April 18, 2024

Top Of The Depth Chart: Ottawa REDBLACKS

Chris Tanouye/CFL.ca

How is everyone enjoying the calm before the storm? Beyond everyone on ‘Lucky Whitehead Watch’ we are pretty much done with any major free agency news. The combine is now a memory, the draft is still over a week away and we have a couple weeks until training camps across Canada open up.

Now is the perfect time to take a look at what these semi-formed rosters look like and project who will be starting where. My assignment this week is with the Ottawa REDBLACKS. General manager Shawn Burke and management took a couple of aggressive swings this off-season in an attempt to turn around a franchise in need of a shakeup after four playoff-free seasons.

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Let’s look under the hood of the REDBLACKS to see what the starting lineup will possibly look like for the start of the season. Quick note, even though roster complexion will fluctuate greatly with the CFL Draft, training camp battles and injuries I can 100 per cent guarantee that all these selections will be 100 per cent accurate.

As always Chris O’Leary is here for all your complaints.


Receiver Running back Quarterback Fullback Offensive line
Dominique Rhymes Jackson Bennett Dru Brown Marco Dubois* Dino Boyd (LT)
Jaelon Acklin Jeremiah Masoli Anthony Gosselin* Dariusz Bladek* (LG)
Justin Hardy Dustin Crum Cyrille Hogan-Saindon* (C)
Bralon Addison Jacob Ruby* (RG)
Keaton Bruggeling* Zack Pelehos* (RT)

* denotes National
** denotes Global


After Burke traded for Brown and subsequently gave him a new two-year contract it’s safe to say he will be starting Ottawa’s first game against his former team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Or is it? Brown won both his starts for an injured Zach Collaros and had a sparkling nine touchdown to zero interception ratio, which I have been informed is good. There is plenty of potential in Brown, who is only 27-years old entering his fourth season.

The big question is how he will perform now that he has left the mighty Bombers, who boast All-Stars all over their offence. This is Brown’s chance to break from the backup shadows to run his own team. It also needs to be pointed out that behind Brown you have the aging former star in Masoli looking to come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon. The other end of the spectrum is the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie winner, 24-year-old Dustin Crum. His passing was up and down, which is what you would expect from a rookie thrust into a starters job after the Masoli injury, while he electrified everyone with his legs. This is going to be such a fascinating battle between three passers at three different points of their career.


This is a group with a nice mix of established production and crazy upside. I usually lean optimistic but even I can’t imagine Bralon Addison capturing his 2019 form of over 1,200 receiving yards. However, if he can get past his horrible injury luck Addison represents a more than solid depth option. Off-season acquisition and former REDBLACK Dominique Rhymes is a year removed from his 85-1401-11 TD season while returning receivers Jaelon Acklin and Justin Hardy bring continuity and nearly 2,000 receiving yards from the previous year. Finally, bobsled enthusiast Keaton Bruggeling will get every chance to round out this group with the departure of Nate Behar.


The REDBLACKS have a sudden need at running back, after announcing on Thursday morning that Devonte Williams has successfully undergone surgery for a torn Achilles tendon. Williams was coming off of a 1,000-yard season and had signed a two-year contract extension with the club in the off-season. Jackson Bennett is the next-most productive non-QB in the stable that’s still on the roster (32 carries, 144 yards), which suggests that Burke and his staff may look for some outside help at the position.

Jamal Morrow should jump to the top of that list. The 29-year-old had 904 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023, along with 36 catches for 349 yards and a touchdown. With three years of CFL experience to his name, he’d be a more than capable fit and could add some fresh legs to the return game, if the team wanted to use him that way. Morrow’s health could be an obstacle to him signing, though. 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk reported early in free agency that a wrist injury had held up his potential signing with the Calgary Stampeders.


The REDBLACKS head into camp with their dynamic National duo of Marco Dubois and Anthony Gosselin, each providing QB protection and a sneaky offensive option where needed.


LT Dino Boyd: Boyd has played multiple positions so there is a chance we see him all over the REDBLACKS’ offensive line. He started every game for Ottawa last year at left tackle, so why overthink it?

LG: Dariusz Bladek: After two productive years (2021-2022) with the Toronto Argonauts that saw him help the team win the Grey Cup, 2023 was a lost season due to injuries and a stacked Double Blue offensive line. The 29-year-old National has appeared in over 70 games during his career.

