Training Camp update – A few answers, but still many questions

By Cranky Frank Clair 

So we’re almost two weeks into camp. Thus far there’s been a weak attempt by the media to stir up a QB controversy, a sidelined DE and a soggy mock game.

The RedBlacks had a lot of question marks coming into camp and if they haven’t been answered, at least we have a glimpse at what GM Marcel Desjardins thinks the answers might be.


It looks like an American will take the RT spot. Jake Silas has been with the starting o-line, and while he isn’t dominating, he doesn’t look out of place, either. Tommie Draheim is the other American the RedBlacks are looking at for the position. I’ve seen him take some very difficult reps in o-line vs d-line drills, but it’s a long camp.

This means that it appears Nolan MacMillan will remain at guard, and 2015 first overall pick Alex Mateas remains backup. Mateas looks in great shape, but he hasn’t dominated in camp. This having been said, o-line can take longer to get it together during pre-season, so time will tell. 2016 first rounder Lauzon-Seguin is coming along nicely, but certainly isn’t pushing for a starting job yet. 

Photo: Moton Hopkins

On the other side of the ball, Zack Evans and Moton Hopkins are the clear leaders of the d-line. They are in great shape and have dominated in drills. I thought last season that Evans had surpassed Keith Shologan, and I don’t think the team will really miss the free agent departee. 
Those who follow me on Twitter know I’d been looking for a DT to step up for the depth position inside, and I was hoping Connor Williams would do it. He has delivered. Quick and very strong, he looks like a DT/DE tweener but he has been explosive inside and will allow a very good rotation at DT. Unfortunately, Amobi Okoye still hasn’t been medically cleared to join the team, so the former NFLer must be assumed to be out of the picture for 2016 until we hear otherwise. It remains to be seen who will be a 4th DT. 

DE is another story. Aston Whiteside continues to sit out drills. The team says it is easing him in, we’ll see over the next two weeks whether his activity level ramps up. It doesn’t seem to have changed in the ten days of camp so far. Filling Whiteside’s first team spot in drills has been 6′ 6″ Marlon Smith, who seems to be the best of the American pass rushers brought into camp. [UPDATE: Smith was released on 6/10]. At the other DE position, Arnaud Gascon-Nadon has been the starter. None of the Americans remaining at DE seem to be making it a tough decision to keep a Canadian at the position. 


A Canadian passport may be enough to tip the balance in competition for the open WR position. Kalil Paden and Jamill Smith have proven reliable and they both have great hands. Former Texas Longhorn John Harris is showing his potential; all three seem to be having a very good camp. Canadian content requirements being what they are, it might not be enough to get that open spot. Jake Harty is playing with the first unit and seems to fit in well.


Paden, Smith and Harris will be hard to keep off the field, however. It will be interesting to see over the next two weeks how much they push 1,000-yard club members Ernest Jackson, Greg Ellingson and Chris Williams. 

Overall, the offence is looking sharp. DBlock is flying around doing its thing and hasn’t missed a beat despite the offseason departures. The LBs from last season look like they’ll be the LBs this season, other than perhaps a newcomer or two to shore up special teams. This remains very firmly Henry Burris’ team – it’s a joy to watch him run the offence. 

We remember Trevor Harris’ performances against the RedBlacks last season and how sobering they were for RNation. Harris is showing that same deftness in camp and he’s doing it with a nice R on his helmet instead of that ugly A. 

Next stop – the first pre-season game on June 13th. Someone will step up and be noticed, someone will get noticed for the wrong reasons, and someone will scare RNation with an apparent injury. And immediately after the game, the team will have to cut its training camp roster down to 65. We’ll be back next week to review the game and see how things are shaking out with the reduced roster. 

And on Monday, I’ll be thrilled to welcome everyone back to my house to watch football on my lawn. Come say hi, but please don’t spill beer on my foot. 

Follow Cranky Frank Clair on Twitter – @crankyclair

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photos from OttawaRedblacks.com, unless noted.

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Redblacks 2016 training camp battles

By Cranky Frank Clair

My view from the corner of TD Place Stadium isn’t the greatest. I don’t talk to coaches and can’t see the whiteboards downstairs. But I still have a view of the RedBlacks heading into camp.

The Redblacks 2016 training camp storylines don’t begin with the opening of camp. They begin with key player departures during the offseason. Ottawa lost a star RT and DE, a very solid DT and two very good defensive backs. Colouring every story is the need for CFL teams to start seven Canadians, and when one comes off the field, another must go on. This is important context for the stories that will unfold over the next 3-4 weeks.

