After an action-packed first day of CFL free agency on Tuesday, day two did not disappoint. A number of big names found themselves new homes on Wednesday, perhaps letting the opening day dust settle and getting a clearer picture of the marketplace.
In Redblacksland, the day was notable for a couple of free agent losses and one signing. First, the bad news:
After taking over from Chevon Walker as the starting RB at mid-season, JJ emerged as a real difference-maker in the Redblacks offense. In his seven starts (10 games total), Johnson amassed an impressive 448 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also emerged as a leader in the locker room.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s season would be cut short by a foot injury, and William Powell took over the starting job in early October. It was Powell’s performance the rest of the season and into the playoffs that ultimately made Johnson expendable, as the Canadian ratio makes it difficult for CFL teams to carry two American running backs.
Johnson will be missed. So will his TD celebrations.
The 27-year-old Gascon-Nadon is a 3-year CFL veteran, originally drafted by Hamilton in 2012 (3rd round, 17th overall). He spent a year at Rice University (2008) before coming back and winning two Vanier Cups (2010 & 2012) at Laval.
As a pro, Gascon-Nadon has appeared in a total of 20 games, though his first start on the Hamilton defensive line was actually in the Eastern Final against Ottawa, filling in for the injured Eric Norwood.
Yes, Ottawa fans only memory of him might be the interception he didn’t make prior to #2ndAnd25, but Gascon-Nadon is not here for his receiving ability. He is a highly regarded DL prospect, who also contributed on special teams in 2015, with 11 tackles.
Another action-packed day in the books for the Redblacks. Here are Ottawa’s remaining unsigned free agents:
QB DeMarco, Thomas
LB Green, James
WR Henry, Marcus
LB Hinds, David
DE Marshall, Andrew
DE Smith, Marlon
DB Thompson, Brandyn
LB/FB Verdone, Jordan
Riding high after last week’s huge home win, the Redblacks headed to Vancouver attempting to do something exceedingly rare in Ottawa’s CFL history, win in BC. Unfortunately with their backs against the wall, they laid a complete egg, coming out flat and getting their ass kicked on both sides of the ball.
– Just in case you were getting over the fact that Ottawa hasn’t had a CFL team for 17 of the last 20 years, the league’s twitter feed did their best to reopen the wound
– In a somewhat surprising move, Ottawa dons their slick black home uniforms on the road for the second time season
– Henry Burris (#1) makes his 200th career start while Keith “I like hitting people” Shologan (#74) makes his 100th
– Ottawa receives to start the game and after stringing together a few first downs with strong running from Jonathan “CFL Offensive Player of the Week” Williams (#23) and a beautiful 28 yard catch from Henry² (Marcus Henry #16), the drive stalls when Khalil Paden (#13) can’t hang onto a pass that hits him right in the mitts
– Ex-Redblack and current BC Lion Kevin Glenn hits a wide open Ernest Jackson for a 40 yard gain but goes down hurt as Moton “The Motivator” Hopkins (#95) levels him. Glenn breaks a nail and comes out of the game for a few plays
– Former Rough Rider and 12 time grandfather Paul McCallum opens the scoring for BC with a 30 yard FG
– Burris moves the chains three times with catches made by Roy Finch (#19) and Henry² before back to back drops by Marter (Matt Carter #85) force Brett Maher (#3) to punt
– Eddie Elder (#5) lowers the boom as the defence settles down and forces the Lions to go two and out
– Finch looks quick as he busts a 17 yard run and John Delahunt (#49) picks up 18 yards on a beautiful play actions pass
– A catch by Dobson Collins (#80) is wiped out by a holding call and finding himself all alone on the goal line, a wide open Paden drops a TD. The Redblacks are forced to once again punt
– Heavy pressure forces a quick BC two and out
– Williams picks up 5 and 8 yards on back to back running plays before Wallce Miles (#84) drops a deep pass and Burris is sacked
– Kanneh Abdul (#14) is flagged for pass interference and BC busts a big run as the Redblacks’ secondary realizes shoulder tackles don’t work.
– A second questionable pass interference call, this time on Jerrell Gavins (#24), moves ball to 1 yard line and is quickly punched in
– Scrambles by Burris, a 26 yard catch by Miles and a 7 yard run by Finch lead to Ottawa’s first points of the day as Maher nails a 34 yard FG
– Sloppy tackling lets BC convert a 1st and 20 before Gavins gets torched by Jackson, allowing him to blow by for a 60 yard TD catch and run
– Ottawa responds by going two and out
– 17-3 for not Ottawa after 30 min
– TSN’s panel fawns over Finch and deep in the bowls of BC Place OC Mike Gibson decides to completely abandon the run
– BC receives and marches down the field and scores a TD as a surgical Glenn shreds Ottawa’s defence, going 7/7 for 82 yards on the drive; apparently he passes the ball as well as he passes the blame for his twitter account being “hacked”
– Redblacks go two and out as Mike Gibson ignores Williams and Finch
@REDBLACKS Run the ball for crying out loud. Give it to the offensive player of the week.
