#13) who jets down the sideline for a 53 yard gain

– Once again evading heavy pressure, Burris connects with Miles in the end zone for the second time, this one an 8-yard TD

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– “Rider Pride” is on full display as boos rain down and bounce off ugly watermelon helmets to end the half

Half-time:

– An irate Rick Campbell tries to chat with the referee but unsurprisingly he’s looking the other way

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https://twitter.com/themrfancypants/status/513804455138308096

3rd Quarter:

– Rob Bagg gets behind Kanneh but Sunseri overthrows him by the length of a watermelon field

– Smith’s straight ahead running style results in a good punt return

– Burris gets nailed from his blindside as the Redblacks give up their 4th sack of the game

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– Still smarting from being run over early in the game, Brackenridge levels Mitchell and forces a fumble

– The Greenwhites quickly make the turnover count when a misdirection play results in a touchdown

– Ottawa responds in a spectacular fashion as catches by Marter and Harper keep the drive alive until Jeremiah “Happy Birthday Momma!” Johnson’s 19-yard TD caps off a 7-play, 66-yard drive

– Saskatchewan goes two and out before Milo’s 65-yard punt rolls out at Ottawa’s 1 yard line

– Facing 2nd and 10, Mitchell makes a 24-yard catch to give the Maher some breathing room when he’s forced to punt. Eric “The Pilot” Fraser (#7) is flagged for no yards

– Kanneh continues to play like a kid jacked up on a sugar high and lowers the boom on Dressler

– Apparently still shaking off the cobwebs, Dressler blotches the hold on Milo’s 43-yard FG attempt leading to a turnover on downs

– The Redblacks offensive line continues their porous play, giving up a 5th sack

4th Quarter:

– Ottawa’s defence suddenly becomes allergic to tackling as Dressler runs 60 yards through a half dozen missed tackles for a TD

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– Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) makes yet another first down catch though the drive ultimately stalls

– Jasper Simmons (#31) is shaken up and newly signed Damaso Munoz (#45) slots in

– Justin Capicciotti (#93) wraps up Sunseri for this 5th sack of the year

– With just over 7 min left in the game, instead of trying to run some clock, OC Gibson continues his trend of ignoring the ground game; Redblacks take maybe 15 seconds off the clock with two incompletions

– Heavy pressure from the defensive line forces a two-and-out

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– Johnson picks up 7 yards and 29 yards on back to back run plays

– Burris keeps up the time honoured tradition of QB’s whiffing on blocks as Johnson reverses direction for a short gain

– Playing not to lose the Redblacks elect to keep the ball on the ground on 2nd and 9 at Saskatchewan’s 16 yard line

– Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on Tool Time, Maher nails a 24-yard FG with 1:53 left to give the Redblacks an 8-point lead

– Taking advantage of injuries on back-to-back plays in Ottawa’s secondary, Sunseri magically strings together a few passes before a bonehead pass interference call moves the ball 31 yards and sets up the Greenwhites on the 1

– Predictably they score and get the 2-point convert when the Redblacks strategy of leaving Dressler uncovered bites them in the ass

– With enough time on the clock to get into FG or at least punt for a rouge win range, Johnson drops a 1st down catch and the Redblacks inexplicably run the ball on 2nd and 10

– The Greenwhites take a knee to send the game into overtime

1st Overtime:

– Burris gets hit as he throws and the pass is picked off, Redblacks fans everywhere pull their hair out in frustration

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The mythical clean pocket was nowhere to be found on this play

– After two fruitless runs, Milo attempts a 37 yard FG but the snap is mishandled, the kick goes wide-left into the hands of Jamill Smith, who boots it out from the back of the end zone. The punt is caught by Saskatchewan but the punt back is blocked (or short?), sending the game to double overtime. Whew!