Offensive line

Photo Ottawa Citizen

The big question mark on the offensive line is whether the Redblacks can use a Canadian at RT. This would help their ratio elsewhere on the field. So watch for solid offensive guard Nolan MacMillan to get a look at right tackle, which will open up the spot for last year’s #1 draft pick Alex Mateas to start at G. Tackles have to be highly mobile to handle the fast and agile CFL defensive ends. MacMillan may not be able to make the transition. If he stays at G, then the RedBlacks will have both Mateas and perhaps their first rounder Lauzon-Séguin on the bench ready to fill in when an injury hits. As for RT, if not MacMillan then look for it to be one of two Americans. The candidates are former BC Lions OT Tommie Draheim or the 6-7 Jake Silas who was on the Redblacks practice roster last season after a weekend-long sniff at an NFL rookie camp. The rest of the o-line is set and there will be few depth jobs available. 

Defensive Line


The defensive line has a lot of question marks, and how they’re answered could determine whether the Redblacks earn a home playoff game in 2016. 

D-line gets complicated if the team can only start three Canadians on the o-line. Star defensive end Justin Capicciotti and his Canadian status may be irreplaceable. GM Marcel Desjardins seems to like former Ticat Arnaud Gascon-Nadon to replace Capy, but that’s a big leap. Connor Williams could step up but hasn’t shown a lot even when not injured. So that spot could go to an American. Options include the hyper-focused LaDarius Owens from Auburn, small school standout Emmanuel Graves, 6-6 Kendall Williams, or newly-signed small school standout Jake Ceresna who has solid testing numbers but played against weak competition. The players will sort this out themselves by stepping up (or not) during camp and pre-season.

Aston Whiteside was brilliant at the other DE position last year until his knee injury and the Redblacks were forced to sign the now-departed Shawn Lemon. Whiteside is reportedly ready to play, but until he faces full contact we won’t know if his knee will get him around the corner as effectively as it did last season. #RNation is crossing its fingers on Whiteside’s return. Even with Whiteside’s return, he could be shut down by opponents if he is the only threat. Much of the 2015 success was because they could apply pressure all along the line of scrimmage. 

Just when DT seemed stable, at press time, former NFLer Amobi Okoye is still not signed while the club awaits medical clearance. Okoye had a promising NFL career before a serious medical issue forced him out. He’s apparently recovered and is looking strong. Hopefully, medical sign-off is a technicality that will be cleared up soon. If not, DT becomes a huge question mark. Zack Evans and Moton Hokpins can’t play every snap. DT needs players rotating in and out to be effective. Okoye, Evans and Hopkins would be a formidable trio that would likely be augmented by a Canadian to avoid ratio issues elsewhere when Evans rests. 

Receiver

One solution to the probable lack of a Canadian DE could be starting Jake Harty at WR. Harty seems faster and more versatile than Scott MacDonnell. Again, this is something that will get sorted over the next few weeks. 

The import spots at receiver seemed set until Texas WR John Harris arrived. He put up very impressive numbers his senior year with the Longhorns against primetime competition. Lack of NFL interest could be because he saw very few balls prior to senior year. He’ll provide stiff competition at camp for the incumbent American WRs. Expect Chris Williams to be able to concentrate solely on receiver duties from day one this season. Ellingson and Sinopoli were unknown quantities to the opposition at the beginning of 2015. Expect them to get more attention now, opening up the field elsewhere. 

Defensive Backs


The d-line justly gets a lot of credit for its 2015 success; “D-Block” deserves credit for many of their league-leading sacks. There are two big departures in Jovon Johnson and Brandyn Thompson. Fortunately, D-Block is deep. The incredibly-named Forrest Hightower was emerging as a solid player last season once he got some playing time, while Abdul Kanneh and Jerrell Gavins firmly established themselves last season as very reliable and dangerous. Brandon Sermons was fairly steady last season. We can also expect an unknown to emerge at camp. It’s the CFL way with DBs.

