Matt Nichols signed with the Ottawa Redblacks amidst plenty of controversy after the team moved on from Nick Arbuckle after sending their first-overall pick to the Calgary Stampeders to get him. The negativity surrounding Arbuckle’s release overshadowed the signing of Nichols, one that could prove to be the better move in the end.
Nichols’ 2019 season was one that he would want to forget, not because his play was poor, but rather because he fell victim to the injury bug once again. When he was on the field in 2019, he was one of the league’s elite quarterbacks throwing for 1936 on 171 completions with 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
As time has gone on, the conversation has shifted from Arbuckle’s departure to how Nichols’ connection with Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Paul LaPolice can bring the Redblacks back to the level they were at in 2015 and 2018. Now with training camp underway, Nichols and the Redblacks are taking to the field to get the engine fired back up after a year of sitting idle.
The first couple of days at camp did not go as planned for the veteran signal-caller who was struggling with knockdowns and interceptions. Passes were thrown with poor timing and the offensive line couldn’t hold the defensive line at bay for long enough for him to go through his reads and make a good throw resulting in numerous passes meeting the big mitts of the defensive line.
As you may have figured out by the title of this article, that has begun to change for Nichols and the offence. No longer is the defence dominating the one on ones or the team drills and Nichols isn’t having the issues he had early on either. In the last couple of days on the field, Nichols has looked much more comfortable in his new digs with limited playing time. The timing routes are coming together nicely and he has been able to pick up his targets quickly and hit them accurately more often than not.
This turnaround can’t be said to be unexpected for Nichols considering what he has already accomplished in his CFL career, but for Redblacks fans, it will be welcome news to know that the quarterback that they expect to lead them to the playoffs in 2021 looks as good as advertised so far. This turnaround however would not be possible without the emergence of some receivers that have stepped up their game as camp has worn on.
Among those receivers are names like RJ Harris who Redblacks fans should already be familiar with, and new names like Daniel Petermann, Anthony Coombs, and potentially one of the most impressive players at camp so far in Shannon Smith. Smith has taken a bit of an interesting path to the CFL, but Jordan Zlomislic has something to help you get to know him.
While the depth chart for opening night is still a long way off from being decided, there should be a sense of optimism around RNation that the 2019 season has been put in the rearview mirror and the team is ready to move on and be competitive again. With the way that Nichols has been trending throughout camp, if there is one thing that you can expect when the Redblacks head to Edmonton to take on the Elks on August 7th, it’s that they will have figured out the quarterback spot.