BC Lions vs Ottawa REDBLACKS August 28, 2021 PHOTO: Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography
As the 2022 season approaches, CFL.ca is getting you up to speed on where each team stands after a hectic off-season that saw players crisscross the country. Five Things To Know will catch you up on where your team left off in 2021, the moves it made and what it might accomplish in 2022.
TORONTO — Look at the 2022 Ottawa REDBLACKS and you might not recognize them at first glance.
First year general manager Shawn Burke was busy in Free Agency earlier this year, almost completely overhauling the REDBLACKS roster with talent on both sides of the ball. A new franchise quarterback, a handful of skilled pass-catchers, a re-tooled defence and a familiar face to carry the rock are just a few things that Burke and co. made sure to attack this off-season.
So yes, the REDBLACKS look quite different than they did just a few short months ago when they finished the 2021 season at the bottom of the East Division with a 3-11 record. But what isn’t different is their desire to win.
A new season is a way to start fresh and the REDBLACKS hope that this reset will help them turn things around and end with them playing the final game of the year in Regina in November.
Here are five things to know about the REDBLACKS as they head into 2022.
Holy Moly, Jeremiah Masoli
Perhaps the biggest news surrounding the REDBLACKS this off-season was the signing of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. With the addition of the 33-year-old pivot, head coach Paul LaPolice and co. are hoping to improve Ottawa’s offence in 2022. An offence that saw themselves at the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category in 2021. Masoli will also provide some stability behind centre, as the team saw action from four different QBs last season and even saw a few snaps from receiver Nate Behar.
Masoli will also have a plethora of talented receivers to throw to (more on that later) as he hopes to help turn the REDBLACKS back into a playoff-bound team. But it’s not only Masoli’s arm that holds the talent for him, it’s his legs as well, as he’s able to escape the pocket, calling his own number and creating plays himself on the ground.
Welcome back, William
After spending two years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, William Powell is returning to where his CFL career began in Ottawa. With the REDBLACKS, Powell had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2017, 2018) before joining the Riders as a free agent. He continued his success in the backfield by adding another 1,000-yard season in 2019 while also scoring a career-high 12 touchdowns. In the shortened 2021 season, the 34-year-old suited up in 13 games and amassed 733 yards and three major scores.
REDBLACKS fans, and the team itself, should be thrilled to have reliable ball carrier in the back field to complement Paul LaPolice’s offence. And Powell himself is just as excited. “It’s a blessing to be returning to the team and city that introduced me to Canada and embraced me as one of their own,” Powell said when it was announced that he would be returning to the nation’s capital. “I’m ecstatic for the upcoming season and determined to help get the REDBLACKS back on top.”
Wait, he’s in Ottawa now too?
If you were paying attention to the news swirling around the CFL world back in February, that’s likely a sentence you had said at some point. General manager Shawn Burke and his team were busy during Free Agency, locking in a plethora of new faces that hit the open market.
Along with Masoli and Powell, the REDBLACKS also signed some major playmakers in the trenches. Hoping to put more pressure on opposing QBs, defensive linemen Kwaku Boateng, Davon Coleman and Lorenzo Mauldin IV all inked deals with Ottawa. The team also added some help on the offensive line to protect Masoli with the signings of Ucambre Williams, Hunter Steward and Darius Ciraco. And don’t forget the new faces in the back seven of the defence. Ty Cranston, Monshadrik Hunter, Patrick Levels and Trumaine Washington also joined the REDBLACKS this off-season.
With Masoli as Ottawa’s starting QB, plenty of free agent receivers decided they too wanted to come on board. B.J. Cunningham, Darvin Adams and Jaelon Acklin decided to put pen to paper to become REDBLACKS and don’t forget about R.J. Harris, who re-signed through 2022.
Along with those American receivers, Ottawa also added to their Canadian depth. Shaq Johnson and Llevi Noel joined the REDBLACKS as free agents to go along with Nate Behar, who signed an extension before the free agent period opened.
Who doesn’t love cookies?
It seemed like the chances for REDBLACKS fans to celebrate when they heard the roar of the chainsaw chopping wood cookies at TD Place last year were few and far between. But now with offence filled with playmakers, the cookies are likely to be flying.
Masoli scored 10 touchdowns last season through the air and another on the ground. Powell found the end zone three times while Adams scored on four opportunities in the regular season to go along with his overtime touchdown catch in the 108th Grey Cup. Acklin also had four major scores in 2021 and while Cunningham only scored once last season, he’s still a threat to do some damage. With playmakers all over the offence that can score, there’s no doubt that REDBLACKS fans will have a lot to cheer about, and wood cookies to see, in 2022.