Linebacker

This is pure speculation, but I wonder if a move to FS might be considered for current SAM linebacker Antoine Pruneau. Last season’s FS Jermaine Robinson could ably slide over to a vacant DB position. Marcel Desjardins is bringing a lot of LBs into camp. Pruneau’s passport and his effectiveness means he’ll be on the field somewhere, but IF he has picked up any speed over the offseason and if any of the LBs in camp turn enough heads, Pruneau could end up at FS. A glaring hole in the defensive backfield requiring Robinson’s services could also force the move. Pruneau plays a vital pass and run coverage role as SAM LB, and a very fast, smart and reliable player would have to emerge to replace him.

It’s hard to determine before camp whether that player exists. 

The team has brought in a lot of LBs who look impressive on video playing for small colleges. One of them could emerge to push David Hinds or Damaso Muñoz. Both are solid, particularly Muñoz who has been one of the league’s underrated players since he arrived. LB prospects will have to push Hinds or one of them will have to show ability to play SAM. Special teams performance is the best path for aspiring LBs to make the roster, even better if they are Canadian. 

QB, RB and Special Teams


Nothing to see here, folks. Burris is the number 1 QB. Harris won’t start until next season as long as Hank stays healthy and winning in 2016. RB is largely set, although history shows the need to have a steady supply. Expect a back or two to emerge during camp. Lavoie is a beast at FB. Kicker and punter are set for the first time in RedBlacks history. Finally. 

It all starts Sunday. I’ll be watching from the southwest corner, if you need me.

Follow Cranky Frank Clair on Twitter – @crankyclair

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photos from OttawaRedblacks.com, unless noted.

A couple opinions on the Redblacks new jerseys

On Thursday (or Jersday, as it turns out), the CFL and its nine teams revealed their new Adidas-designed uniforms to the world. In Ottawa, we heard tidbits of information over the last month about some of the new features, but today was the day for fans to finally see what their team will be wearing in 2016.

Before we look at the new uniforms, let’s take a last look at the teasers, shall we?

(someone played with the greyscale to reveal this:)

And now, the Redblacks new uniforms, with thoughts from @DefendTheR and fellow jersey geek @NevillCarney.

HOME (black)


Changes:

  1. Red added to collar, shoulders and ‘flashes’ down the side of the jersey
  2. Larger ‘REDBLACKS’ wordmark below the collar
  3. Number colours swapped, now white with red outline, and no longer italicized
  4. Shoulder numbers removed
  5. (Appears to be) smaller font used for namebar on the back
  6. ‘#RNation’ added to pant leg
  7. Red trim behind the knee of pants
  8. Red socks

AWAY (white)

(Sorry, not too many pictures around just yet)



Again, here’s how they’ve changed:

  1. Red accents added to collar
  2. Red ‘OTTAWA’ wordmark below the collar
  3. Number colours swapped, now red with black outline, and no longer italicized 
  4. Shoulder numbers removed
  5. (Appears to be) smaller font used for namebar on the back
  6. ‘#RNation’ added to pant leg

Alright, now for our impressions of the changes:

@DefendTheR: The addition of red to the home uniform was a must and nicely executed. Was hoping to see some striping on the shoulders, but not to be.

@NevillCarney: RED! If there was one single complaint I had when Ottawa unveiled their uniforms in their inaugural season in 2014, it was that a team named the REDblacks hardly had any red! I love the red compression stockings and the way they seemingly connect with the pants.

@DefendTheR: The larger REDBLACKS wordmark on the home jersey is sharp, filling up a non-personalized jersey a tiny bit better.

The move to white numbers was a no-brainer. The old ones were simply too dark. That being said, I still think white numbers with no outline would look just a bit better.

@NevillCarney: Numbers improve legibility as they are no longer italicized and are now white on the black jersey, answering broadcasters’ prayers for better contrast. They also keep the axe notch in the font, so bonus points there.

As for REDBLACKS on the front of the black home jersey, given the large francophone population in the city, it seems to give preferential treatment to the English version of the name rather than the “Rouge et Noir” translation. The best way to please both sides is to have it read “Ottawa”, similar to the new white road jersey.

@DefendTheR: It’s great to see the OTTAWA wordmark on the road uniform (especially since it won’t be on the pants). Also, the use of red numbers provide quite a different look, one somewhat resembling the glory days, in fact.

Again, a single-colour number probably makes this look just a touch better, but it’s a good look.

@NevillCarney: I wasn’t overwhelmed with the new CFL logo when it was first revealed during Grey Cup week last season, but on the jerseys, on the red collar, it looks really sharp.

