5 juillet 2024

La progression de Zack Pelehos est une des raisons de l’amélioration de la ligne offensive

Coming into the season, the much-maligned right tackle position was labelled as one of the keys to success for the Ottawa REDBLACKS, with the battle between Zack Pelehos and Dontae Bull earning headlines around the nation.

As of late, it has been the second-overall pick in the 2022 CFL Draft holding down the fort. Pelehos has rounded out the veteran group since midway through Ottawa’s Week 2 opener against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, winning the respect and admiration of his teammates, including right guard Dariusz Bladek.

“From the jump, I saw he was athletic and willing to work,” Bladek said. “He’s a young guy who wants to grow, and who’s willing to take the time. Any time I’ve asked him to stay longer to get on the same page, it has been seamless. He’s got the effort, he’s got the will, now it’s just about growing.”

In his third CFL season, the University of Ottawa alumnus has found his footing in the professional football world, finding noticeable growth from little steps.

“It’s just experience,” Pelehos said. “Getting some playing time last year was huge, and this year, I knew the expectations and the standard I needed to meet. Every day, I’m working to get better. Last week, I did some good things, but now I have to keep stacking those chips and move forward.”

In three games, he’s faced off against Willie Jefferson, Shawn Lemon, and Nick Usher, likely the best pass rusher for each team the REDBLACKS have played this season. The difficult matchups have been a massive test for the youngster, but Pelehos has done everything possible to be as prepared as anyone could be heading into each contest.

“Some of those matchups have been really tough, they are guys with experience,” he said. “The big thing for myself has been to get in and watch extra film, and sitting around the vets and asking them about anything I might need to know.”

What’s also helping Pelehos, according to Bladek, is his sponge-like brain, which soaks up information as quickly as anyone he’s ever played with.

“He’s a quick learner,” Bladek said. “Any time something has gotten us in the past, you won’t see us gotten by it again. Sometimes he gets frustrated over the little things, but it’s because he cares about the details. He has done a hell of a job buying into everything.”

In their three games this season, the REDBLACKS have allowed five sacks, which Bladek says is five too many. Still, it’s currently tied for the least in the league, an impressive feat considering Ottawa allowed 63 sacks in 2023, by far the most in the CFL.

Line-wide, the goal has always been to keep quarterback Dru Brown upright, but for Pelehos in particular, there’s also an element of playing for his future in football.

“When you get to year three, you have to put everything on the table, there is no holding back,” Pelehos said. “Even if you’re worried about making a mistake, you have to go full speed and build on yourself.”

Matching up against the Bombers for the second and final time this regular season, the REDBLACKS know full well that Winnipeg is better than their 0-4 record. The mentality is no different, and once more, Ottawa is heading there hunting for two points.

“We’re a different team, and so are they,” Pelehos said. “The offensive line group just needs to stick together – the same with the whole team, actually. All three phases need to play together, and we’ll go in there and bring out bullies of Bank Street mentality.”