C: Cyrille Hogan-Saindon: Hogan-Saindon has gone from part-time blocker to full-time centre. He also finished 18th on the team in receptions with one.

RG: Jacob Ruby: A CFL Eastern All-Star in 2022 who played in every game in 2023.

RT: Zack Pelehos: The second overall pick of the 2022 CFL Draft had to fight his way back into a starting role last year against the first overall pick of the 2023 Draft, Dontae Bull.

Depth Note: Between Bull and free agent addition Phillip Norman there is solid depth for head coach Bob Dyce and offensive coordinator Tommy Condell to pick from.


Defensive line Linebacker Defensive back
Lorenzo Mauldin IV (DE) Adarius Pickett (SAM) Damon Webb (HB)
Bryce Carter (DE) Frankie Griffin (WLB) Brandin Dandridge (CB)
Cleyon Laing* (DT) Jovan Santos-Knox (MLB) Justin Howell* (S)
Michael Wakefield (DT) Monshadrik Hunter (CB)
Deandre Lamont (HB)

* denotes National
** denotes Global


DE Lorenzo Mauldin IV: The 2022 CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award winner will be looking to bounce back after his sack totals predictably went down after putting up 17 in 2022. A quick reminder that sack statistics never tell the whole story about a defender’s impact. Mauldin was still productive and the team had more than enough faith in a player who has embraced the city to sign him to an extension in the off-season.

DE Bryce Carter: Of course, if you ask Carter, he may disagree with me and say sack totals are super important. The third year REDBLACK went from two as a rookie to 12 this past year, earning him a CFL East All-Star selection.

DT Cleyon Laing: The old beast in the middle. The 33-year-old four-time Eastern All-Star has not missed a game in the last two years. You will always find Laing in the middle of all that chaos.

DT Michael Wakefield: For the first time in his CFL career, Wakefield managed to play in every game. Coincidentally he also finished with career highs in tackles and sacks.

Depth note: Blessman Ta’ala, the top pick in last year’s Global Draft, could work his way into this rotation. He had six tackles and two sacks in 12 games in 2023.


Pickett has helped elevate every defence he’s been a part of in the CFL. He brings his playmaking magic to the REDBLACKS this season (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

SLB: Adarius Pickett: Pickett is so good he’ll ease most of the pain the REDBLACKS’ defence will feel losing Douglas Coleman III to the NFL. The Eastern nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player will be everywhere putting out fires and making plays.

WLB: Frankie Griffin: He was the team leader in tackles despite playing in only 14 games.

MLB: Jovan Santos-Knox: The 2022 Eastern All-Star was limited to a dozen games in 2023 yet still put up 64 tackles and three sacks.


HB: Damon Webb: His first two years in the CFL with Saskatchewan saw him produce 61 tackles and two interceptions. Webb’s first year with Ottawa? He had 61 tackles and three interceptions. The arrow is pointing up.

CB: Brandin Dandridge: The best season of Dandridge’s four-year CFL career was rewarded with a two-year contract extension. He chipped in admirably on special teams as well.

S: Justin Howell: A constant with the REDBLACKS’ secondary since being drafted in the seventh round back in 2018.

CB: Monshadrik Hunter: It’s good to have “Money” Hunter back in our lives after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle injury that wiped out the majority of his 2023 season.

HB: Deandre Lamont: The sophomore defensive back will be looking to build on a solid rookie season, the highlight being his two-interception game against Saskatchewan in Week 16.


Kicker/Punter Long snapper Returner
Lewis Ward*/Richie Leone ??? DeVonte Dedmon

* denotes National
** denotes Global


Lewis Ward. A constant for the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ special teams.


Richie Leone. You can set your watch to Ottawa’s one-two special teams punch.


With Tanner Doll still in free agency, we’re in position to see some change at one of the game’s more anonymous but vitally important positions. Burke and his team could address this need through the upcoming CFL Draft, or could check out the side hustle of a player already on the roster. This will be something to watch through training camp and preseason games.


DeVonte Dedmon. A healthy Dedmon will make life so much easier for whoever starts at quarterback, from the sage veteran Masoli, to youngster Crum, to flashy new addition Brown.

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