@DefendTheR: I’m not a huge fan of #RNation on the pants, frankly. And not for any of the silly reasons being spewed on social media, but because there isn’t enough ‘Ottawa’ on the uniform. In fact, on the home set, there’s none. That being said, how can you not like the fact the team is giving a shoutout to the fanbase? Pretty cool gesture.

@NevillCarney: I’m on the fence with #RNation on the pants, but I like how it was captured on the inside collar. I also like that the team recognizes its incredibly strong fanbase and social media supporters.

@DefendTheR: The Redblacks confirmed the team will continue to use their white helmets on the road, which I am happy about. However, I wonder if adding a red stripe down the middle might help balance out the entire look? (UPDATE: they won’t be).

@NevillCarney: Still no red on the helmets. Essentially, if you remove the logos from the black helmet, we have the exact same one as our nemesis in Hamilton! A red facemask and/or stripe down the helmet like the old Rough Riders would fix that.

Also, no plaid! After building a strong brand with the plaid alternate jersey for the past 2 seasons, there is no sign of this on the new look. I would have bet $$$ on there being some form of plaid in the new design. Glad I’m not a betting man. 🙂

Overall Thoughts

@DefendTheR: Solid uniform upgrades. No question both sets needed more red and the home uniforms needed to be brightened up. The uniforms are definitely a more modern look, which is fine, although I would eventually like to see more traditional elements incorporated.

@NevillCarney: Ottawa’s new look is very similar to Calgary’s and Saskatchewan’s in the sense that it is a paint-by-numbers/cookie-cutter look. What do I mean by that? Look at each of the aforementioned teams and take note: do they have shoulder numbers? No. (This is a staple for football jerseys! Bring those back!) Do they have coloured patches along the sides and arms in the exact same spots? Yes.

@DefendTheR: The ‘ROUGEetNOIR’ wordmark is once again relegated to essentially an afterthought, used only on the front of the helmet. If the team is serious about this name as part of the overall brand, they need to start using it! And if not, might as well just abandon it altogether.

@NevillCarney: Overall, it’s an improvement over what Ottawa wore for the past 2 seasons, but still misses the mark in my opinion: 7/10.

Much like how superfan Jacob Barrette worked with the NHL’s Senators to design a heritage uniform that quickly became a top seller, I would suggest a similar interaction for the RedBlacks and their fans to really nail it for the inevitable next set of jerseys in the near future. We are so close to being the best-dressed team in the CFL, we just need a few tweaks to get there.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

(All photos from OttawaRedblacks.com)

Retro Preview: How they’d look today – 1958

As we await the launch of the Redblacks’ new Adidas-designed uniforms, we thought this would be a great opportunity to “look ahead” to what Ottawa’s first throwback uniforms might look like. With 120 years of Rough Rider football to draw from, there are definitely some great options to consider. In this short series, we’ll look at which year (or timeframe) we’d like to see remembered and why. Huge thanks to artist and CFL fan Nelson Hackewich for the concepts.

This week: Before the Legend was the Legend – 1958

A Little History

1959 Topps Russ Jackson Rookie Card

Back in the 1958, the Ottawa Rough Riders selected a smart and talented defensive halfback from McMaster University with the sixth overall pick. A Rhodes scholarship nominee and mathematics graduate, Russell Stanley Jackson made the decision to instead pursue football and went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in CFL history. In a 12-year career, Jackson brought three Grey Cups, three Most Outstanding Player and four Most Outstanding Canadian Awards to Ottawa. Jackson was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

Amazing that this legendary career almost never happened.

As mentioned, Jackson was drafted as a DB. If not for injuries to incumbent American QBs (like today, CFL teams were disincentivized from starting Canadians at the position), Jackson may never have had a legitimate opportunity under centre.

Ronnie Stewart
Gerry Nesbitt
Milt Graham

Getting back to the uniform specifically, seems the Rough Riders wore them from roughly 1958 through 1960 (haven’t been able to confirm — any help appreciated!). They fared pretty well in them, too:

1958 – 3rd place – 6 wins 8 losses (Lost in IRFU final)

1959 – 2nd place – 8-6 (Lost in East Final)

1960 – 2nd place – 9-5 (Won Grey Cup!)

Ottawa would see greater success in the back-half of the 1960s, but let’s talk about that some other time 😉

The Uniform

Home uniform circa 1958
Away uniform circa 1958

The helmets from this era were also fantastic in their simplicity, featuring just the player number.

