The final game of week six in the Canadian Football League season saw the lowly Ottawa Redblacks head across the country to take on the BC Lions who were fresh coming off the bye week. Rick Campbell, the Lions head coach has been poor coming off the bye in the past, and with the Redblacks seemingly getting a little bit better game by game offensively, it looked like this could be a promising matchup. It didn’t end that way at all, and those who stayed up for the whole game likely wish they didn’t. Regardless, here are four takeaways from the game.
Redblacks Lack of Pass Rush Continues
For virtually their entire existence, the Redblacks have struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and get sacks. Aside from 2015 when they led the league in sacks as a team, they have been mediocre or downright bad when it comes to their defensive line. This season has been no different. After a solid first game or two, they have come crashing back down to earth and have struggled to speed quarterbacks up.
In 2021, the Redblacks have just nine sacks, tied for eighth in the league with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. While all of the blame does not land on the shoulders of the defensive line, they have to take the brunt of it, especially early in the season when the coverage in the defensive backfield was quite good. Right now with the injuries to Sherrod Baltimore and Abdul Kanneh in particular, opposing receivers have gotten open quickly making the pass rush difficult, but there have been moments where the quarterback has weeks to make up his mind.
Related: CFL Power Rankings – Week 6
Maybe this is something that is going to get better as the defensive backfield gets healthier, but the Redblacks need a little more production from their defensive linemen.
Where Has the Defence Gone in Ottawa?
Continuing to harp on Ottawa’s defence, it’s clear there has been a massive drop-off after the first three games of the season. In their last two games, the Redblacks have surrendered 96 points after only giving up 59 points through their first three games. Not all of the points have come against the defence, but the numbers still diagnose the issue.
It’s come down to the basics for Ottawa’s defence. With little pressure being generated, they have been forced to cover deep down the field for a long time, and when that happens, someone is likely to come open. But the issues are way deeper than that. When they do get pressure, quarterbacks are dumping the ball off into the flats or short routes and the Redblacks are having a difficult time tackling people now. Maybe it’s down to fatigue, but a return to basics is needed. In their first handful of games, the tackling was amazing. Few missed tackles made a massive difference on the team. It’s been a complete 180.
Michael Rielly Toasts Redblacks
One of the first things we were told on the broadcast of this game was that Michael Rielly was still dealing with some issues regarding his elbow and they were unsure if he would start the game. Flash forward a little bit and he did start the game and you would have never known about any issues had no one told you otherwise. He was simply astonishing on the night going 22/26 passing for 319 yards with four touchdowns and one interception that wasn’t entirely his fault. A nearly flawless effort for Reilly.
All of the talk about the Redblacks defence playing poorly, you have to give some credit to the opposing team for executing their plays all game long. For Reilly, this is nothing new. He has the Lions in a place where they look like they could be Grey Cup contenders if things bounce their way. The most amazing thing about this team right now is that they are playing with their quarterback injured.
If the elbow gets better and Reilly gets back to 100 percent, you can just imagine how good he might be then. We have been pretty high on the Lions this season with all of the playmakers they have on the field on both sides of the football, and if Rielly gets back to his usual self, they might be a good bet to win it all.
Dominique Davis Should Continue to Start Despite Issues
Dominique Davis took over the quarterback spot in week five in the Redblacks loss to the Montreal Alouettes, and while he wasn’t great, especially in the second half of the game in Vancouver, he is still the Redblacks best bet going forward. Matt Nichols has shown that he isn’t the answer right now whether that is down to his abilities or if his shoulder injury is still a problem doesn’t matter, but going back to him shouldn’t be in the cards until he can push the ball down the field to a reasonable extent.
Outside of Davis and Nichols, the Redblacks could turn to Caleb Evans or Taryn Christion, but neither have thrown a single pass in the CFL or even run a play. Keep in mind, without a preseason this season, neither have had any live-action reps against real opposition. Both players have big arms and can really push the ball down the field, but reading a CFL defence and accuracy have looked like an issue in practice and in training camp. Although they might end up being something in the CFL down the road, they are not the answer right now.
Unless there is a trade in the bye week for a capable quarterback, Davis is still the team’s best option to start in week eight against the Tiger-Cats. Things become even more complicated when you consider teams only being allowed to dress two quarterbacks each week. If they could dress three, you would have likely seen Evans into the game in Vancouver, but dressing him now would mean that you would likely have to leave Nichols off the roster, something the Redblacks probably don’t want to do. I don’t see a situation where Davis doesn’t start in week eight.
Passing Yards: Dominique Davis (OTT): 333
Rushing Yards: Shaq Cooper (BC): 41
Receiving Yards: Lucky Whitehead (BC), Anthony Coombs (OTT): 82
Touchdowns: Bryan Burnham (BC): 2
Tackles: Jordan Williams (BC): 7
Special Teams Tackles: Shaheed Salmon (OTT), Tanner Doll (BC), J.R. Tavai (BC), Ben Hladik (BC): 2
Sacks: Avery Ellis (OTT), Cleyon Laing (OTT), Marcus Sayles (BC), Obum Gwachum (BC), Tim Bonner (BC): 1
Interceptions: Bo Lokombo (BC), De’Chavon ‘Gump’ Hayes (OTT): 1
13th Man Sports’ Player of the Game
POTG: Bo Lokombo
6 tackles, 1 interception, 1 touchdown