Double Jeopardy (2nd Overtime):

– Ottawa chooses to play defence first as R-Nation uses a defibrillator

– Milo’s 22-yard FG is good, meaning the Redblacks control their own fate

– Looking like a rookie, Burris takes an enormous 13-yard sack, pushing the Redblacks out of FG range

– Henry²’s 14-yard catch brings the Redblacks back into FG range leaving Campbell with a decision to either try and tie the game or go for the win on 3rd and 5

– Playing it safe fails when Maher’s 38 yarder is blocked

Final score: Greenwhites 35, Redblacks 32

Key Stats:

Burris went 23 of 38 for 282 yards with 3 TDs, 1 INT and 1 rushing TD

Johnson had 7 carries for 49 yards

Henry² made 8 catches for 87 yards

Simmons led the way on defence with 8 tackles

Maher punted 10 times for 492 yards

Closing thoughts:

In a season of frustrating losses, this one easily lands at the top. Despite finally exorcising their offensive demons, the Redblacks defense and a few non-calls by the referees cost Ottawa a much needed win. Burris shook off some early accuracy issues and finally brought the offence to life but his antics in overtime were horrible. He did the two things a QB simply cannot do in OT by tossing a pick and taking a sack. Henry² had a strong game making numerous 2nd down catches to keep drives alive and Miles was either catching TDs or making drops. Johnson and Harper did an admirable job filling in for injured Chevon Walker (#29) but despite averaging over 5 yards a carry, OC Mike Gibson ignored the run game until the worst possible moments, going into ultra-conservative mode at inexplicable times. The offensive line might have played their worst game of the season in terms of pass protection, giving up 6 sacks and making Burris scramble for his life every second pass play.

The normally stout defence came apart at the teams in the 2nd half, making Sunseri look like a seasoned vet as opposed to the green-faced rookie making his second start that he is. Losing some key personnel in Jerrell Gavins (#24) and Kanneh to injury on the game-tying drive certainly didn’t help matters any, along with a crushing pass interference call that put the Greenwhites on the 1. The team’s tackling in general seemed to regress as the game wore on, as evidenced by Dressler weaving his way through the secondary with ease.

Special teams issues reared their ugly head as Dressler’s punt return TD gave Saskatchewan life when they were dead to rights. Two blatant blown calls are poor consolation to R-Nation as this point, even though TSN at least had the balls to point them out during half time. The fake field goal and punt return lateral were extremely well executed and timely calls that gave the team a boost at key moments in the game, both leading to touchdowns.

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Certainly feels this way sometimes

This loss falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff who got conservative at the worst possible time. Gibson shied away from running the ball all night, despite picking up a healthy amount of yards per carry. Then with the game on the line, he TWICE chose to run the ball on 2nd and long. His decisions were mind-boggling and sent the wrong message to the team., instead of going for the win the Redblacks played not to lose, and it ended up costing them.

With every other Eastern team winning this weekend the Redblacks’ playoff hopes took a serious hit and if they’re going to make any kind of push at all they’ll need to overcome the Als Friday night at TD Place. R-Nation will pack the place and bring the noise, so it’ll be up to the players on the field to snap this exasperating 8-game losing streak.

@RedBlackGade

– All images via CFL.ca and the Ottawa Sun

#TBT: An Interview with Mike Abou-Mechrek

By: Santino Filoso

Mike Abou-Mechrek Ottawa Renegades. Photo F. Scott Grant

Today we sit down with former Ottawa Renegades offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek. Drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999 and quickly going on to establish himself as a reliable starter throughout his 10 year career, Mike played in Ottawa from 2002-2004 before winning a Grey Cup with Saskatchewan in 2007.

RR: You played for the Renegades from 2002-2004, what are some of your favourite memories of that time?

MBM: Ask any of the players, coaches, GMs, or front office staff, anybody at all who was a part of that Renegade family, and they’ll tell you that their favourite memory of Ottawa was the people. We came together as a family like no other team that I was on in my 20 years playing the game. I’m still good friends with some of those guys and even our children are best friends . We forged a bond that couldn’t have been built anywhere except on an expansion team in a foreign city, lead by Coach Pao Pao, Kani Kuahi and their beautiful wives Dottie and Gay who brought all of us “Renegades” together.

Why did you choose to sign in Ottawa as a free agent?

Playing with Winnipeg was great and I had just finished my 3rd season in the CFL and 2nd as a starter, but I felt that being on an expansion team would give me more job security so that I could grow and get better as a football player. That, combined with the fact that I’m from Toronto and wanted to be closer to home without being too close, made it an easy choice. Ottawa is a beautiful city that I may still retire in and live there again one day.

What kind of challenges does an expansion team face that a normal team wouldn’t?

Football is the ultimate team sport and expansion teams are just a bunch of “Renegades” thrown together on a roster – they aren’t a team. The X’s and O’s are the same as everyone else but the guys don’t know each other yet.