A look at the Rough Riders helmets, circa 1960 (Scott Grant Photography)

Nothing beats the R, but the old-school look with player numbers on the helmet is a close second.

Becoming a bit of a broken record here, but this is yet another sharp, simple uniform that would work today just as it did in the 50s & 60s. The fact it also represents the beginning of the Russ Jackson era is a huge bonus.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

References

1. Forgotten Heroes: The Ottawa Rough Riders 1969-1996 by John Joseph Kelly http://www.blurb.ca/b/4027277-forgotten-heroes

2. Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Ottawa_Rough_Riders_season)

Retro Preview: How they’d look today – 1976

As we await the launch of the Redblacks’ new Adidas-designed uniforms for 2016, we thought this would be a great opportunity to “look ahead” to what Ottawa’s first throwback uniforms might look like. With 120 years of Rough Rider football to draw from, there are some great options to consider. In this short series, we’ll look at which year (or timeframe) we’d like to see remembered and why. Huge thanks to artist and CFL fan Nelson Hackewich for the concepts.

This week, we look at Ottawa’s last taste of Grey Cup glory, 1976.

History

The Rough Riders won the East in 1976, putting together a 9-6-1 season. The team was led by All-Stars TE Tony Gabriel (who would also be named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian), RB Art green and LB Mark Kosmos, as well as All-Eastern QB Tom Clements.

  
Ottawa faced Hamilton (8-8) in the East Final, winning a tightly-contested game 17-15 at Lansdowne Park to earn a berth into 64th Grey Cup. Held at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, the Canadian championship pitted Ottawa against their sort-of nickname counterparts from Regina (11-5). A back-and-forth affair, Saskatchewan held a 20-16 lead late in the 4th quarter. With just 31 seconds remaining, Clements called for “Rob I, fake 34, tight end flag” in the huddle (not the call he received from the bench, by the way) and hit a streaking Gabriel in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. One of the iconic plays in CFL history, it is commonly referred to as “Clements to Gabriel” or simply “The Catch”.

  

Watch it here. Goosebumps every time.

  

The Uniform

And with that, here’s Hackewich’s take on the 1976 Rough Riders uniforms:

1976-style home uniform
1976-style road (away) uniform

One of the things we like best about (most of) the old Rough Riders uniforms is the simplicity. Nothing flashy, but a look that is timeless. The white jersey/red pant road uniform is a bold look with a very ’70s feel to it.

1976 was the first year the Rough Riders wore this jersey/pant combo, which they stuck with through the 1979 season.

As it is the uniform worn by the last Ottawa team to win the Grey Cup, have to think it is a front-runner for the first retro uniform to be worn by the Redblacks. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out. The 40th anniversary would be a great time to do it, wouldn’t it?

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

References

1. Forgotten Heroes: The Ottawa Rough Riders 1960-1996 by John Joseph Kelly 
2. Wikipedia 

Guest Post: A tour of TD Place

With the Capital Gaming Expo taking place in Ottawa this weekend, our friend and board game guru Stephen Conway was fortunate to get a private tour of TD Place earlier today. Conway, host of the popular board game podcast The Spiel and a special guest of this weekend’s Expo, is a lifelong Colts fan and a recent addition to #RNation South. Here are Stephen’s impressions of the stadium and some great photos.

Greetings from snowy Ottawa. Getting ready for 3 fun days at the Capital Gaming Expo!

Started with a special treat this morning: a private tour of TD Place, home to the Ottawa Redblacks of the CFL. 

It’s a fantastic facility in the Glebe neighborhood in the heart of the city. Not a bad seat in the house. We got to see the team locker room (including the ageless QB Hank Burris’ locker) and player’s lounge, the luxury suites, the press box, and walk around the field. A real treat for any fan of football. Now I just have to come back this summer for a game! 

TD Place is also home to the Ottawa Fury FC soccer team (who would have been practicing on-field if not for the snow) and there’s also a hockey rink built under one side of the stands, home to the Ottawa 67’s. 

Next door to the stadium is the Aberdeen Pavillion (you can see it in the distance through the windows in the pic of the bar), one of the oldest standing indoor hockey rinks in the world. The Ottawa Senators played there in 1904, including games for the Stanley Cup.

    

    
    
      

    
 

      

    
    
   
 
I have to thank my pal Fabio Del Rio for turning me into a Redblacks fan. So glad he could come on the tour as well.

Thanks to the CGE staff for organizing the outing and to the Redblacks for the tour!

