Of course with the corona-virus and the world-wide pandemic going on right now, we are unsure when the CFL season will kickoff but looking into the Ottawa Redblacks’ future, many are worried about the receiver position. Coming off of a 3-15 season a year ago, a major worry for many Redblacks fans is at the receiver position and believe the team should bring in a big name receiver like Derel Walker. Considering we’ve lost both Dominique Rhymes and Caleb Holley to the B.C Lions it would be huge if Ottawa were to sign a big name target but throughout this years off-season, the team has made several hints that they are happy with who they have on the team.
In February after the free agency period, Marcel Desardins spoke about the receiver position on TSN 1200, “We have some other young receivers who were here last year, a couple of them played a little bit and some others didn’t. But we have good options and we’re confident we’re going to have a good offensive system and a team that can move the ball, obviously being led by the guy pulling the trigger in Nick Arbuckle.”
Moving the ball was something the team struggled with, as Desjardins said, they are confident with what they have but who do they have?
Well to start, the Ottawa Redblacks have Brad Sinopoli. Sinopoli as everyone knows is one of the best Canadian receivers in the game. Playing over 130 games in his career catching for over 5,500 yards he is a solid veteran for the Ottawa Redblacks offense going into the team’s future. Back in November Sinopoli was signed to a two-year extension and like fellow teammate RJ Harris will be back in Ottawa as veterans. Harris has spent the past two seasons in Ottawa, playing 30 games, catching passes for over 1,400 yards itching the 700 yard mark each season, most recently he got over it with 774 yards and 2 touchdowns in just 14 of the team’s 18 games. Seeing what he’s been able to do in the past two seasons, its clear that the Redblacks have a good player with Harris and he aims to have his breakthrough year in 2020 so he can get off of the one year deals and be a franchise guy in Ottawa.
Similar to Harris, newly acquired receiver/running back Anthony Coombs has a good amount of CFL experience. The 6-year veteran has played for the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats, playing a ratio breaker role at the flex/slot position. Most recently, the Canadian featured as a running back with the Ti-Cats, but through his career he’s been able to get over 2,000 all-purpose yards mostly at receiver with 1,695 yards. With 1,695 yards already on his name in the CFL, he’s set to add more with him being brought in as a receiver and not a running back. Coombs is a very versatile player and could play a major role at the slot-back position for the Redblacks so given that he and Sinopoli will showcase as a top Canadian duo on Ottawa’s offense.
Paul LaPolice has been able to do some great things with both Nic Demski and Lucky Whitehead with the Blue Bombers and coming into Ottawa he has a similar opportunity with Coombs and Dedmon. Like Coombs, Dedmon is very versatile. Returning to Ottawa for year two, he looks to play a full season hopefully playing a big role on the offensive side of the ball, but if not he knows how to score on special teams as well. Dedmon last year played in 5 games, mostly playing special teams returning a total 38 kicks and punts for 881 yards and two touchdowns.
Yes Bob Dyce loves him on the offensive side of the ball, but with the Redblacks not signing a big name receiver it looks like Dedmon could see a lot of playing time on the offense too. Last year he had just 58 yards receiving but in total he was able to average 22.5 yards per touch. If he keeps it up, gaining over 20 yards each time he gets hands on the ball can be huge, like Diontae Spencer huge!
Obviously from the looks of it, DeVonte Dedmon has been affected by the Redblacks not bringing in a player like Derel Walker, but so has a lot of other players. Coming into the next season, the Redblacks will have back on their team both Wesley Lewis and Jerminic Smith. The two receivers spent last season with the team, mostly on the practice roster but when on the field as a couple they caught a total 10 passes for 100 plus yards. Smith is looked at highly from player personnel and got into 3 games playing a couple of roles with the team while Lewis played quite a bit of special teams in 6 games but given his 6’6 height at the receiver position he could play a major role out wide.
Out wide, there is still a big hole to fill with the team losing Dominique Rhymes in free agency, but out of the free agents signed in free agency, the team has a good group of candidates to fill the hole. Justin Hobbs a 6-foot-4 230-pound receiver from Tulsa could be looked at to fill the hole, but then there’s also Malcolm Williams. Williams, unlike the other free agent receivers brought in by the team has some significant CFL experience. Winning two Grey Cups in just 3 seasons, Williams is a 6 foot 3 receiver with close to 300 receiving yards in the CFL and what sticks out the most about him is the time he spent with the Blue Bombers last year a part of Paul LaPolice’s offense.
LaPolice’s offense in Ottawa has a hole with Rhymes gone and standing tall at 6’4 you’d like to have a similar body type to take over his role, but LaPo could use anyone in the offense, so given that the team does have Jovon Durante, he is a speed wide out with strong NCAA experience with both West Virginia and FAU and then theres strong receivers with good football I.Qs like Joe Walker, Ervin Philips and even another big name going to Ottawa is Cortrelle Simpson. Simpson was able to perform at a training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which was after his college career with both Temple and Richmond. In college he’s been able to get under the 4.40 mark in a 40 yard dash while even catching for over 1,000 yards in a single season.
All in all, given the names coming back to Ottawa from the 2019 roster and the ones coming for a new opportunity, I’d say the team should be okay with who they have. In 2019, the Redblacks went 3-15 and started three different quarterbacks and the quarterback position was a major reason for the success we didn’t have therefore with Nick Arbuckle coming to Ottawa in Paul LaPolice’s offensive system with the receiving core we have, everything will be a-okay in Ottawa.