Many people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?

I went back to Winnipeg in 2005 so I didn’t see the entire circus but I will say that the first act was enough for me.

Who was the toughest defensive player you were lined up against?

I’d say there were three: Joe Fleming, Johnny Scott and Cameron Wake

Did you have a favourite (or least favourite) stadium to play in?

Yeah, the Rogers Centre. I’ve won a high school city championship, a Vanier Cup, and a Grey Cup in the it, plus it’s in my home town, so you’d think I’d love the place but I don’t. It feels like you are playing in someone’s back yard: no fans, no atmosphere, no passion.

What was your typical pre-game meal?

Half a chicken with two cups of pasta and a big salad….which I would throw up before every game.

Run blocking > pass blocking?

Of course, you shouldn’t even need to ask

Mike Abou-Mechrek Ottawa Renegades. Photo F. Scott Grant

Describe your perfect day off while living in Ottawa.

Bike ride from Barrhaven down to the Byward Market, stopping at the Canal Ritz for a rest and refreshment. That’s the best drive/ride there is in Ottawa in my opinion.

Once I was feeling refreshed I’d continue down to the market , maybe hit up a used book store, eat some delicious Lebanese cuisine and find another patio. Later on someone would have to come pick me up and take me home because all that bike riding and refreshing makes one tired.

Who was the funniest guy you ever played with?

Marc Parenteau

Is the a special reason why you wore #67?

Many reasons. First off it’s the last year the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Cup. Secondly it’s slimming; the 6 gives the number the girth that a big man like me needs but the 7 brings the eyes in to the waist line, the number really accentuates my V shaped body haha. The worst and final reason is that it’s two away from 69 (me and you baby).

Now that you’ve retired, what are you doing for work?

I’m a Certified Financial Planner, which is what I originally wanted to be when I grew up, football just got in the way. In fact, I started my career in finance while playing in Ottawa, I was sure they would cut me and wanted to be ready to move on once they did. Thankfully I’ve never been cut.

Every player has a nickname or two, what was yours?

Abou

Do you still keep in touch with any former teammates, and if so, who?

Alex Gauthier, Marc Parenteau, George Hudson and Val St’Germain are some of my best friends, our wives all get along and our kids are the same age. It was such a blessing to come to Ottawa and meet such good people. I also keep in touch with Greg Bearman too, but he doesn’t have a wife and kids. I chat with Gay Kuahi on Facebook at least once a week.

What piece of advice would you offer any high school or university lineman looking to go pro?

Don’t look to go pro, just work hard at whatever you are going to do, or else it isn’t worth doing. If you focus on something you love to do the “pros” will find you. I was quite a fat, shy kid with low self esteem and football gave me a vehicle where my size finally was an advantage – as I WAS athletic. All the faster smaller kids who used to call me names and then run away in the school yard had nowhere to run to on the gridiron.

O-line coaches in junior ball have their work cut out for them because quite simply the kids aren’t strong enough to do things ‘right’. Trusting a coach is the best thing any athlete can do, especially when you are learning to play o-line. Everyone knows what the QB or RB has to do but no one knows what the O-line does or why they do it until they play the position. It’s quite humbling learning a game you thought you knew all over again.

For those looking to get better at football, or anything else: trust your coach/mentor, come up with a plan, and then do what you said you were going to do. The single best piece of advice I ever got (and it didn’t pertain to football at the time) was SHUT UP AND WORK.

Thank you very much Mike for a hell of an interview! Take care and we hope to see you in Ottawa again soon!

@RedBlackGade

#TBT: An Interview with Matt Kellett

By: Santino Filoso

Matt Kellett Ottawa Renegades kicker 2005. Photo Scott Grant

Today we sit down with Regina native, Matt Kellet, the former Ottawa Renegade kicker/punter. Though he was only in Ottawa for a single season, Kellet played in the CFL from 1999-2005 on four different teams (Edmonton, BC, Montreal and Ottawa), playing in the Grey Cup  in his hometown with Montreal in 2003.

RR: Growing up did you always know you wanted to be a kicker?

