Thoughts from Ottawa’s Mini-Camp

After three days of practice in cool spring temperatures, the Ottawa Redblacks wrapped up their mini-camp and took the first steps towards returning to the Grey Cup. While it’s never wise to put too much stock into non-contact scrimmages a full month before training camp starts, here are some takeaways from an initial look at the 2016 Redblacks.

1) An abundance of talent at QB:

Undoubtably the biggest move GM Marcel Desjardins made this past off-season was signing Trevor Harris to shore up crucial depth at the QB position. Though one shouldn’t read much into such a small sample, it’s safe to say Harris comes as advertised. Throughout mini-camp, his passes were delivered on time and accurately, consistently hitting receivers in stride. As for the man he’ll be backing up, another intense off-season training regiment has Henry Burris still looking like an MOP. Burris’ signature zip and arm strength were on full display and anyone who thinks Father Time has caught up to him is simply wrong. With Burris and Harris, the Redblacks boast something they sorely lacked their first couple of seasons; two starting QBs. Outside of the two big name gunslingers, after being hidden on the one game injured list all last season, 2nd year QB Brock Jensen looks to be making a beeline for the 3rd string job. His passes were crisp and displayed a touch that Danny O’Brien’s passes lacked.

2) Musical Numbers

You know the off-season is coming to an end as you scratch your head and try to figure out who the new guys are on the field. Often, it turns out they aren’t new at all, just that their numbers are. QB Brock Jensen has gone from #4 to #16 and before his old number had a chance to get cold, Jamill Smith swapped his #15 for it. DB Jovon Johnson’s departure to Montreal set off a twitter frenzy for the rights to #2, which wound up being taken by Jermaine Robinson (who shed last season’s  #32). Finally, Canadian RB Kienan LaFrance traded #37 for 27.

3) Adidas Sneak Peak


Though the official unveiling for the Redblacks’ new jerseys takes place on May 12th in Montreal, R-Nation got a sneak peak at what the future holds. Throughout mini-camp, players wore new Adidas practice jerseys and aside from a few obvious changes (such as using the new CFL logo), the main takeaway for fans is that Ottawa’s numbers are now easier to read. The change is extremely subtle but the effect is striking and as there’s no longer any confusion between 6s and 8s. And for those worried that Ottawa’s unique saw blade notch would disappear, don’t worry, it’s still around.

4) Sure hands

With four returning 1000 yard receivers in Greg Ellingson, Ernest Jackson, Brad Sinopoli and Chris Williams, the only spot really up for grabs is the 5th WR slot. And if mini-camp is any indication, there’ll  be an absolute dogfight for it. Vets Jamill Smith and Khalil Paden along with sophomore Jake Harty looked fantastic, running crisp routes and snagging every pass intended for them. Additionally, newcomers Juron Criner (#86) and Tyler Shoemaker (#89) boast impressive frames and caught everything that came their way.

5) A Renegade Returns:

A familiar (though now heavily bearded) face was on the sidelines throughout mini-camp, as former Ottawa Renegade Pat Woodcock is now the team’s strength and conditioning coach. Woodcock replaces Kyle Thorne, who held the position last season. The job should come naturally to Woodcock, as various members of the Redblacks organization already train at his Elite Performance Academy complex during the off-season.

6) SirV’s Twin?

Evan Washington

When I first saw OL Evan Washington (#65), my initial reaction was that SirVincent Rogers, the large man in charge of protection the QB’s blindside, had changed numbers. Unfortunately for opposing defensive lineman, not so much. Washington already looks the part and if his play can even come close to SirVincent Rogers’ level, the Redblacks’ offensive line will feature two massive pillars at tackle.

7) Let the Good Times Roll

If mini-camp is any indication, Ottawa’s backs are set to make hay off of wheel routes. The sneaky route claimed many a LB victim over the course of mini-camp.

8) The O-Line Shuffle

2015 1st overall pick Alex Mateas and 3rd year Redblack Matthew Albright (#53) got a ton of reps with the starting offensive line unit. Mateas and Albright lined up at right and left guard respectively. On a related note, Nolan Macmillan seems to have shifted out to RT.