Thanks for sharing with us, Stephen. See you at TD Place this summer!

@DefendTheR

The latest Redblacks jersey concepts

With the announcement that adidas will be taking over as rights holder for CFL uniforms starting in 2016, the first question every fan asked was ‘will the jerseys be different?’ The move to adidas from Reebok is a bit of a unique scenario, as adidas is actually the parent company of Reebok. So, the thinking in some circles is that existing uniforms may simply be re-badged with adidas logos, rather than completely refreshed. On the other hand, a simple re-badging seems like a big missed opportunity for the new rights holder looking to make a splash.

At this point we really don’t know which way it’ll go. Likely a few teams will take the opportunity to start fresh, while others may stick pretty close to their current designs. Most believe we have seen the last of the so-called Signature Look 3rd jerseys, at least in their current forms. 

That sound you hear is Bomber fans celebrating.

As for the Redblacks, have to think significant changes will be made. Not that the current uniforms are awful, but there are definite issues. First and foremost, the two-tone notched numbers are difficult for fans and broadcasters alike. From a distance it can be a real challenge to differentiate a six from and eight.

The ones look a bit like sevens, too.

Then there’s the oversized font used on the namebar. Readability isn’t an issue, but the size causes the white namebar to impede on the black shoulders of the away (white) uniforms.  

   

That ain’t pretty.

Also, given how fans have quickly gravitated to red and black plaid at TD Place, one has to think it will be incorporated into the home & away uniforms, not only the alternate.

So those are some of my thoughts on areas for improvement. I don’t dislike the current uniforms – the 2015 Grey Cup run solidified their place in my heart – but they can be better.

Now, let’s see what the artists think.

First is this from CFL artist Nelson Hackewich (who did a great job on all 9 teams – check them out):

   

 

 

Stripes on the shoulders of the home (black) and away (white) uniforms are a welcome change. The suggested use of ‘ROUGEetNOIR’ on the front of the away uniform is also a great (and I think very necessary) improvement. 

Nelson went with a 1940s-era Ottawa Rough Riders jersey for the 3rd/alternate. It’s a very cool look. Love the numbers on the helmet. But I have to think when the Redblacks decide to adopt a throwback jersey for the first time they go with something from the Riders glory days in the 1960s.

Here’s an earlier flat version of the home and away above:

   
 

Next up is Defend the R contributor and fellow jersey nerd Nevill Carney with this updated jersey concept:

  

Single-colour numbering. Check. Classic piping on the shoulders. Check. Use of ‘OTTAWA’ on the front of the jersey. Check. 60s Rough Riders throwback. Check check. Only thing missing is perhaps more plaid. Pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point.

And right on cue, some updates from Nevill:

 

There you have it. Small Redblacks logo on the back is a nice touch, too.

Next up is SportsLogos.net user mbannon92:  

   

This concept was actually done in the summer of 2015 supposing the CFL moved to Nike. Regardless, some great design elements. Here are the creator’s thoughts:

The primary uniforms (first set) feature an R-less logo on the sleeves, with matching chainsaw striping on the pants, and the home set features red pants to honor the team’s name. The RedBlacks’ Pride uniforms (2nd set) expand upon the team’s lumberjack-inspired identity, with a higher emphasis on red and red and black plaid on the helmet, sleeve caps, and pants. The look is sure to be a hit among die-hard fans and hipsters alike.

Really think he/she nailed so much on these sets, including the smaller namebar font, single colour numbers (while maintaining the notched number design), strong use of plaid (though not sure it works as well on the helmet…) and an overall cleaner/simpler look. Both those black jersey/red pant sets are stunning. Great job.

Finally, riderfans.com user Joe747 with his/her take:

   
   
A user on the forum noted the similarity to the Ottawa Renegades 2005 uniforms.

  

Very much so. Also similarities to the Atlanta Falcons. Not that either of those are bad things. The use of plaid on the home and away sets is just right. The classic red down the middle of the helmet is very Rough Riders. A very nice, modern set.

Interesting to note that every concept features some variation of a black helmet. Perhaps it’s the Ottawa tradition. Personally, I like the white helmets. I also might have expected someone to try a red helmet (we are the REDblacks, after all), but not to be. At least not yet.

Before you go, just thought I’d toss in this (somewhat) interesting (to me) screen capture from a video the Redblacks put together highlighting Burris’ MOP season in 2015:

 

Probably not indicative of anything, but I suppose it could be a tease. I do like the classic piping on the arms. Very Russ Jackson-esque.