MK: I didn’t actually start playing football until half way through grade 11.  My rugby/wrestling coach was also my home room teacher and after watching a football game I noticed all the kicks were very short, so I asked if they were doing that purposely. He had mentioned that , no, they just didn’t have a guy who could do it. Since he was also the head football coach at the time, he suggested I should come out and give it try.  I wasn’t even thinking of football as a sporting option before then.

How did you adjust to kicking in the CFL’s wild weather and what were the most difficult conditions for you to kick in?

I grew up in Regina (or at least spent my high school years there having moved all over the country prior to that) so wild weather was just normal for me.  Taylor Field, now called Mosaic Stadium, was relatively easy because 90% of the time the winds would come from the south of Regina which meant you only had 1/2 the game to worry about it.  One of the hardest places to kick was in the old Ivor Wynn stadium because both endzones were open, which played games with your ball during FG attempts. The cold was maybe more of a factor than the wind, because you couldn’t get great compression on the ball, thus the ball didn’t fly as far.

Did you have to change the technique used when attempting a long field goal as opposed to a shorter one?

Early in my career, I really struggled learning to “trust my swing” and thus I struggled with short FG’s, because of the angles that the CFL field creates.  As you mature as a kicker you learn to trust your ball flight and it doesn’t matter where you are on the field, all kicks are straight kicks.

Is there any difference between placekicking and kickoffs?

Nope,  on kickoffs you are coached to kick to a spot, outside the numbers and as deep as possible.  Place kicking/FG’s you are kicking to a spot also but with a Pass or Fail grade.

Throughout your CFL career you played in every stadium, was there one that posed more problems to you as a kicker than others?

Hahaha to be completely honest the most problematic stadium for me was BC Place.  I struggled with “failure” early in my career and mentally could not shake the “what if’s” even though it was my home stadium. For 2 years I felt more comfortable on the road in visiting stadiums. Once I left BC and moved to the Alouettes the most problematic stadium was Ottawa, because of Gerald Vaughn, he was a beast off the corner and affected many kicks.

Is there one thing about being a kicker that most people probably don’t realize?

That most, though not all, are great athletes.  They are just put into positions where they don’t look like athletes, ie, making open field tackles.  When you look at open field tackles in general, lots of players miss them, but when I kicker does , people “poke fun” the attempt.

Were you a very superstitious guy? 

Not at all, I was coached very early to not stress about things you can’t control (weather, for example). What it is , is what it is.

Looking back on your time in Ottawa, what stays with you the most?

My first game against Montreal, that team that traded me, on Canada Day.  I went 4 for 4 with the game tying and game winning FG in overtime. The coaches were under such an amazing amount stress from the ownership, but they stayed true to themselves and their team.  Coach Paopao and his staff should be very proud of how they conducted themselves and coached our team that year.

Over the course of your career you made 11 tackles, what’s it feel like to be the last man back when a returner with a head full of steam comes barrelling at you?

I think my time playing rugby paid off.  I  loved to run down field in college and tackle and hit people, but again was coached early in my CFL career to play my position and be the last guy back.

Now that you’re retired, what are you doing for work?

I’ve recently opened two franchised fitness studios, Orangetheory Fitness, here in Calgary with my business partner Mike McDonald.  Since leaving football I have been a personal trainer and wellness director in fitness facilities in Calgary.

What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your CFL career?

Bouncing back after two nightmare seasons in BC, having people write me off (rightfully so), being cut and invited to tryout in Montreal, and finally being able to rebound into the kicker/ player I knew I could be, all thanks to Don Matthews!

Do you still keep in touch with a lot of your old teammates?

Through social media I have fitness connections with a few, and some of my old teammates are my best friends from college so of course I still do with them.

Have you ever thought about getting into coaching? 

I love coaching. I coach personal trainers and have coached my boys on their hockey and soccer teams, and have also helped out kickers at the University of Saskatchewan.  I think when my boys are older and possibly playing football will I get involved in football again.

Have you had a chance to come back to Ottawa and take in a Redblacks game yet?

Not yet but I think that would be an amazing time, to see the new stadium and hang out with some of the best fans around.  I say that because they have continued to support every attempt at a team in Ottawa. The year I spent in Ottawa I think it rained 8 out of 9 games, and I mean it down poured, but there was always a consistently large group of fans out to cheer the team on.  I really hope that the Redblacks are here to stay so that the fan base can TRULY get behind them and watch the team grow and develop. I think that’s all a true fan really wants and what Ottawa deserves.