– Ernest Jackson continues to dominate Gavins, making a 40 yard catch that leads to Paul “Granddaddy” McCallum’s second FG of the night
– Henry² makes a 7 yard catch for a 1st down but the ball is spotted 2 yards short, but instead of challenging the Redblacks come out in a weird ass formation before burning a time out and QB sneaking the ball for a 1st down
– A few plays later Marter lets another pass bounce off his hands, forcing a punt
– Glenn leads BC on another touchdown drive and I hate him that much more and wonder why I’m not in bed
– Down 34-3, Burris is pulled and Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) enters the game for Ottawa in time to hand off the ball to Williams who quickly picks up 8 yards though once again the drive stalls
– NFL reject John Beck enters the game at QB for the Lions and I mentally zone out as I no longer care
– The comedy of errors continues when a bad snap snails over Maher’s head on 3rd down, leading to a massive loss and setting the Lions up on the Redblack’s 13 yard line. Predictably they score
I don't know why I'm still awake but it's kind of like watching a train wreck, I can't look away #REDBLACKS
– O’Brien is picked off but the Lions fumble and the ball is recovered by Scott “Why Am I So Low on the Depth Chart When I Actually Catch the Ball?” Macdonell (#83)
– Nothing else worth mentioning happens
Final score: 41-3 for BC
Burris went 12 of 21 for 143 yards with 0 TDs and INTs
Williams had 10 carries for 42 yards
Henry² made 3 catches for 52 yards
Travis Brown made 7 tackles
Maher punted 9 times for 343 yards
While this might not be our most frustrating loss, though we’ve had our fair share of those, it might be our most disappointing, especially after the promise we showed last week. In a game that Ottawa simply had to have and one in which many thought positive momentum from last week would carry over against a banged up Lions squad, the Redblacks simply shit the bed. This was a statement game for Ottawa and they came out without a pulse and proceeded to embarrass themselves and their fans.
On the offensive side of the ball Burris was simply pedestrian, not having a stellar game but also not losing it for his team. As we’ve come to expect, he had a few throws he’d like back but at the same time his receivers dropped a number of easy passes, including a few that could have swung momentum in Ottawa’s favour. Khalil Paden dropped a pass at the goal line and Miles and Marter looked terrible with drops of their own. In an extremely telling stat, no wide receiver made more than two catches, other than Henry² who had a whopping three. The CFL’s reigning offensive player of the week, Jonathan Williams, was MIA though through no fault of his own. You can’t pick up 5 yards at a time (as he was) when you’re never even handed the ball. Newcomer Finch showed good burst and also averaged a healthy yards per carry but was also ignored from the middle of the 2nd quarter on. Williams finished with 10 carries but that’s deceiving as he had two carries to run out the first half and also two in garbage time late in the 4th. Which means that Mike Gibson put the ball in his hands six times when it mattered. Ignoring the run game when playing a strong defence such as BC’s is simply criminal. Looking back the Redblacks will be frustrated as they actually did move the ball early on, but drops and flags killed any chance they had of scoring.
@RedBlackGade "You had more then a week to prepare for the BC Lions and this is what you come out with?" –@kevraire17 on off. play calling
On the other side of the ball, the defence blew, showing no spine and getting pushed around all night long, giving up 548 yards of net offence. The front seven failed to put any kind of pressure on the QB, which allowed Glenn and his band of scrub receivers to torch the secondary. Stats don’t lie; Glenn racked up 345 yards and 3 TDs and completed 74% of his passes. Ernest Jackson alone accounted for 195 of those yards yet the Redblacks never switched their man coverage, even as he continued to haul in gains of 40+ yards. Ottawa’s lost a lot of games this season but it’s rare to see their defence pushed around the way it was last night, they even gave up 170 yards on the ground.
Special teams coverage was fantastic containing the league’s most dangerous returner and Maher made his one FG attempt with ease. Some incredibly weak PI calls helped the Lions sustain a few early drives and lead directly to points but that’s pretty much come to be expected as CFL referees continue to influence games with bad calls.
With the loss the Redblacks season will officially finish their season in Toronto on November 7th. After one brilliant game Mike Gibson was right back to his usual inept and incomprehensible self, ignoring the run game and failing to call plays that play to his players strengths. With the Redblacks now out of the playoff race he should be unemployed ASAP. Head Coach Rick Campbell will have to find a way to motivate his players for the remaining 4 games because they simply cannot have another game like this. Next up is a date with the Ticats at Tim Horton’s Field, where they are currently undefeated. The game will be a real test of the character of the guys on the team, as R-Nation will easily be able to see who mails it in and who still gives it their all. Expectations need to be realistic for an expansion team, but there’s no way fans will tolerate the team laying eggs like this.
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.
– OSEG continues to do the little things right, honouring Ottawa’s storied CFL history by unveiling a statue of Frank Clair
– Redblacks win the coin toss and choose to recieve
– 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
– Burris criminally under throws a pass right to Dante Marsh who picks it off and returns it 34 yards
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
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
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.