No official date has been set for the new uniform release by the way, but odds are we will see something early May.

Thanks for reading!

Have a concept? We’d love to see it! Hit us up at @DefendTheR.

Redblacks roster shake-up continues on day two of free agency

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:

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The signing has since been confirmed. Capicciotti and his 12 sacks will be sorely missed on a DL that has also lost Shawn Lemon (NFL, er SSK) and Keith Shologan (WPG) since the Grey Cup game. 

Then:

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. 

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Now for the good news:

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

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photo credit: Toronto Sun

OSEG & Redblacks submit bid for 2017 Grey Cup; Ottawa’s GC history

Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in the capital is a step closer to securing another major event. In fact, perhaps the biggest one of them all.

What’s long been rumoured / speculated / expected will soon be set in motion at Ottawa city council, and on Monday, the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG) confirmed their bid for the 2017 Grey Cup has been submitted to the CFL board of governors.

And while the awarding of the 105th Grey Cup may be pretty much a done deal, the pressure is definitely on the Redblacks to make it something special, befitting of the country’s sesquicentennial. 

(I had to look that up).

Some elements to consider:

Half-time show: Securing a big name half time act is key and you have to think there will be pressure to go Canadian. Lots of very talented Canadians doing great things in music, but this could be tough. Could they get someone like Drake to do it? Are groups like the Sam Roberts Band or Sheepdogs a big enough draw? Kardinal Offishall featuring Neil Young or Anne Murray?

Stadium upgrades: It’s always nice to show off a little when hosting friends from out of town, so why not throw a few extra bucks into TD Place? An east-end scoreboard would be amazing. Some work on the North Side concessions would be welcome, too.

Alumni: Bring in as many as you can find to as many events as possible. Renegades included. And we need lots of quality Russ Jackson time. Would be an opportune time to have a statue of the legend made.

Parliament Hill: Do something really cool there. Maybe a good start or end for the Grey Cup parade.

Another Trudeau Kick-Off? I’m not a huge fan of mixing sports & politics, but those Pierre Trudeau kick-offs are a great slice of Canadiana. Great opportunity to re-kindle the memories and give Justin some air time. So camera-shy, that one.

There will be plenty of time to discuss these and other ideas for making Grey Cup 105 the best event it can be. But before we look too far forward, let’s take a quick peek back at Ottawa’s history as Grey Cup hosts.

1925 Grey Cup

In the 12th Grey Cup game, played on Dec. 5th, your Ottawa Senators Football Club defeated the Winnipeg Tammany Tigers 24-1 in front of 6,900 rowdy Ottawans at Lansdowne Park. This would also be Ottawa’s first Grey Cup championship. Huzzah!

1939 Grey Cup

Played on Dec. 9th, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edged the home town Ottawa Rough Riders 8-7 in the 27th edition. The home team was robbed, no doubt. 

1940 Grey Cup

Bit of an asterisk here, as the 28th Grey Cup was a two-game total points series between the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers (terrible name) and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Games were played Nov. 30th (Toronto’s Varsity Stadium) and Dec. 7th (Lansdowne Park). The Riders took both ends of the series – by scores of 8-2 and 12-5 – to win Ottawa’s third Grey Cup.

1967 Grey Cup

It would be 27 long years before Ottawa would again host the Grey Cup. Played on Dec. 2nd, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the heck out of Saskatchewan 24-1. 31,358 showed up to watch.

WATCH: Short film from the National Film Board on the 1967 Grey Cup (h/t to @pinemud)

1988 Grey Cup

Ottawa waited another 21 years for their next opportunity to play host. The 76th edition of the Grey Cup was played on Nov. 27th, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edging the BC Lions 22-21. Our friends at Wikipedia capture the storylines nicely:

This was the first Grey Cup game between two teams from west of Ontario, and the first to be won by a team which had only a .500 season.

Crossover. Yuck.

2004 Grey Cup
 
This event was essentially the swan song for the Ottawa Renegades franchise. During Grey Cup week, the Ottawa Sun broke the story that Brad Watters’ ownership group was working on selling the three-year-old franchise to the father-son-ownership-group-that-shall-not-be-named.

The game took place on Nov. 21st, with the Damon Allen-led Toronto Argonauts defeating the Lions 27-19.