9) Defensive Musings

Matthew Goldsmith (#38) has a nose for the ball. He tipped a number of passes and flashed good closing speed. Also, #73, a defensive hulking defensive lineman, certainly didn’t look out of place.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (225 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

17 Comments on Thoughts from Ottawa’s Mini-Camp

  1. Brian Beebee // April 27, 2016 at 8:34 am //

    Great read, I think the Redblacks will again do well this year, with the talent they have. The GM and coaches have a lot of new face to work with and fill any holes. Looking forward to another great year of Ottawa football. Also nice to see more articles about other CFL teams rather than Hamilton or Tar-awna.

  2. Was it ever great to see football again. Here are my observations:

    Evan Washington, looked really imposing, but seemed slow of foot to me, looks like a dominant guard.

    #3, slot receiver, thought it was Reggie Dunn (but he quit so it couldn’t have been him), looked quick, elusive and with good hands.

    #85, (Armon Binns) receiver, no one covered him the practice I saw. Big, fast and caught everything.

    Tyler Shoemaker, #89, polished, ran good routes, appeared to have some relationship with Brock Jensen. Looked like a player to me.

    Onterio McCalleb, RB, though listed as a receiver and was on the Bengals practice roster as a deep back, faaaast… wheel route hell for the LB’s

    Brock Jensen, finally could see why they invested a year of him on the one game injured list, decisive, good arm, looked comfortable (last year I really thought he looked nervous).

    #86, Juron Criner, very similar to #85 but dropped passes at the practice I was at.

    Did not spend a lot of time on D. but #37 seemed to be around the ball alot.

    Would it ever be nice to have a list of the names and numbers… its great to have the minicamp in Ottawa, but for all us rocking chair GM’s it reduces the enjoyment. I think it is a missed opportunity to further engage the fan base (here ends the whine).

  3. talk about being an ottawa cheerleader!! no wonder filoso is lost in brazil!!

    • Brian Beebee // April 27, 2016 at 3:17 pm //

      Sweet Jesus what is it with you Hamilton Tiger Cat fans and always being so grumpy, but I guess I would be to if I lived in Hamilton.

      • @BB: “sweet jesus” I’m no hamilton fan!! I guess if I lived in ottawa again I would still be confused like you are!! LOL LOL LOL

  4. After watching Harris the last couple of years in T.O., I will be surprised if he doesn’t supplant Henry by year’s end (and I’m a Burris fan).

  5. Jimmy Breslin // April 28, 2016 at 3:19 pm //

    Guess whoever you are Gibster you weren’t paying too much attention if you missed that big slot receiver #83 he also looked very very solid. As for Binns, McCalleb & Dunn, two released one retired. Very good thing you’re not recruiting for this team 🙂

    • @JB: can’t wait to read gibster’s reply to you!! LOL LOL LOL

      • Jimmy Breslin // April 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm //

        Well Dan I was just teasing Gibster. I’m no Marcel Desjardins or Rick Campbell myself but I love that they got us the Canadian receivers we have. Sinopoli, MacDonell and Harty are really good. They bring different skill sets and should give everyone out there big problems. Then with Jackson, Ellingson and Chris Williams leading the parade. That is one scary talented lineup. Baring injuries I think the Redblacks are way deep at receiver.

        • @JB: “RBs are way deep at receiver” as deep as montreal? SB hoffman, SB lewis, WR stafford, WR giguere, SB green, WR charette, WR cunningham, WR rumph, WR carter plus plus etc!!

  6. All I have to say is Eric Rogers… released two years ago in mini camp 🙂

    And I can’t be sure 85 was Armon Binns, but let’s assume it was someone else now:)

    Stay tuned for further evaluations of people about to be cut, retire or (and its just a matter of time) are injured

  7. Jimmy Breslin // April 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm //

    haha good sport Gibster. 85 was Binns I’m quite certain and yes I give you that, Rogers was cut(ouch!)so mistake there but the horses they kept got them to the GC, just for that they deserve a pass no ? – As for your #03 player being a receiver I don’t recall that, and a slotback to boot ?? Jamill Smith wore #04 so maybe….

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