Thank you very much for your time Matt and best of luck in your future endeavours. Be sure to let us know whenever you make a trip to Ottawa so we can welcome you back in style!

@RedBlackGade

When it rains it pours; Lions Edge the Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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On Friday night the Redblacks welcomed the BC Lions and former Redblacks QB Kevin Glenn to TD Place. Following a painful trend, the Redblacks lost another defensive struggle late in the 4th quarter to move their record to 1-9 on the year.

Pre-game:

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– OSEG continues to do the little things right, honouring Ottawa’s storied CFL history by unveiling a statue of Frank Clair

– The trolls who run the official CFL twitter account do their best to get Ottawa fans excited about the game

– R-Nation continues to show that they aren’t fair weather fans, filling TD Place once again

– Redblacks win the coin toss and choose to recieve

1st Quarter:

– Jamill Smith (#15) fields the opening kick and returns it 26 yards to Ottawa’s 35 yard line

– Henry Burris (#1) shows off his arm with a long pass as the Redblacks look to strike quickly but Marter (Matt Carter #85) fails to bring it in

– A Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) catch leads to a 35 yard FG off Brett Maher’s boot

– Jonathan Willams (#75) forces the Lions to punt on their opening drive when he gets this 3rd sack of the year, bringing Lulay down for an 8 yard loss

– Defence is the name of the game as the teams trade two and outs

2nd Quarter:

– Burris criminally under throws a pass right to Dante Marsh who picks it off and returns it 34 yards

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– Paul “Grandaddy” McCallum’s 49 yard FG is good evening things at 3

– The pocket collapses around Burris who is flushed, and hits Wallace Miles (#84) on the run for a 1st down

– The Redblacks dial up a fake field goal when Alex Carder (#4) hits FB Patrick Lavoie (#81) for a fresh set of downs

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– Chevon Walker (#29) has a few tough plays, first dropping a screen pass that would’ve been touchdown and then getting nailed by Solomon Elimimian, breaking his arm and fumbling for the 2nd time in his career while trying to extend the ball over the goal line

– In his first start in weeks, Moton “The Motivator” Hopkins tackles Harris in the end zone for a safety

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– Fans at TD Place continue to wait for the Redblacks offence to show any signs of life as they go two and out

– Antoine Pruneau (#6) misses Lulay as he comes in free on the blitz, allowing Lulay to scramble outside for a massive gain

– With no time left on the clock, McCallum’s 34 yard FG ends the half

Half-time:

Third Quarter:

– The defence continues to dominate, gang tackling Lions RB Andrew Harris for a loss

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– Ricky Schmitt punts 69 for a rouge, extending BC’s lead to 7-5

– Showing off a slick spin move Bradon Lang (#91) sacks Lulay

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– Lavoie gets beat clean by his man and Burris quickly goes down

– Henry² makes an incredible one handed catch, snagging a wobbly Burris throw

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Fourth Quarter:

– BC tries to get fancy but their WR sweep is snuffed out for a huge loss as the Redblacks keep contain and box Emmanuel Arceneaux in

– With torrential rain falling and easily within FG range, Maher never gets the chance to give the Redblacks the leads as Danny O’Brien (#9) lets the snap slide right through his hands, and his panicked pass falls incomplete

– Lulay survives a collapsing pocket, breaks a few arm tackles and turns a sack into positive yards

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– With just over a minute left and deep in Redblacks territory, Lulay fumbles the ball and re-injuries his throwing shoulder

– The Lions recover the loose ball, dashing any hopes of a Redblacks comeback

– Final score: 7-5 for BC

Key Stats:

Burris went 21 of 32 for 188 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Walker had 4 carries for 6 yards

Henry² made 4 catches for 51 yards

Maher punted 9 times for 428 yards

Jermaine Robison (#32) made 7 tackesl

Closing Thoughts:

Another week brings another close loss. It’s said that good teams find ways to win games, so maybe expansions teams find ways to lose them. On a night when the offence struggled, the defence gave the Redblacks a chance to win. Some fans have been clamouring for Burris to be benched for weeks and his performance did nothing to silence his critics. There were a few drops, but Burris looked off all night, under and over throwing open receivers. The run game was non-existent, with only 12 yards gained on 10 carries between Walker and Michael Haynes (#34). The offensive line played soft all game long, failing to give Burris any kind of time and their inability to open up running lanes perhaps plays a factor in OC Mike Gibson’s reluctance to call runs.

