Le ROUGE et NOIR cherchent à limiter les explosions contre les Alouettes

The memories of Chad Kelly flinging the ball deep for big yards and touchdowns last week have stuck in the craw of the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

On the ground, the REDBLACKS boast one of the most formidable units in the league, allowing just 68.2 yards each night, the best mark in the CFL, but things have been different through the air in the past handful of weeks. Whether it has been Jake Maier’s 450 yards in Week 7, a couple of big gains by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 9, or Kelly’s show last week, the deep ball has caused headaches for the defence.

Following the showing in Toronto, the REDBLACKS coaching staff got right to the film room to find answers, diagnosing a couple of things that have held the unit back.

“We have to make sure that everybody is in the right spot,” said Head Coach Bob Dyce. “The first thing we always look at is the schematics, we make sure we’re not putting players in a bad position. Then we have to analyze. We looked through all of those things, and we’ve identified it, and the defensive backs have come out and done a good job.”

The solution, according to Dyce, isn’t something that is going to be accomplished over night. It’s going to take all hands on deck, including himself, Defensive Coordinator Barron Miles, and of course, the players on the field.

One aspect causing issues is the communication. Whether between fellow defensive backs, with the linebackers, or even the coaches, the difficulties have lead to missed assignments and big plays the other direction. In practice this week, it has been one of the most critical focuses, with players taking the initiative to make sure change happens.

“We had a meeting, and we have been meeting all week, and we made an emphasis to eliminate the explosive plays [by fixing the communication], and that’s going to be our identity going forward,” said Cariel Brooks, who had a pick-six in Toronto last week.

It’s possible that one of the reasons for the difficulty with conveyance is injuries, something no one on the REDBLACKS wants to use as an excuse. It’s simply a fact that missing Brandin Dandridge, Hakeen Bailey, Justin Howell, and Money Hunter at current has forced younger, less experienced players into the fold.

“Us as veterans have to bring those guys along,” Abdul Kanneh said. “We have to bring them up to speed, get them acclimated to the league, and as older guys, that responsibility is on us.”

While everyone would love to see those big names back healthy, the reality of the situation is that it’s not going to happen, and you can’t sulk about it. The Montreal Alouettes love to chuck the ball deep down the field, and ast week, Caleb Evans completed only eight passes, but two of them went for more than 30 yards.

Montreal also boasts a talented receiving group, including Austin Mack, who currently leads the league in yards with 657. Holding that group that includes other talented options isn’t going to be a light task, but it’s one the defence is up for.

“[Mack is] a guy that they like to go to, especially on second down or when they need a splash play,” Brooks said. “We’ll be keying in on him, but it’s everyone. I respect their receiving group, so we’ll be ready for each guy who shows up.”

Reclaiming the reputation bestowed upon them after the first handful of weeks – one that suggested the REDBLACKS were difficult to move the ball against, through the air or on the ground – is something that will be a long process. It won’t be fixed at the snap of Dyce’s fingers, but he is encouraged with what he saw in practice.

At this point, all they can do is focus on each snap, and take care of the controlables.

“It’s a matter of us taking care of us, and playing football the way we want to play,” Dyce said. “That’s disciplined, physical, and fast. Montreal is a good team, well coached, but we have to make sure we come out here and play our best football.”