I was fortunate enough to attend this game. My first Grey Cup, in fact. Couple of blurry memories:

  • While I had my ticket on me, no one ever asked to see it nor was it ever scanned. Honour system, I guess. 
  • Shortly after Allen took the field for the first time, I made sure to yell out “Ho-bart!” Yep, I’m that awesome.
  • Metal benches on the South Side upper deck weren’t ideal on a chilly night. Not that I really had a chance to get cold with so many people rammed into each row. More like seat suggestions, really. Very sardine can-like.
  • Getting to the bathroom at halftime was probably the worst experience of my life. Missed all of the Tragically Hip and about the first eight minutes of the 3rd quarter.

What will Grey Cup 105 (Presented by Shaw) have in store for Ottawa? No doubt a home game would be music to #RNation’s ears.

Speaking of which:

  

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      Redblacks continue to make waves

      By: Santino Filoso

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      Seems like the Ottawa Redblacks aren’t quite done making off-season moves. Early Tuesday morning the team leaked news via their twitter account that they had a major announcement to make and members of #RNation began speculating immediately as to what it could be.

      In a very neat move, the team first broke the news of their latest free agent splash through a personal email to season ticket holders.

      By signing the diminutive 5’ 8″ and 175 pound all-star Chris Williams to a one year deal, the Redblacks have added one of the most dynamic CFL players in recent memory. Williams, a dual threat WR and KR was named the CFL’s most outstanding rookie in 2011 when he broke into the league with 70 receptions for 1064 receiving yards and 6 TDs. 

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      Williams’ sophomore season was just as impressive, as he was named the CFL’s most outstanding special teams player, making 83 catches for 1298 yards with receiving 11 TDs to go along with 5 punt return touchdowns. Who was throwing Williams the ball in 2012? None other than current Redblacks’ QB Henry Burris. If they can quickly re-establish that kind of rapport, TD Place might finally start living up to it’s name.

      After the 2012 season, Williams left the CFL following a contract dispute with the Hamilton Ticats and wound up signing with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints in 2013. Following a short stint with the Chicago Bears last season, Williams was thought to be a long shot to return to the CFL, as he’s someone who still garners NFL interest, as evidenced by his workout earlier this month with the Cincinnati Bengals. Though he hasn’t played a ton of snaps over the last two seasons, his 101 yard kick return touchdown last year vs the Green Bay Packers shows that his agility and speed haven’t diminished.

      GM Marcel Desjardins deserves major props for a) making this deal happen and b) keeping it under wraps until this morning’s email to season ticket holders. At Williams’ introductory press conference Desjardins explained how things fell into place to get the deal done.

      “Chris’ versatility and return ability is something we couldn’t pass up. Going back to last October, we had money budgeted to land this player. If it came to fruition, we were in a great place and if it didn’t, we could do other things. For me it was just a function of reaching out and letting Chris and his agent know we were interested. I respected their process. I didn’t badger them for answers. Once they came to ‘we need to look at the CFL now,’ it went well.”

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      Image via Scott Grant

      Though Williams will have to re-adjust to the CFL, the wider field and recent rule changes should enable him to pick up right where he left off. Plus at only 27 years of age, Williams theoretically should still have his best years in front of him.

      With the signing, the revamped and already deep Ottawa WR core becomes that much more crowded. As things stands now the Redblacks have newcomers Brad Sinopoli, Maurice Price, Ernest Jackson and Greg Ellingson plus holdovers from last season such as Kierrie Johnson, Khalil Paden, Eddie Poole, Jamill Smith, Marcus Henry, Scott Macdonell and Matt Carter.

      From that group, the only WR who returned kicks last season was Jamill Smith. Smith had decent numbers, averaging 20.9 yards on kick returns and 8.6 yards on punts but Smith’s longest return was only 38 yards and he failed to score a touchdown. Though he seems like a great guy and has been very involved in the community, living in Ottawa this off-season and visiting schools with Big Joe and other Redblacks’ players, the Williams signing probably signals the end of Smith’s time with the team.

      jamill
      Is there space on the roster for both Smith and Williams?

      Chris Williams is yet another game breaker for Jason Maas to scheme with and it seems safe to say that the drops and lack of explosive plays that plagued the Redblacks last season won’t be repeated in 2015. With the Redblacks’ mini-camp set to start next week, it’ll be interesting to see how the battle for roster spots shakes out in Ottawa’s competitive and now very talented WR group.

      @RedBlackGade