The defence played lights out, putting points on the board again and limiting BC to two FGs and a rouge. If you hold the other team without a touchdown in the CFL you should win the game, plain and simple. If there is a positive to take from the Redblacks recent losing streak it’s that the defence is playing consistently tough and refuses to give up. Though their efforts are currently overshadowed by the team’s offensive woes, the Redblacks strong defence bodes well for the team’s future.

On special teams the Redblacks did an admirable job containing the league’s most dangerous returner (Tim Brown), holding him to a single long return of 25 yards. Maher made every field goal he had a chance to kick and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt.

With their next game on September 21st, the Redblacks need to make the most of their bye week by figuring out a way to put points on the board and how to deal with the loss of Chevon Walker, out for the season with a broken arm. Sitting in last in the East and with a record of 1-9, the Redblacks next game against the GREENWHITES is pivotal in keeping their playoff hopes alive.

@RedBlackGade

– All images via Roman Romanovich, CFL.ca and the Ottawa Sun

Ranking the CFL’s Signature Looks

By: Santino Filoso

Sig·na·ture (ˈsignəCHər,-ˌCHo͝or/)

noun

  1. a person’s name written in a distinctive way as a form of identification

The CFL in conjunction with Reebok recently released a brand new line of 3rd jerseys. This new “Signature Look” line has been mainly met with scorn and criticism even though they’re not all bad. In fact, we here at Defend the R took it upon ourselves to conduct a thorough analysis of each team’s new getups and rank them for you! Factors that went into our decision included visual appeal, style, fan interaction, use of team colours, how the uniforms looked in person vs being photoshopped/enhanced and ties to team history. Without further ado, here are the rankings:

9) The Saskatchewan GREENWHITES

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Though we are a fan run, independent blog, we here at Defend the R were privileged to sit in on Saskatchewan’s meeting with Reebok’s creative team. Here’s the *actual* transcript of how it went down.

Reebok: Thanks for coming today everyone, before we begin I’d just like to-

Saskatchewan: Green

Reebok: Uh, yes, okay, as I was saying-

Saskatchewan: Green

Reebok: Okay, maybe I’ll just give you the floor

Saskatchewan: Green, green, green

Reebok: Hmmm, alright, we can work with that, how about 50 shades of green?

Saskatchewan: GREEN!

Reebok: Why don’t we break for lunch?

Saskatchewan: Did you say watermelon!?

Reebok: I’m sensing a theme here….

All kidding aside, these uniforms are a complete mess. If every shade of green was meant to be sewn together on a piece of fabric, Martha Stewart would’ve done it already. The helmets a look like watermelons which is an ode to the fans who wear them in the stands and the “Rider Nation” tag inside the collar is a nice touch. The GREENWHITES also deserve praise for breaking new ground as the first and only team in pro sports history to feature a tramp stamp on their jersey.

Montreal Alouettes v Saskatchewan Roughriders
You can get your own GREENWHITE tramp stamp tattooed for free after every home win!

8) Winnipeg Blue Bombers

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Traditional team colours, who needs’em? Not the Bombers faithful, at least to management’s thinking. Ditching their beloved golden threads, the Bombers instead embraced their inner warrior by sporting the US Military’s Arctic camouflage. There’s not a lot to like if you’re a Bomber fan, as even the helmet looks like the after splatter of a flock of seagulls. It’s as if Reebok mixed up their Toronto and Winnipeg files with this look being the bastard love child. Last time I checked the team without gold and wearing double blue was based in Toronto. Maybe these uniforms will prove to be a stroke of genius late in the season as the team will blend in and disappear into the snowy weather. When even your players struggle to appear enthusiastic, you know you’ve missed the mark.

Jason Vega isn't impressed
Jason Vega isn’t impressed

7) The Toronto Argonauts

chipmunk   should never go with this  titanswhite

What do you get when you cross Alvin the Chipmunk’s trademarked A with the Tennessee Titan’s road uniforms?  The Argos’ new signature look of course! Don’t get me wrong, I love me some powdered blue but the layout is simply all wrong. The best part of this look is the helmet, which looks crisp and clean.

