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Division of the Unknown: New stars will be born in CFL East this year

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13.06.2019

There is one clear-cut contender.

There are three rebuilding teams with big, big questions at quarterback.

It’s the CFL East, in 2019. One’s a safe bet and the others are all “we’ll see.”

The REDBLACKS are now Dominique Davis‘s team and the young starter has every opportunity in the world to silence those who have already counted Ottawa out of Grey Cup contention (CFL.ca).

There may not be another team in the CFL that suffered the same depth of free agent bleeding and the Ottawa REDBLACKS are a bit of a mysterious lot heading into the season because of that.

It is on offence, in particular, where they felt the deepest gash, with star quarterback Trevor Harris moving his act out west to the Edmonton Eskimos, taking left tackle SirVincent Rogers and clutch receiver Greg Ellingson along with him.

That offence is now in the hands of a man who has so far been a career backup, Dominique Davis, named by Head Coach Rick Campbell as the starter for their Week 1 game versus the Calgary Stampeders.

After being released by Calgary in 2015, then serving as an understudy in Winnipeg for two years before backing up Harris last year, Davis gets the chance to show he can be QB1 in the CFL. He’s won the training camp battle for the designation, but free agent Jonathon Jennings is right behind him, once a starter himself and trying to reclaim that status after things went sideways for him with the B.C Lions.

Besides moving on from Harris – who proved that a long period as back-up does not mean you can’t be a starter – this Ottawa offence is a far cry from what it was a year ago, at least on paper.

William Powell, second in the league in rushing in both 2017 and 2018, signed in Saskatchewan and that means 31-year-old Mossis Madu is the main man to start the season. Behind him, an intriguing possibility in the form of 27-year-old John Crockett, who, in 2014, rushed for 1,994 yards in a sixteen game season for North Dakota State. Crockett was put on the practice reserve when final rosters were trimmed over the weekend, but do not expect him to remain on PR for very long.

With Ellingson gone, and Diontae Spencer now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ottawa receiving corps has lost two very important members and will need a few good men to step up. 2018 CFL all-star Brad Sinopoli is back and he will feel defensive clamps all over him unless the likes of free agent signings Caleb Holley and Ryan Lankford or incumbents R.J.
Harris and Dominique Rhymes can step up. Young Canadian receiver Jacob Scarfone could be in the mix, after a nice effort against the Alouettes in last week’s pre-season capper.

Ottawa’s secondary is an experienced one, with veterans like free safety Antoine Pruneau and halfbacks Corey Tindal and Sherrod Baltimore on the roster. Corner Jonathan Rose was a CFL East all-star in 2018, and veteran Chris Randle, released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after five standout seasons in blue and gold, is a terrific add to that defensive backfield.

There is veteran presence up front on the defensive line, too, although A.C. Leonard, a CFL East all-star in 2018, has joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Still, holdovers like Danny Mason, Michael Klassen, Ettore Lattanzio, Michael Klassen and Mike Wakefield remain, along with Jonathan Newsome, who actually saw some time at middle linebacker during the pre-season.

Kevin Brown anchors the linebacking unit, with a versatility and nose for the ball that would make him a key contributor on any team, and the REDBLACKS have second-year men in Avery Williams and Anthony Cioffi at middle linebacker and strong side linebacker, respectively, so there is quality and continuity there. Both Williams and Cioffi enjoyed emergent rookie seasons in 2018.

QUESTION: Can a bulldozing, all Canadian offensive line, coupled with a strong run game give the Ottawa offence........

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