January 26, 2024

REDBLACKS looking for growth in 2024

Brett Holmes/CFL.ca

TORONTO — The Ottawa REDBLACKS in 2023 were a team that often times reached the finish line but couldn’t quite cross it.

The team was part of 11 one-score games last season and came out on the losing side in eight of them.

Fans do not want to hear about how close they were, though, as at the end of the day you are what your record says you are. That message is not lost on REDBLACKS’ general manager Shawn Burke.

“I just think growth, definitely,” said Burke about what he wants to see from his team in 2024 on a chat with Donovan Bennett in this week’s edition of The Waggle Podcast. “I always say the game comes down to five or six key plays, we just didn’t have enough of those plays go our way.

“It’s not okay to say ‘well maybe if we bounced this way or that way it would have been different’. There’s a reason so many of those plays didn’t go our way and we have to look at we do in preparation, who we have out there at certain times and go from there, really keying on those big moments that mean the most to our team.”

» REDBLACKS sign QB Dru Brown to two-year deal
» Ottawa, Addison agree to one-year extension
» REDBLACKS sign Bryce Carter to one-year extension
 2022 MODP Lorezno Mauldin inks new deal with REDBLACKS
» Back to the Capital: Rhymes, REDBLACKS agree to two-year deal

Burke knows that to turn things around you have to look everywhere, including within.

“We just need to have that consistency as a whole for the organization. When you’re a four-win team you have to look at the whole collection of things. As a personnel staff and coach (Bob) Dyce and myself we’re looking at every position group and how we can improve and how we can get more consistency.”

The REDBLACKS have started to put new pieces in place in search of that consistency. The team has traded for (and extended the contract of) former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Dru Brown while also bringing back veteran wide receiver Dominique Rhymes, who returns to the team after three seasons in BC.

The team has also extended the contracts of pass rushers Bryce Carter and Lorenzo Mauldin IV, alongside defensive back Brandin Dandridge, three key pieces of their defence, before they could reach free agency. On offence, the REDBLACKS extended wide receiver Bralon Addison, who should provide Brown (or any quarterback under centre in Ottawa) a good one-two punch at receiver alongside Rhymes.

“We want to have a deep quarterback room. We want to have the right guys in that room and we want to have the guys that want to lead the organization,” said Burke. “We have to have a consistency in that group of guys that play each week and can lead the team out there.”


REDBLACKS fans have tasted early success since the team started playing in 2014. After a 2-16 initial season, Ottawa went to three Grey Cups in four years, winning one. Since the last Grey Cup appearance in 2018, though, the team has gone a combined 14-54.

In 2023, young pivot Dustin Crum took over for an injured Jeremiah Masoli and led an Ottawa squad that found ways to be competitive in almost every game. Despite making it close most of the time, the team was unable to win more than four games and finish fourth in the East Division for the fourth consecutive time.

The string of disappointing seasons has the REDBLACKS looking for ways to turn it around. The addition of Brown could help ignite an offence that had a lot of success on the ground, finishing second in rushing yards per game (127.6) but last in passing yards (220.5) and total net offence (318.8).

“We have passionate fans. We have a city that wants to get on board with a winning product,” added Burke. “The organization obviously had initial success very early and you saw what it meant in that stadium and that city. That isn’t lost on coach Dyce and myself daily. We have the best fans in the league.

“We expect to be a better team in 2024 obviously but a more exciting team for our fan base as well.”

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