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6) The Hamilton Tiger Cats

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Raise your hand if you thought these garbage bag grey uniforms would be ready in time. The Ticat’s new look features charcoal grey to incorporate the smog from the factory smoke stacks surrounding Tim Horton’s field. The yellow reflector numbers are a nice touch as they will help fans keep track of their favourite players through the haze of still settling construction dust. Much like the Argos, the best part of these looks are the helmets with the faded tiger logo on one side and the player number on the other.

If your pet tiger is looking this grey, take him to the vet ASAP!
If your pet tiger is looking this grey, take him to the vet ASAP!

5) The Montreal Alouettes

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The Als stuck to their traditional colours by going with grey and silver on their futuristic looking new uniforms. Going back to their roots, the Alouettes chose to honour the first French Canadian Bombing unit in the Air Force, the 425 Squadron, who were nicknamed the ’’Alouettes”. Renown for their toughness and bravery, the 425 Squad was the inspiration when Montreal chose it’s team name in 1946. The only real knock on this look that for whatever reason the team and league have released very few pictures, so it’s really hard to judge just how good the complete product is or what the helmets really look like. One thing that does stand out is that the feather sleeve design looks like snowflakes. The Als decided to only use MTL on the front because it’s a) unilingual so they avoid any problems with Quebec’s strict language police and b) it saves space.

Dévoilement 3e Uniforme des Alouettes de Montréal
It’s 425, not 4225!

4) The Edmonton Eskimos

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The Eskimos stuck to the KISS (Keep It Stupid Simple) philosophy with their new look and I can appreciate that. The Eskimos kept to what they and their fans know, the green and gold colour scheme and in so doing created something that both traditionalists and younger fans can enjoy. While the enormous double Es might not be the prettiest thing to look at, keep in mind that these are supposed to be signature looks, so who can fault the Eskimos for putting their signature front and centre? Stitching the lyrics to part of their fight song inside the collar is a subtle touch that links these jerseys to the team’s storied history

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“The Green & Gold is bold”

3) The BC Lions

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Jumping the gun on the rest of the league, BC actually released their signature jerseys last year, only they called them their “Premier Look”. The bane of sports announcers league wide, these sharp uniforms boast a gun metal look that is perfectly offset by the safety pylon orange outlining their black numbers. Though some complain the numbers are hard to read who cares, unless you’re playing the Redblacks, Ticats or Stampeders, you’ll be the only team on the field in all black! The Leos didn’t mess with a good thing by leaving the paw decal on the side of the helmet untouched.

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Sorry Bighill, you’re #3 actually

2) The Ottawa Redblacks

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A wise man once said that once you go plaid you’re always glad and boy was he ever right. From Day One the Redblacks have embraced Ottawa’s lumber history and considering that our mascot is an axe wielding (though kid friendly) lumberjack, it was only a matter of time before plaid worked its way onto our uniforms. It’s called a Canadian tuxedo for a reason and we here in the Nation’s Capital choose to embrace stereotypes. The Redblacks signature look definitely puts the red in Redblacks. The checkered helmet is the crown jewel of this uniform (literally), though it’s a bit strange to see an Ottawa helmet without the white iconic R on it. But to be fair to Reebok, it probably didn’t mesh well with the plaid since everyone knows that the only thing that goes with plaid is more plaid. The one thing holding this look back from top spot is the big white looking (but actually silver) saw blade on the front, it just screams out of place. Not to mention the fact that it has an uncanny resemblance to a Dr. Seuss character.

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Long lost cousins?

 

1)  The Calgary Stampeders

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The Stamps must really love the Redblacks home uniforms, because their signature look is almost exactly the same. This NRA approved uniform sports a pair of revolvers on the shoulders and gloves; a tribute to the Wild West or a reflection of the city’s gang violence? What vaults this look ahead of all the rest is Calgary’s new helmet. The bitumen black front of the helmet fades away to red and is highlighted by speed lines and a chrome horse logo. Like the GREENWHITES , Ticats, and Esks, the Stamps also have an engraving stitched on their collar, but theirs is in Latin. It doesn’t matter that nobody on the team could tell you what “Quidquid Requiritur,” means (Whatever It Takes), having a dead language on your jersey simply makes you cool.

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Will you buy your team’s new jersey? How would you rank’em? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know!

@RedBlackGade