How Can the Redblacks Learn from the Champs?

By Frankie Benvenuti | OSJ Staff

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have ended the drought by defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 107th Grey Cup. The Bombers have something to teach the entire CFL, but the REDBLACKS should be paying closest attention to the blueprint the Bombers have created.

Thankfully, the season is over.

REDBLACKS fans can get back to being excited about their football team. There are still many negatives hanging over the heads of the REDBLACKS and their management, but they will soon have the chance to correct the issues that have been talked about ad nauseum this year.

Football is played in the trenches, and the Blue Bombers offensive line and defensive line were absolutely dominant in the Grey Cup. The REDBLACKS have been known to have mediocre lines at the best of times. Watching the Winnipeg offensive and defensive lines in the Grey Cup was an absolute treat for any football fan. The Blue Bombers controlled the game from the offensive and defensive lines and Marcel Desjardins is going to need to see the importance of that to correct the mess the REDBLACKS are in.

Some players on the defensive side of the ball for the Blue Bombers showed us just how important players like them can be. Jackson Jeffcoat finished with 2 sacks, Drake Nevis with 1 sack, and Willie Jefferson with 3 sacks. The Winnipeg defensive line made life for Tiger-Cats QB, Dane Evans a living hell. Evans never had time to sit back in the pocket and make the throws he has been able to all year long, and it showed. He threw 2 interceptions and fumbled the ball multiple times. The Bombers defensive line changed the game and forced the Tiger-Cats to change their game plan.

Flipping to the other side of the football, the Blue Bombers offensive line dominated the Cats. They gave Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler ample time to do what they needed to do, and also opened up monster holes for Andrew Harris to run through. Allowing only one sack, the Bombers QBs were able to sit in the pocket and make the easy throws all night long. If you ever watch the New England Patriots, one thing you will notice is Tom Brady is almost never sacked or under pressure. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a QB, if you don’t have time to throw the ball you won’t have much success in the CFL, NFL, XFL, or any other kind of football.

Another thing the Bombers had going for them was solid QB play after they acquired Collaros. There was plenty of help surrounding Collaros and Streveler, but you can’t deny the two QB's held their own. There is zero doubt the REDBLACKS will try and add a formidable QB in the offseason and thankfully, there are options out there for Ottawa. Just like the trenches are important to a football team, a QB is absolutely necessary for a successful team. Look at the most successful franchises around football. One thing all of them have in common is a good QB. The Stampeders have Bo Levi Mitchell, the REDBLACKS had Henry Burris, the New England Patriots have Tom Brady, and the Baltimore Ravens have Lamar Jackson. Everyone is always searching for the next big thing, and that’s exactly what the REDBLACKS are looking for this offseason.

What do the REDBLACKS need to do?

With the off-season coming up sooner rather than later, the REDBLACKS need to beef up on the offensive and defensive lines. If I were the GM, I would bring in 1 elite offensive lineman as well as 1 elite defensive lineman at minimum. Speaking of the Grey Cup champions, the Blue Bombers have many quality players up for new contracts that the REDBLACKS could be looking to sign. These players include 3 quarterbacks (Matt Nichols, Chris Streveler, and Zach Collaros), 2 receivers (Darvin Adams and Drew Wolitarsky).

On the offensive line, the Bombers may be losing Stanley Bryant and, on the defensive line, both Willie Jefferson and Drake Nevis are looking for new deals. If the REDBLACKS want to add some defensive backs, they can go after Jeff Hecht, ex-REDBLACK Winston Rose, or Marcus Sayles (Hodge, J.). Keep in mind, these are only players from the Bombers. There is plenty to be optimistic about as REDBLACKS fans right now; it’s just going to be a question of who is willing to sign with Ottwa after everything that has been said about GM Marcel Desjardins.

The list of available QB's doesn’t stop there for the REDBLACKS. Some of the quarterbacks that could be available include names like Nick Arbuckle, Jeremiah Masoli, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Some of the names are more intriguing than others obviously, but there is reason to be excited about any of the possible replacements. Personally, after he filled in so well in Calgary this season, I would love to see Nick Arbuckle in Ottawa.

As for Matt Nichols and Jeremiah Masoli, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up either of them, but in the case of Masoli, he will begin the season injured. If the REDBLACKS choose to go the Masoli route, they will need to find someone to start at the beginning of the season. Dominique Davis ended the season on a high note playing well in his last two games, but it would be a tough sell to the fans to have Davis starting the season as the starting QB after how things went in 2019. The most obvious answer for the REDBLACKS is Arbuckle and, if Ottawa can manage to add to the offensive line as I mentioned, while also adding to the receiving core, Arbuckle could be set up in a great position for his first-ever starting job in the CFL.

One name that I haven’t seen mentioned much is McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Bethel-Thompson was good statistically with the Argonauts in 2019 and proved he is a reliable option for a team looking for a short-term solution. If I were the GM at this time, Bethel-Thompson would almost certainly be my back-up plan if the other options go elsewhere. I’m not certain a team could win a Grey Cup with Bethel-Thompson at the helm, but I am certain that he could help the REDBLACKS be competitive if he is given an offensive line and weapons. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see him in Ottawa in 2020.

In my ideal world right now, I would sign Arbuckle to start and possibly Bethel-Thompson to be the back-up if deemed he is better than a fully healthy Dominique Davis. There is little doubt in my mind that the REDBLACKS will improve before the start of next season as they seem to have already hit rock bottom. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the offseason plays out and who goes where.

We know one thing for sure, the REDBLACKS will sign a QB, and we can only hope that this is the QB to get this franchise back on track after, in my opinion, the worst season in franchise history.

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